This paper sketches the evolution of thinking about historiography from its focus on method and the history of historical thought some fifty years ago to Mark Salber Phillips’s highly original study, On Historical Distance, with its focus on “literariness” and its reconception of the meaning of “distance.” The paper notes the approaches of historian J.H. Hexter, literary critic Ralph Cohen, and philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer as benchmarks along the way.
This essay explores the efficacies of the distance rubric Mark Salber Phillips developed in On Historical Distance by applying it to a couple of recent examples that post-date the book’s appearance: Ruth Scurr’s John Aubrey: My Own Life and Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner. These examples lead to some speculations about Phillips’ attention to media and his account of the history of literary history.
This paper isolates form, or what Mark Salber Phillips calls making, as a key component of the four-pronged approach to historical distance that he elaborates in On Historical Distance (the other prongs are affect, ideology, and understanding). It focuses, in particular, on linearity, genre, contrast, dialogue, beginnings/endings, and ghosts as dimensions of form. All of these aspects of forms have a double inflection: on the one hand, they relate to a characteristic of form (the linear narrative, for example) and, on the other, they raise broad questions related to historical representation in general (a conception of history understood in linear and sequential terms that is linked with historical distance conventionally understood, for example). This paper argues that the idea of form developed in Phillips’ book both enriches our understanding of historical representations and opens up new questions for critical inquiry.
James Daschuk’s Clearing the Plains is a fitting choice for unsettling national narratives about the peaceful resettlement of Indigenous homelands, for confronting presumptions about the benevolence of Canadian policy towards Indigenous peoples or a fair treaty process, and for appreciating how this past resonates today. This paper ponders how the book and the issues it raises can be used in university-level teaching. It highlights the utility of an emphasis on the “dark” side of Canadian history and how this fits within contemporary discussions around reconciliation.
This article proposes that objects might be instrumental in museum exhibitions that promote critical thinking around issues of human rights and social inequity. Objects have the potential to present histories that have been marginalized for far too long and to get away from rehearsed narratives, while also engaging the visitor through emotional connection — making the visitor care about the histories that are being presented. In looking at the GLBT Historical Society Archives and History Museum in San Francisco, this article claims that new museums that grow out of community-based archives might provide the opportunity for the kinds of critical engagements with objects that national-scale museums that attempt to address social problems often do not have. Specifically addressing the GLBT History Museum’s inaugural exhibit, “Our Vast Queer Past,” this article argues that the organization of objects on display, greatly influenced by their archival roots, gives viewers the opportunity for chance encounters with histories that come to matter to them.
The wastage of Canadian manpower due to venereal disease (VD) during World War II was an ongoing problem for the Canadian Army. Military authorities took both medical and disciplinary measures in attempt to reduce the number of soldiers that were kept from regular duties while under treatment. The study of the techniques employed to control sexual behaviour and infection places the Canadian Army in a new historical perspective as a modern institution which sought to establish medical surveillance and disciplinary control over soldiers’ bodies. This study also explores Canadian soldiers’ sexual behaviour overseas, showing their engagement in a broken system of regulated prostitution, and with European women who were coping with war’s destabilization and strain by participating in the sex trade. Agents of the Canadian Army overseas extended their disciplinary and surveillance functions from soldiers to their sexual partners. VD rates were low when formations were in combat, but rose to alarming rates when they were out of the line, suggesting that individual agency and sexual choice trumped the efforts of modern discipline.
This article focuses on the travelogues of five educated, professional,
middle-class Canadian women who visited the Soviet Union in the interwar period: Alexandrine
Gibb, Margaret Gould, Agnes Macphail, Margaret McWilliams, and Ella Smith. For these
visitors, Soviet women were a point of emphasis, and on this subject they claimed special
insight and relative expertise. Gibb, for example, offered readers a “pair of feminine and
Canadian eyes and ears ready to give you mysterious Russia.” Whatever else feminine Canadian
eyes saw in the USSR — for Soviet reality varied considerably between 1926 and 1936 when
these women travelled — they gave Canadian audiences a more-or-less consistent impression
that the great experiment was providing Soviet women opportunities denied women in Canada.
This was an impression that not all Canadian audiences were prepared to accept.
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