University of Toronto Press Blog

  • Hashtags and Rabbit Holes: Confessions of an Academic Writer

    To kick off the University Press Week Blog Tour (November 12-17), our Social Media Specialist, Tanya Rohrmoser, reflects on the many ways in which social media can be used as a vehicle for communicating research in the arts and humanities.

    “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” – Alexander Pope

    “I want you to take a Post-It and write, ‘Don’t write like an academic.’” said my new Digital Communications professor. “Stick it on your desk, your wall, your computer. Anywhere you’re working. And don’t forget it.”

    I blinked. But, ever the conscientious student, I slowly wrote it out in my notebook. (Yes, in ink, on paper.) I underlined it twice.

    As a mature student, I had enrolled in Humber College’s Professional Writing & Communications post-graduate program. I came armed with 6 years’ experience as a teaching assistant in Brock University’s English department, and a Master’s degree which had focused on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature and gender studies. I loved studying that period, where manicured sentences wound long and lush as a garden path, heroic couplets were the chosen form of intellectuals, and you could stand on a Richardson novel to change a light bulb. Sadly, no one ever did beat down my door after graduation to discuss Judith Butler or Mr. Darcy’s masculine performance in Pride and Prejudice. So here I sat in this classroom, fluorescent lights buzzing, debt accruing, determined to bridge the distance between the ivory tower and the landscape beyond.

    And, over the next eight months, my writing changed. Write for screens! Know your audience! Drop those adjectives! Bullet points! I ducked red pens and track changes, as my clauses fell away like petticoats. Watched as my murdered darlings dropped breathless to the floor, certain I’d never recover from the sacrifice. In time, I learned to step over them.

    But if I bristled at changing my writing, I positively shut down when I was told to sign up for Twitter. As part of a generation that has recently been dubbed the “Xennials,” I grew up with the luxury of picking and choosing the parts of digital life in which I participated – and Twitter wasn’t one of them. I dutifully claimed my handle, but certainly didn’t see how I would ever need it in the workplace.

    Is a tweet different than a heroic couplet? Yes, that’s a silly question. And no, it’s not silly at all. Alexander Pope may not have constrained himself to 280 characters, but he did know how to pack a nice, salty punch into two short lines. I made my peace with the fact that a tweet is a similar burst of information, deliberately chosen to display its author’s worldview. As with any writing, both form and content are debated. Some are written poorly. Some are politically charged. Some will send you careening down a bot-peppered rabbit hole into chaos. Some are profound, impactful, and memorable.

    When finally, happily, I was hired by the Journals Division of the University of Toronto Press, it was as their Digital Marketing Coordinator, where one of the largest parts of my job was to run their social media accounts. And I was pleased to learn along the way that Alexander Pope and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu both have hashtags, and that a “Swiftie” not only refers to songstress Taylor, but satirist Jonathan.

    I slid back into the academic world like a hand finds its glove. I knew this world. I loved this world. What was different now was that I knew how to promote this world. And I also knew that, in some ways, it would be a challenge. Part of each day was spent finding contributors on social media in order to market their articles and gain a wider reach. I searched for the handles of their university departments. I tracked down and promoted the work of grad students. Though they are often quite sparing with their words, I tried to get scholars talking on Twitter, and I discovered an active, robust academic community that was happily leaning in to it, and using social media to their advantage.

    And, in perhaps an even odder twist, wrung from the student who once turned her nose up at the prospect of having a Twitter account, I’m now the Social Media Specialist for UTP’s Book Publishing Division.

    As humanities majors, we’re told we have a wide variety of skills; we just need to market them. But we’re rarely taught how, and many of us are more comfortable curled up with a good book than we are singing our own praises. One week into my job at UTP, I went home to my own academic, a quiet historian who’s writing his dissertation, and told him to make sure he uses social media to promote his research. That when the time comes to apply for one of those coveted academic positions, to show not only that he can write, teach, and produce, but that he can help promote the department on its digital platforms. Useful advice? Academics on hiring committees would know more than I.

    Is the debate about writing for social media similar to the heated debates about the potential dangers of the novel when it first appeared? Poetic license with the sonnet? The modern, post-Victorian aesthetic?

    Today, I saw a man reach out to another we follow on Twitter: “It grieves me that I’ve had to degrade myself to contact you over Twitter. Is there really no other way to reach you?” I trust that by this point you know I understand the sentiment, but here is the truth, the raw truth for those of us who, as author Tim Bowling puts it, are “dragging the bloodied pelt of the twentieth century” behind us: social media is simply an exchange. A hand reaching out across a shrinking globe to create and participate in community. How does Alice not fall down the rabbit hole? If I ever find out, I’ll let you know. Sometimes I feel like I’m leasing space down there.

    But here is what I also know to be true, as the academic world shifts shape into something new: there is a way to marry the two, and still retain the integrity and traditions of the former.

    Last year, I was in Washington at the American Historical Association meeting, and my colleague was attending the Modern Language Association convention in New York. As I followed the conference hashtags, what struck me was just how many academics were reaching out to each other in kind and positive ways. During the worst of the January storms, there were offers of child-minding services for presenters if daycares were closed, promises to post grad student papers online if they couldn’t attend their sessions, and gentle reminders to tenured professors that a drink and a chat with a vulnerable adjunct can go a long way.

    Can you fall down the rabbit hole, Alice? God help you, yes.

    But you can also find support in an online community that will help you find and market your research, provide career advice, and offer opportunities to form new collaborations – often with a little humour thrown in for good measure. You just need to make sure you’re opening the Twitter handle to the right door.

    To continue on Day One of the University Press Week Blog Tour, check out posts by these other fine university presses:

    MIT Press
    Blog: https://mitpress.mit.edu/blog
    Twitter: @MITPress

    Athabasca University Press
    Blog: http://www.aupressblog.ca/
    Twitter: @au_press

    Rutgers University Press
    Blog: https://www.rutgersuniversitypress.org/category/news/
    Twitter: @RutgersUPress

    Yale University Press
    Blog: http://blog.yalebooks.com/
    Twitter: @yalepress

    Duke University Press
    Blog: https://dukeupress.wordpress.com/2018/11/09/how-partnerships-with-museums-help-build-a-strong-art-list
    Twitter: @DukePress

    University of Minnesota Press
    Blog: uminnpressblog.com
    Twitter: @UMinnPress

    Thank you for supporting university press publishing!

  • Writing Transnational and Cross-Cultural Lives

    Written by guest blogger, Patrick Lacroix.

    Portrait of Louis-Prosper BenderLouis-Prosper Bender. Photograph by J.E. Livernois (c. 1880)

    Everything about Prosper Bender (1844-1917) seemed to suggest that he would be noticed and remembered—everything down to his name. He left a life of comfort to serve as a physician in the U.S. Army in the final year of the Civil War. He bucked the Canadian Medical Association by practicing homeopathy. He made his home the centre of Quebec’s literary life in the 1870s. He sought to bridge Canada’s two dominant cultures when few others could or would.

    Bender did all of this in the span of two decades—and then left. Indeed, the most interesting part of his life may be his abrupt move to Boston in the 1880s, a decision that undermined his burgeoning fame as a Canadian littérateur and helps to explain why he has vanished from our historical consciousness. At the same time, the move highlights a constancy of principles that might otherwise go unnoticed.

    Had he remained in Quebec City, Bender might have earned great fame as a writer; the works he penned and published presaged as much. But, in 1882, he began a transnational journey that would last some twenty-five years. Personal reasons for the move are easily found. He failed to make the first slate of members of the Royal Society of Canada, while Boston was home to a thriving literary and artistic scene and seemed to promise new professional opportunities.

    In retrospect, it is Bender’s politics that stand out most. Interethnic suspicions, graft, and a languishing economy had turned Canada into a sick nation, Bender argued through most of the 1880s. Confederation had not yielded its expected fruit. Awed by American industrial power and the spirit of republican values, the expatriate began to plead for Canada’s annexation by its mighty neighbour.

    Bender nevertheless remained true to his principles and to his own bicultural heritage. He continued to promote a better understanding of French-Canadian society and culture—on both sides of the border—among their English-speaking neighbours. He defied the nativism that afflicted budding Franco-American communities and the angry rhetoric that sprang in the era of the Riel controversy. Adroitly, he crossed cultures and borders without succumbing to the more profitable tide of prejudice.

    As our own times show, fear mongering and scapegoating easily drown out voices of moderation and understanding. When Bender died in early 1917, his home country was about to experience animosities not seen since 1885; little came of his efforts. That too may explain, despite the numerous columns he penned in Quebec newspapers after he returned to the province, the obscurity that awaited him.

    Bender’s life sheds light on the possibilities of Canadian and French-Canadian nationhood in the late nineteenth century. But we stand to gain more by remembering his work as an intercultural broker, who may yet inspire those who would counter the “[f]anatics [who] have always been numerous enough . . . to supply subjects for quarrels, as well as disputants at short notice, to the danger of the public peace.”

    Learn more about Bender, the literary scene of his time, and his work as a mediator of cultures in the latest issue of the Journal of Canadian Studies (52.2).

    Patrick Lacroix, Ph.D. is an instructor at Phillips Exeter Academy (Exeter, N.H.). His article "Seeking an ‘Entente Cordiale’: Prosper Bender, French Canada, and Intercultural Brokership in the Nineteenth Century" is free to read for a limited time in the latest issue of the Journal of Canadian Studies. Click here to read it online.

  • The Sound of History: A Chronicle of Captain Eddie McKay

    University of Toronto Press commemorates 100 years since the end of the First World War by curating a selection of new and recent books that remind us of our nation’s history, courage, and sacrifice. Notable amongst these titles is One in a Thousand: The Life and Death of Captain Eddie McKay, Royal Flying Corps by Graham Broad.

    Broad’s lively chronicle of Eddie McKay, a varsity athlete at Western University, who flew with the Royal Flying Corps, doubles as an engaging meditation upon the historical process. The biography ends with four unsolved events in McKay’s life. These mysterious tales remind us that even the most detailed account of a person’s life is never complete.

    We’re proud to present a recording of Broad reading perhaps the most dramatic of these tales, “The Woman.” The short mystery has been divided into several instalments. Like the radio serials that were all the rage in McKay’s time, we will post a new audio track every day leading up to Remembrance Day – so you can enjoy the sound of history.

    Introduction

    Part One: The Woman

    Part Two: Who Was Maud Palmer?

    Part Three: An Unexpected Possibility

    Part Four: A Case of Mistaken Identity

    Part Five: The Mystery Returns

    Part Six: It's Not Impossible

    Coda

  • Talking Back to the Indian Act

    Talking Back to the Indian Act: Critical Readings in Settler Colonial Histories is a comprehensive "how-to" guide for engaging with primary source documents. But more than that, the book explores the Indian Act itself, and gives readers a much better understanding of this vital piece of legislation. We asked authors Mary-Ellen Kelm and Keith D. Smith to discuss their book, and why learning this information and history is important.

    You can read an exclusive excerpt from the book here.

    “We find the Indian Act of 1876 are [sic] not calculated to promote our welfare if we accept it because it empowers the Superintendent General of Indian affairs to manage, govern, and control our lands, moneys, and properties without first obtaining the consent of the chiefs…”

    Talking Back to the Indian Act: Critical Readings in Settler Colonial Histories is being published at a key moment in our history. Not only do we live in an age of twenty-four-hour news outlets broadcasting sharply divergent and politically motivated narratives, and where the nature of evidence is questioned in overtly public ways – we are also poised to begin a process of reconciling with Indigenous people in this country. Talking Back addresses both these critical issues.

    The book provides a set of lessons in reading documents through a historical and critical lens that takes into account Indigenous and intersectional perspectives. In so doing, it demonstrates the historians’ craft as it can be reconceived so that alongside context, contingency, causation, change over time, and complexity (the five “Cs” of historical thinking), we also consider relationship, responsibility, respect, and reciprocity (the four “Rs” of Indigenous methodologies). It shows the value of thinking deeply about the role in historical experience played by gender, sexuality, ability, and other ways of being. As such, it introduces readers to an expansive approach to critically engaging with the written word that addresses key questions about the nature of evidence, how it is made, and how it can be used. Readers of Talking Back to the Indian Act will never again feel that they lack the tools to truly interrogate historical or other documents.

    At the same time, Talking Back to the Indian Act introduces the reader to one of the most important pieces of legislation in Canadian history and – sadly – one that many Canadians know very little about. For nearly a century and a half, the Indian Act has dominated the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples living within its borders. As it sought to erase individual and collective identities, the Indian Act operated to extinguish Indigenous political structures, regulate familial relationships and gender roles, degrade kinship networks, circumscribe economic undertakings, reduce the land base available to Indigenous communities, and prohibit practices central to the maintenance of Indigenous cultures. Even those Indigenous people who Canada did not choose to classify as “Indian” have been impacted by the Act as they struggled to assert their own distinct identities and legal rights.

    The provisions of the Indian Act, the surveillance required for its maintenance, and Indigenous responses to its intentions and effects have created a massive archive. It is from this prodigious body of material that Talking Back to the Indian Act draws the documents it uses to teach critical historical reading methods. Included here are: the original 1876 Act and the many amendments made to it, queries and clarifications from Canadian officials, law enforcement documents, legal opinions, court records, and reports from various commissions and inquiries. Importantly, here too are Indigenous people’s letters of protest, oral testimony, meeting transcripts of Indigenous organizations and inquiries, radio addresses, and creative works all talking back to the Indian Act from Indigenous perspectives. Readers who may have heard very little about the Indian Act will come away from this text with a better understanding of how the Act worked to constrain Indigenous lives and how Indigenous people persistently worked to overcome those constraints.

    Talking Back to the Indian Act provides a set of lessons that shine light on several critical aspects of the Act and Indigenous responses to them in historical context. It encourages students to move beyond simply reading historical documents and to engage with them in more refined and effective ways. To that end, readers of this text are given an introduction to the interpretative tools traditionally available to historians and how these might be utilized in concert with Indigenous methodologies and intersectional analyses. Students will come away from this book with a much better understanding of this pivotal piece of legislation as well as the dynamics involved in its creation, its maintenance, and the resistance it engendered.

    Talking Back to the Indian Act is not a definitive study of the Indian Act but includes a range of important topics that resonate across time and into the present. Each of these topics has stimulated an intriguing array of voices and document types available to researchers. This range of material has allowed the documents provided in this collection to be selected with variety of source type and perspective in mind. Readers will have the opportunity to not only interrogate individual letters, transcripts of oral accounts and testimony, official reports, reminiscences, legislation, creative writing, and other materials but also to consider the relative value of different kinds of sources to different sorts of projects that a researcher might undertake. In addition to the focus on issues that are significant in their own right, there are also a number of overarching themes represented here. For example, Canada’s goals of acquiring land and resources and assimilating Indigenous people are evident throughout this text, as is Indigenous resistance in its many forms.

    Exploring the contours and development of the Indian Act through the documents provided in this text will help students in all disciplines – as well as popular audiences – navigate the headlines of today. It is our hope that Talking Back to the Indian Act makes a contribution to historical understanding while at the same time enhancing the skills necessary to analyse our present situation and the most appropriate paths to the future.

    Mary-Ellen Kelm is Canada Research Chair and Professor in the Department of History at Simon Fraser University, and Keith D. Smith teaches in the Departments of Indigenous Studies and History at Vancouver Island University.

  • Witches, Charms & Rituals: Top Titles With Spirit For Your Halloween List

    Trick or treat? That depends on your reading list...

    This week, we’re counting down to Halloween with spirited titles on everything from ghosts to witchcraft to Canadian horror films. We've rounded up some of our favourites – just in case you want a couple of treats for your shelf.

    Ghostly Landscapes: Film, Photography, and the Aesthetics of Haunting in Contemporary Spanish Culture

    “To speak of ghosts is to always speak of a loss that returns. Loss can tell us something not only about the distant past but also how we live in the present and imagine the future.”

    Revisit twentieth-century Spanish history through the camera lens. Ghostly Landscapes reveals how haunting serves to mourn loss, redefine space and history, and confirm the significance of lives and stories previously hidden or erased. A significant re-evaluation of fascist and post-fascist Spanish visual culture from Patricia Keller.

    The Canadian Horror Film: Terrors of the Soul

    Welcome to a wasteland of docile damnation and prosaic pestilence where savage beasts and mad scientists rub elbows with pasty suburbanites, grumpy seamen, and baby-faced porn stars.

    Highlighting more than a century of Canadian horror filmmaking, The Canadian Horror Film offers a series of thought-provoking reflections that promises to guide both scholars and enthusiasts alike. Unearth the terrors hidden in the recesses of the Canadian psyche from editors Gina Freitag and André Loiselle.

    Magic in Medieval Manuscripts

    Exploring the place of magic in the medieval world through an exploration of images and texts in British Library manuscripts, Sophie Page reveals a fascination with the points of contact between this and the celestial and infernal realms. Find magicians, wisewomen, witches, charms, and rituals in Magic in Medieval Manuscripts.

    Ghostly Paradoxes: Modern Spiritualism and Russian Culture in the Age of Realism

    “The spiritualist trend played a significant role in the ideological and social life of the realist age. The reality of the soul was a major issue of the time. Physicists, physiologists, theologians, mystics, and, of course, writers all took part in this debate.”

    Surprisingly, nineteenth-century Russia was consumed with a passion for activities such as séances and summoning the spirits. Ghostly Paradoxes examines the relationship between spiritualist beliefs and the mindset of the Russian Age of Realism. Newly released in paperback – now that’s a treat!

    Awful Parenthesis: Suspension and the Sublime in Romantic and Victorian Poetry

    “Suspension rejects the impulse to cling to the known and the knowable.”

    Whether the rapt trances of Romanticism or the corpse-like figures that confounded Victorian science and religion, Awful Parenthesis reveals that depictions of bodies in suspended animation are a response to an expanding, incoherent world in crisis. Examining various aesthetics of suspension in the works of poets such as Coleridge, Shelley, Tennyson, and Christina Rossetti, Anne McCarthy shares important insights into the nineteenth-century fascination with the sublime.

    European Magic and Witchcraft: A Reader

    “Those who have picked up this book are about to fly through a mirror, back through time, and look down upon an unfamiliar terrain.”

    What’s really behind our fascination with magic and witchcraft? Editor Martha Rampton demonstrates how understandings of magic changed over time, and how these were influenced by factors such as religion, science, and law. By engaging with a full spectrum of source types, learn how magic was understood through the medieval and early modern eras.

    Astrology in Medieval Manuscripts 

    Medieval astrologers, though sometimes feared to be magicians in league with demons, were usually revered by scholars whose ideas and practices were widely respected. Explore the dazzling complexity of western astrology and its place in society, as revealed by a wealth of illustrated manuscripts from the British Library’s rich medieval collections.

Items 6 to 10 of 698 total