A WINDOW ON CANADA
DUE DATE: Class mini-presentation on Tuesday, October 10
THE MISSION: To attempt to frame the view you see from a window in your home, workplace, or another important room in your life to Canadian history.
Recommended Length: One-to-two pages
Marcel Proust: "The real voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."
EXPLAINING THE ASSIGNMENT: This is a speculative small research exercise that asks you to think about the seemingly familiar from a new historical perspective. Write a few paragraphs that try to make connections between what you see and hear from that window today to the world of the past.
For many of you this may be a challenging assignment, but try to use your imagination in coming up with relevant questions to ask yourself and others. To what extent has the landscape you see been shaped by humans? How would the view today compare with that of a couple of decades ago? What would the view have been two centuries ago? If the building is not of recent vintage, who else has looked out this window and how were they shaped by history? What can you hear from the window and can these sounds be tied to history? Are there things obstructed from view but still relatively close by that can connect the window to the world of the past? Who, at various times, has passed within viewing range of the spot? For example, if you have a panoramic view, can you see water that has served as a transportation route at any time in history? Who are the people who you sometimes see from the window now? When and why did they or their ancestors come to this region? What has happened on the mountains or other landscape in the distant background?
Do not regard your view as static. Look out the window but also think about the things that occasionally can be seen from that perspective. You may also want to compare the "history" of this window to other windows from your life today or from your past.
I do not expect extensive primary historical research for this assignment, though I welcome such efforts from anyone intrigued by the topic. Do think about who you might interview in an effort to add substance to your work. And do not hesitate to be speculative and creative in attempting to offer your own immediate personal perspective on a window to the past.
Come to class on October 10 prepared to offer some brief remarks about your research to a small group of classmates.