Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tim Cook's 'Canada and the World Wars' Seminar

Sorry the delay in posting. I caught a nasty 24 hour flu bug. Avoid it if you can people! 

I’m currently taking a course with Tim Cook of the Canadian War Museum, who is also a contract instructor at Carleton University. As his recent work has received him notable popularity and various literary awards I thought it might interest some to learn about his teaching work with a 4th year seminar at Carleton, in which I am a grateful student. The course description can be found here. For those of you who don't teach this might give insight into the type of history current undergrad and soon to be graduate students are pursuing.

I very much appreciate the balance in the course between traditional military history (using a book by J.L. Granastein and W.L. Morton as a key source for the course for example) and the social/cultural history of Canadian soldiers and citizens at war. As I read more of Prof. Cook’s own works my respect for him grows as I see his ability as an author to produce history in both the narrative and academic form. Now, I don’t profess to be an expert, or even an in depth student, in Canadian war history and hence I know little of the field. However, these are my surface observations. My comments may therefore be amateur and uniformed, so take from them what you will.

There are a variety of interesting ideas for research essays from the students in Cook’s seminar. I know one, for example, is looking at memory in the style of Jonathan Vance. I’ll be exploring the masculinity of First World War Canadian soldiers as seen in letters of condolence written to the family of deceased soldiers by a deceased soldier’s friend. I would also like to compare the expressions of masculinity in the diaries of the writers of the in comparison to that seen in the condolence letters. Perhaps this might show the writing soldier mediating between trench and home front perceptions of masculinity. However, the comparison may be a bit too ambitious for a 4th year research paper and of course it may be difficult to find enough sources that have both suitable condolence letters and diaries with corresponding entries about the lost friend.

There’s seems to be a scant amount of studies on Canadian First World War soldier masculinity but plenty of British sources. I wouldn’t be much of a nationalist if I assumed that the British and Canadian experiences were the same! I’d like to suggest a book by Jessica Meyer to any that are interested in war history from a gender history perspective. I’m finding it particularly fascinating as I haven't encountered gender history in any of my own research. It's untrodden terrain for me.

Jordan Kerr
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