Syllabus for Pop Culture in Canada

During the upcoming spring session at the University of Ottawa, I will be teaching HIS 3375, Popular Culture in 20th Century Canada. Below is the syllabus for the course:

History 3375A Spring 2014

Selected Topics in Canadian History – Popular Culture in 20th Century Canada

Mondays and Wednesdays 9h00-12h00, Simard 221


Instructor: Sean Graham

Office: DMS 9130

Office Hours: Mondays and Tuesdays 12h30-14h00 or by appointment


Course Description:

This course examines the place of popular culture in Canadian society since the First World War. Through a study of various mediums of popular culture such as music, television, movies, literature, and theatre, students will explore how culture reflects the period in which it is created and its place in Canada. Popular culture’s role in economic, political, and social movements will also be examined. Students will also analyze the significant presence of American popular culture in Canada and the efforts of ‘cultural nationalists’ to counter its influence.

 Required Texts

Coursepack – Available at Rytec Printing (404 Dalhousie St.)

Course Evaluation:

Participation: 15%

Review: 20%

Term Paper: 35%

Final Exam: 30%

Participation (15%)

A successful discussion depends upon the participation of everyone. Therefore, you must read the assigned articles and come prepared to engage in a thoughtful/analytical discussion. The grade will be determined not only by the quantity of your contribution, but also on its quality.

Every other session the second half of the class will be reserved for a discussion period. Students will be presented with two or three broad questions based on the readings and lectures to discuss in small groups. Each group must assign one member to take notes on the discussion to be turned in at the end of class. Following small group discussion, there will be time for a larger discussion involving the whole class where ideas can be exchanged between groups. Questions used in the discussions will be the exam questions.

Review (20%) Due May 21st

You must write a review of something of significance to Canadian popular culture. You can choose from an album, movie, television show, radio serial, theatre production, book, or anything else considered popular culture. The review must written as a period piece (i.e. from the perspective of someone writing from the period when the piece being reviewed was created) The review should include your subjective assessment of the piece’s artistic merits, while also situating it within the cultural context of the period in which it was created. For example, a review of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington would include a discussion of the increasing lack of confidence Americans had in their government and corporations towards the end of the 1930s.

Some questions to consider include: Why is it significant? How does it reflect the period in which it was created? What does it say about Canada? What was the audiences’ reaction? Why did they react in that way?

While this is to be written as a first-person period piece, you are expected to do some research using secondary sources to help identify the significance of the item you are reviewing.

You will be graded on the quality of the writing (grammar, structure, style) as well as your ability to analyze the piece under review and assess its cultural significance. The review must be 3 pages. Reviews are due in class on May 21.

Term Paper (35%) Due June 11th

Your term paper must provide an analysis of an issue related to the development of popular culture in Canada. You may choose to study the development of a specific medium, the role of a certain theme, the impact of an individual, or any other relevant topic. Regardless of choice, the topic must speak to the significance of popular culture in Canadian society and analyze the role it has played in the 20th century. Given the limited number of pages, try to avoid selecting a topic that is too broad (i.e – television in the 20th century).

Like the review, you will be graded on the paper’s style, structure, and grammar. In addition, papers will be assessed on its analysis of the topic and thesis/argumentation. The paper should be 12-15 pages. Papers are due in class on June 11.

Final Exam (30%) Date TBD

The exam will feature two parts. The first part will feature short answers where you will be asked to identify and explain the significance of various items discussed in the course. A list of 25 terms will be handed out at the last class – 10 will be on the exam and you will have to answer 5.

The second part will feature essay questions. Questions will be the same ones used in the discussions throughout the course – a list of 10 possibilities will be handed out at the last class. There will be 4 on the exam and you will have to answer 2. Answers should be drawn from both lectures and course readings. The exam will be scheduled in the June exam period.

Late Assignments

Grades on late assignments will be reduced by 5 per cent per day overdue, including weekends, and will not be accepted if they are more than ten days late. All assignments are due in class and assignments turned in after class ends will be considered late. Extensions will only be granted in exceptional circumstances, and must be requested, where possible, before the due date, and must be accompanied by relevant documentation. The instructor is not responsible for assignments that are handed in outside of class and office hours. The office where I am holding office hours is a shared space. Do not turn in assignments by sliding them under the door. All assignments must be handed in directly to me.


Plagiarism is a very serious academic offence and carries penalties varying from failure in an assignment to suspension from the university. ( All assignments must be your own.

Bibliographies and Footnotes

It is important that bibliographies be standardized and that they contain certain relevant information. Entries for bibliographic entries must be placed in alphabetical order. Annotated entries should contain a brief description of the book’s content and relevancy. Marks will be deducted if the bibliography or footnotes are improperly formatted. Students should consult the Chicago Manual of Style for information regarding proper citation methods.

(Note: Syllabus students receive will have full list/examples of proper format)

Course Schedule

Session 1 – Monday May 5

Course Overview/What is Popular Culture?

Session 2 – Wednesday May 7

Quest for a ‘National’ Voice

Discussion Readings

Morey, Carl. “Nationalism and Commerce: Canadian Folk Music in the 1920s.” Canadian Issues/Thémes Canadiens no. 20 (1998): 34-44.

Nicholas, Jane. “‘A Figure of a nude woman’: Art, Popular Culture, and Modernity at the Canadian National Exhibition, 1927.” Social History/Histoire Sociale 41 no. 82 (2008): 313-344.

Vipond, Mary. “Canadian Nationalism and the Plight of Canadian Magazines in the 1920s.” Canadian Historical Review 58 no. 1 (1977): 43-63.

Session 3 – Monday May 12

Surviving the Depression

Session 4 – Wednesday May 14

The Culture War

Discussion Readings

Brégent-Heald, Dominique. “Big Spy Country: Film and the U.S.-Canada Borderlands During the Second World War.” 49th Parallel 29 (2012): 1-20.

Véronneau, Pierre. “The Creation of a Film Culture by Travelling Exhibitors in Rural Quebec Prior to World War II.” Film History 6 no. 2 (1994): 250-261.

49th Parallel. Directed by Michael Powell. 123 minutes.

Session 5 – Monday May 19

Victoria Day – No Class

Session 6 – Wednesday May 21 – Reviews Due

Masseyism and the Advent of Television

Session 7 – Monday May 26

Conflicting Cultural Nationalisms

Discussion Readings

Martin, Michèle. “Modulating Popular Culture: Cultural Critics on Tremblay’s Les Belles-Sœurs.” Labour/Le Travail 52 (Fall 2003) : 109-135.

Piroth, Scott. “Popular Music and Identity in Quebec.” American Review of Canadian Studies 38 no. 2 (2008): 145-164.

Wright, Robert A. “Dream, Comfort, Memory, Despair”: Canadian Popular Music and the Dilemma of Nationalism, 1968-1972.” Journal of Canadian Studies 22 no. 3 (1987): 27-43.

Session 8 – Wednesday May 28

No Class – instead of a lecture watch:

All in the Family. Season 2 Episode 21 “Sammy’s Visit” Original Airdate February 19, 1972.

The Godfather. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. 175 minutes.

Session 9 – Monday June 2

Culture in Conflict

Session 10 – Wednesday June 4

(Re) Discovering an International Voice

Discussion Readings

Attallah, Paul. “Canadian Television Exports: Into the Mainstream.” In New Patterns in Global Television: Peripheral Vision, edited by John Sinclair, Elizabeth Jacka, and Stuart Cunningham. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996, 161-191.

Conway, Kyle. “Heading South to Make it Big: The American Success of Canada’s You Can’t Do That on Television.” American Review of Canadian Studies 35 no. 1 (2005): 45-65.

Holman, Andrew C. “The Canadian Hockey Player Problem: Cultural Reckoning and National Identities in American Collegiate Sport, 1947-1980.” Canadian Historical Review 88 no. 3 (2007): 439-468.

Session 11 – Saturday June 7

Laughing it Off

Session 12 – Monday June 9

What about Appropriation?

Discussion Readings

Francis, Daniel. “The Imaginary Indian: The Image of the Indian in Canadian Culture.” In Canadian Culture: An Introductory Reader. Edited by Elspeth Cameron. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997, 189-206.

Tahmahkera, Dustin. “Custer’s Last Sitcom: Decolonized Viewing of the Sitcom’s ‘Indian.’” American Indian Quarterly 32 no. 3 (2008): 324-351.

Dances With Wolves. Directed by Kevin Costner. 181 minutes.

Week 13 – Wednesday June 11 – Papers Due

Course Summary/Exam Review



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