University of Toronto Press Blog

  • A Gala Event with UTP and TIFF

    This past week UTP participated in several events with TIFF to promote a new title in our Canadian Cinema Series, which is published in collaboration with TIFF, Allan King's A Married Couple by Zoë Druick.

    The festivities started on Wednesday, September 8th with a book launch in conjunction with This is Not A Reading Series at the Gladstone Hotel. With approximately forty people in attendance, including Druick's parents, this event featured Druick in conversation with Marc Glassman from TINARS. Steve Gravestock from TIFF introduced the evening, welcoming special guests Colleen Murphy, Allan's partner, and Allan's son August Murphy King. Druick and Glassman discussed the genre in A Married Couple; its roots in both documentary and its relation to Douglas Sirk's melodramas from the 1950s. Druick discussed her long relationship with the film and the personal connections that made her choose this film to write about. After a long discussion about Allan King and the film, including several clips, the floor was opened for audience questions. An invigorating discussion about feminism, family, sexuality, and politics ensued.

    TIFF and UTP continued to celebrate this Canadian documentary and its corresponding book with a special screening of A Married Couple Friday, September 10th, as part of the TIFF official schedule. Screening to an almost full house, once again Steve Gravestock introduced the event, describing Druick's book as "well-written and insightful," and mentioning that it is available for sale at the newly opened Bell Lightbox for the low price of $16.95. The enthusiastic crowd was receptive to the film. As Billy, Antoinette, and their son Bogart navigate the sometimes difficult journey through marriage, the often playful, yet serious film observes and records a real relationship. Colleen Murphy stated in her brief introduction to the film; King made films to live in the present tense, and the audience seemed to agree. Following the screening was a lively Q&A session with Druick, Colleen Murphy, August Murphy King, and Amanda Gordon; questions about the personal lives of Billy and Antoinette, and Allan King were the crowd favourites. August, who has admitted at the launch as to not having seen his father's film yet, when asked after the screening, said that he enjoyed it thoroughly and thought it was funny.

    University of Toronto Press is very pleased to have been able to participate with TIFF for these events in the launching of Zoë Druick's new book. With the release of Druick's book, as well as the new Criterion Collection of Allan King's film, a new generation of film-goers are becoming aware of Allan's work, and based on the audience's reaction, enjoying Allan's contribution to Canadian cinema.

  • UTP gets political

    The American Political Science Association's 2010 annual meeting took place in a sweltering Washington, DC from September 2nd to September 5th. The theme was The Politics of Hard Times: Citizens, Nations, and the International System Under Economic Stress. Not surprisingly, political scientists, economists, public policy scholars and practitioners from around the world came to participate and the conference featured a definite emphasis on sessions and sections with a distinctly economic bent. More than half of those attendees who made their way to the UTP booth were from Europe.

    There was a lot of interest in UTP's new and developing series, European Union Studies and Japan and Global Society. EU Studies in particular was the source of a lot of interest among younger scholars and newly-minted PhDs working on European politics and policy and looking for an outlet for their work within North America.

    Among the most popular titles for browsers, Kristin Good's Municipalities and Multiculturalism (runner-up for the APSA Urban Politics Best Book award), Phil Ryan's Multicultiphobia, Brooke Jeffrey's forthcoming Divided Loyalties and David E. Smith's forthcoming Federalism and the Constitution of Canada attracted attention. UTP's books in political theory and philosophy were also of interest, particularly Leon Harold Craig's The Platonian Leviathan and Mark Blackell et al's Rousseau and Desire.

    Several UTP authors came by the booth including Louis Pauly, co-editor of Complex Sovereignty, Raymond Tatalovich, co-author of Cultures at War, Donald Forbes, author of George Grant, and David Rayside, author of Queer Inclusions, Continental Divisions.

    Overall it was a worthwhile and interesting year at APSA. See you next year in San Francisco.

  • Summer Days at UTP

    August is almost over, and with it, summer is coming to an end. Things are busy at the offices of University of Toronto Press; new titles are being released every week and conference season is fast approaching.

    Summer at UTP, however, was not filled with lazy days at the beach. Many new and exciting things happened in August; UTP attended two new conferences this month and we welcomed some new faces, including Chris Reed, as publicist. Chris organized a launch two weeks ago at the Gladstone. A well attended event, the launch for Jacquelyne Luce's Beyond Expectation, hosted by Rachel Epstein, Coordinator of The Sherbourne Health Centre’s LGBTQ Parenting Network, was a success.

    At the beginning of August, UTP attended the Academy of Management's annual meeting in Montreal with the Rotman School of Management. Our first time at this conference, it was a great venue to showcase all the Rotman/UTP titles as well as all UTP's other business books. UTP hosted a meet and greet with Benson Honig and Israel Drori, co-editors of Transnational and Immigrant Entrepreneurship in a Globalized World at the AOM meeting. Many conference attendees were interested in the newly released Effective Medical Leadership, by Dr. Bryce Taylor.

    UTP also attended the International Association for the History of Religion conference at the University of Toronto for the first time. A week long conference with attendees from around the world, UTP was very happy to be able to display our religion titles at the conference.  Of particular interest to the delegates was Bramadat and Seljak's Religion and Ethnicity in Canada, and Claster's Sacred Violence.

    Next stop on the UTP conference tour is the American Political Science Association annual meeting in Washington, D.C. next week. If you're attending, be sure to stop by the booth and check out the new and newly announced political science books from UTP!

  • Author Copy with Award-Winner Robert Leckey

    I am just back from Washington, D.C., where I attended the XVIIIth International Congress of Comparative Law, organized by the International Academy of Comparative Law. At the business meeting of the Academy, I received the Canada Prize. It's awarded every four years to recognize a book, in English or French, "in which the common law and the civil law systems are the subject of a critical comparative study in a field of private or public law."

    My book, Contextual Subjects, is based on doctoral research that I submitted at the University of Toronto in 2005. At that time I was fortunate to be a visiting scholar at the Centre de recherche en éthique de l'Université de Montréal (CREUM). I was lucky enough to have funding from the Trudeau Foundation and was able focus full-time on my scholarship. On my supervisors' advice, I set aside the thesis for a couple of months to get some distance and then took it up again to revise it for submission to the Press.

    The process of turning my thesis into a book was challenging-my first book, and despite having The Thesis and the Book in hand, a sense of being on unknown terrain. I was trying to open up the work, to make it accessible to a wider audience. What was liberating was that I no longer had to tailor it to my doctoral supervisors. They had been wonderful, generous and keen to help me produce a dissertation that was mine, not theirs. Still, I had added some things to the text at the request of one or another of the committee members that never quite worked for me. It was satisfying to strip those away. One of the biggest challenges was drawing the line between reasonable revisions of the work, which were feasible, and a wholesale rewriting, which was not. The years of my doctoral research and start of teaching were ones of intense intellectual growth, during which I was constantly changing. So at the various stages of production-submission of the initial MS, response to the evaluators' reports, copy edits, proof reading-I had to remind myself to publish, as best I could, the book that I had in front of me, and not a new book that I could have begun to write then.

    Hearing the jury's citation made me look differently at Contextual Subjects, which I had never consciously viewed as a work of "comparative law." They mentioned the integration of Canadian common law and the civil law of Quebec in the book's study of public law and family law. I had of course intended that integration. But drawing on multiple sources in that way, including integrating the public and the private, is so much a part of my general approach to scholarship that I hadn't appreciated it the way the jury did. This is probably the result of my undergrad law studies and now teaching at McGill, where the core courses integrate the legal traditions of the common law and civil law.

    Receiving the Canada Prize at the Congress helped me to meet lots of new colleagues from around the world. It means the most to me, though, as encouragement to continue developing my voice and doing the kind of scholarship that I have been doing.

    *UTP wishes to congratulate Robert Leckey on winning the 2010 Canada Prize from the International Academy of Comparative Law. To read an excerpt from his award-winning book, Contextual Subjects, click here.

  • Author Copy with Ian Hesketh

    Reflections on the Origin’s Anniversary and the Perpetuation of an Eternal Myth

    This past November, the 24th to be exact, marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Academics celebrated this milestone with conferences held in major and lesser cities around the world but the general public had their fun too as specials on television and the radio sought to remind viewers and listeners of the vast importance of the Origin and the man who spent so many years researching, writing, and agonizing over what he called the "mystery of mysteries," the origin of species and their histories.

    We were lucky enough in Canada to be treated to two well-produced programmes on the CBC, a three-part series on Darwin's life and work leading up to the publication and reception of the Origin televised on David Suzuki's The Nature of Things, and a four-part series that took the story of Darwinian evolution up to the present, narrated by Seth Feldman for the radio programme Ideas.

    Much of the same ground was covered in Darwin's life such as the Beagle voyage, the death of Darwin's daughter Annie, Darwin's friendship with like-minded naturalists such as Huxley, Lyell, and Hooker, his long delay in publishing, the famous letter from Wallace that spurred Darwin to publish, and so on. The two also followed a similarly mixed format of one part narration, one part scholarly commentary, and another of dramatization. And two of the premier scholars on Darwin's life appeared regularly in both: Janet Browne and James Moore.

    In a general way, the two programmes could not have been more similar; they were, after all, telling the same story and, in some cases, relying on the same authorities to do so. When it came to interpreting the key episodes in Darwin's life, however, the two programmes diverged significantly. This was particularly evident in representations of Christianity and its relationship to evolutionary theory in general and Darwin's religious views in particular.

    More often than not, when it came to issues of religious controversy, The Nature of Things turned not to specialist James Moore, but to non-historian and religion-bater Richard Dawkins as if his authority on current evolutionary theory somehow extends back to the cultural history of the Victorian period, and especially to popular historian Iain McCalman. The story suffers accordingly.

    The Nature of Things presented Darwin as a virtual atheist by the time the Origin appeared and his evolutionary theory as entirely devoid of religious connotations. The reception of the Origin became the story of black-and-white hats, the black worn by Anglican defenders of the theory of special creation, the white worn by evolutionary supporters who refused to cower to religious authority.

    Ideas, on the other hand, when it came to religious issues, relied quite heavily on James Moore, whose published work has done much to undermine the supposed warfare between evolution and Christianity, and on York University's Bernard Lightman, who has written extensively on Christian popularizers of science, on scientific naturalism, and on the origins of agnosticism. The story is therefore much more nuanced under their telling.

    Darwin's road to agnosticism is presented as a much more bumpy one, highlighted by his own claim that he was a theist when the Origin was published, and this claim is further contextualised by considering the religious rhetoric of the Origin where the image of the Creator as first mover and therefore creator of evolution is shown to be a logical necessity of Darwin's theory. It would be difficult, in other words, to come away from the Ideas programme thinking that Darwinian evolution was developed by an atheist and that evolution was a necessarily secular theory, and yet such would be the precise conclusion one reached after watching The Nature of Things.

    These two general interpretations were also reflected in the representation of particular events, most notably the famous Oxford debate of 1860, one of the first public debates about Darwin's Origin. Received wisdom tells us that Darwin's supporters-led by Thomas "Darwin's Bulldog" Huxley-thoroughly defeated and humiliated their Christian opponents, none more so than the Bishop of Oxford, "Soapy Sam" Wilberforce, who had attempted to use religious doctrine to falsify evolution.

    This set-piece of Victorian melodrama was reproduced accordingly in The Nature of Things. In introducing the debate, Suzuki argued, with more than a touch of hyperbole, that "Oxford is about to witness a battle which will determine the country's future." Wilberforce, it is said, "is a man who regards evolution as nothing but religious heresy." As if to prove Suzuki's narration, Wilberforce exclaims that there is "a distinct line between humanity and animals" and then asks Mr. Huxley to "inform the gallery" if he is "related to an ape on your mother's side or your grandmother's side, or both." Huxley responds that this is a "matter which Mr. Darwin does not raise in his book" but that if he must make a choice "I should be proud to acknowledge the ape over one ... who plunges into scientific questions with which he has no acquaintance." Wilberforce slams his hands against the podium as the crowd begins to cheer Huxley on. Hooker jumps up to exclaim that he doubts Wilberforce had even read the book. McCalman provides the authorial voice to the account presented, that the debate was "seen in retrospect as a triumph" for the Darwinians. "Newspapers record this in mythic terms."

    But the historical evidence does not support such a one-dimensional interpretation. When one compares the reminiscences of Darwin's supporters with that of Wilberforce's, as well as with the ample newspaper reports, the picture of the debate that emerges is very different. Not only did Wilberforce think that he thoroughly won the debate, the newspaper reports are even more contradictory and much less "mythical" than McCalman would like us to believe. The Press (7 July 1860), for instance, reported that the Oxford debate was not indicative of some grand battle between science and religion but rather of "wise and wide toleration,—as if truth and not any narrow party-victory were the earnest search of all." The Press remarked that if anything the debate showed that Oxford University was willing to "open its arms in friendly embrace to the younger sons of science" and thereby indicated "how well it is possible for the Christian, the classic, and the scientific to co-operate in the one grand end,—the advancement of man and the glory of God."

    This is not to suggest that the Oxford debate must only be understood under the terms of cooperation highlighted by The Press, but its reportage surely casts doubt on the black-and-white picture presented by The Nature of Things. The Ideas broadcast, on the other hand, did a much better job representing the debate by simply highlighting the nature of the conflicting evidence.

    Instead of simply reproducing a dramatized version of events, Ideas explicitly presented the debate as it was represented by one of the participants who was clearly sympathetic to Huxley's version of events. Feldman follows this obviously biased portrayal with the statement that "scholars of Victorian science today are not so convinced that Huxley emerged victorious." Enter Bernard Lightman who argues that it is difficult to determine the victor, and what is more "we probably overemphasise the symbolism of that particular event. I think what happened was that shortly after it took place it took on almost mythical status and then there were several books written [many] years later and so it sounded so much like say the Galileo episode where you get conflict between science and religion that it becomes this symbol but historians now think that we exaggerate it too much, that it casts the defenders and attackers of evolution in too black-and-white a picture." In other words the historical representation of the event was later politicized to uphold an image of good and noble science in an all-out war against an evil and irrational religion. This is an image that is still presented in the popular media most notably by New Athiests such as Christopher Hitchens (see his article in Slate, 23 Aug. 2005). Sadly, The Nature of Things is just a recent example of the kind of binary myth-making that Lightman and other scholars of Victorian science critique.

    It is time that we stop immediately thinking of conflict when we consider the relationship between science and religion because more often than not the evidence does not support it. Darwin himself thought that there was no real conflict and so did many Anglican clergymen. This was a part of the story of evolution that is often ignored in popular portrayals but Feldman and Ideas must be congratulated for making it a central aspect of their telling and for exposing the seemingly eternal myth of conflict, battle, and war between science and religion that was so central to the very different story offered by The Nature of Things.

    Ian Hesketh, PhD, is a research associate in the Department of History at Queen's University, Kingston Ontario. His book, Of Apes and Ancestors: Evolution, Christianity and the Oxford Debate, was published by the University of Toronto Press in October 2009.

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