Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Public Intellectual in Canada

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Public Intellectual in Canada

Article excerpt

Nelson Wiseman (ed.), The Public Intellectual in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013), 264 pp. Cased. $70. ISBN 978-1-4426-4526-4. Paper. $29.95. ISBN 978-1-4426-1339-3.

The term 'public intellectual' still remains highly contested in the early twenty-first centur y, many of those on whom the title has been designated resisting - and even undermining - the presumed status of such labelling. Indeed, many of the 'all-star' cast of contributors to Nelson Wiseman's collection appear decidedly uncomfortable claiming such a title, questioning their suitability for such a role with characteristically Canadian self-deprecation. These contributors range from academics to pollsters, economists and journalists, many holding multiple positions in the course of their careers.

The articles included cover a range of debates from the role of the media and rise of 'infotainment', to distinctions between celebrity intellectuals and public intellectuals and the potential dangers of political correctness. While many of the articles are written from an academic standpoint offering overviews of the history of the public intellectual in English Canada and Quebec, many of the contributors also reflect on their experiences as practitioners. These more personal accounts make engaging reading for their detailing of various political and economic events in Canada's recent past, yet many of the authors' active involvement in these debates oftentimes appears to undermine the necessary objectivity needed to determine the status of the public intellectual in Canada in relation to the events discussed.

Despite the inclusion of four female contributors in the collection, its engagement with the role of female public intellectuals is decidedly limited. Wiseman argues in his introduction that this 'speaks to the historical inability of women to claim equal space and attention in public forums' (p. …

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