Roundtable: History of Canadian Film Studies

By Wasson, Haidee; Zryd, Michael | Canadian Journal of Film Studies, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Roundtable: History of Canadian Film Studies


Wasson, Haidee, Zryd, Michael, Canadian Journal of Film Studies


Résumé : L'histoire des études cinématographiques considérées en tant que discipline n'a reçue que tout récemment l'attention des chercheurs. Dans un effort pour initier l'assemblage des histoires de cette discipline, cette table ronde regroupe des personnes qui furent importantes pour la fondation de programmes d'études au Québec et en Ontario : Kay Armatage, André Gaudreault, John Locke, Peter Morris, and Maurice Yacowar. Les premiers développements discutés incluent la cinéphilie, les sociétés de film et les cinémas de répertoire, l'enseignement du cinéma dans les départements comme ceux d'anglais, d'études féministes, de communication et de Beaux-Arts, les technologies comme le projecteur analytique et la vidéo, le nationalisme ou l'internationalisme et les publications influentes.

Roundtable hosted by Advanced Research Team on the History and Epistemology of Moving Images Studies (ARTHEMIS) and the Film Studies Association of Canada (FSAC), June 4th 2010, at Concordia University

Participants:

Kay Armatage (University of Toronto)

André Gaudreault (Université de Montréal) [Translation: Timothy Barnard]

John Locke (Concordia University)

Peter Morris (York University)

Haidee Wasson (Concordia University)

Maurice Yacowar (University of Calgary)

Michael Zryd (York University)

HAIDEE WASSON and MICHAEL ZRYD

What do we know- and not know- about Canadian film studies? We know that, in general, film studies has always been in dialogue with other fields. Yet, mapping interdisciplinary links is complicated. In the context of the Canadian university, we can observe that the study of cinema happens in different departments (Cinema, English, Communications), across different faculties (Arts and Science, Humanities, Fine Arts) and with differing emphases (production, art, aesthetics, cultural studies, public policy) . To be sure, Canadian film studies has been inflected by debates about Canadian nationalism. The late 1960s and early 1970s, when film courses began to be taught and the first Canadian film programs founded, was a time when the Canadian centenary in 1967 was in full bloom and intense opposition to American imperialism was evident across a wide range of cultural and political activities. It's not surprising that Canadian film studies concentrated on, and celebrated, Canadian film. Indeed, at one extreme, Canadian film studies has been defined by the study of specifically Canadian film. This nationalism manifests in a tension palpable at past meetings of the FSAC: Is it a scholarly association for people who study Canadian film or a scholarly association for people who study film in Canada?

Parallel tensions manifest at the level of scholarly training and disciplinary formation. Most faculty members working in Canada who received a doctoral degree in film studies, received this degree from somewhere outside of Canada (usually the US or the UK). For those trained in Canada, degrees have been granted by interdisciplinary programs like York's Social and Political Thought program or McGill's Art History and Communication program, to name two prominent examples. That is, we have either been trained internationally or interdisciplinarily - or both. Another observation to be made about Canadian film studies is the gulf between scholarship in English-Canada and Québec, a linguistic, cultural but also methodological gulf stemming from different scholarly traditions. These tensions have not been prominent in published histories addressing the history of film studies in other national contexts. We do know that studying films at universities from the 1920s through the 1940s was characterized by many, but generally isolated, sites of educational activity. Films were screened for educational purposes in film societies, cine clubs, art museums, and women's organizations but also in University-based departments as diverse as psychology, geography, business, foreign language, and drama throughout the U.

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