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The Force of Culture

The Force of Culture: Vincent Massey and Canadian Sovereignty

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 362
  • Book Info
    The Force of Culture
    Book Description:

    The Force of Cultureshows that Massey was, in certain respects, a democratizer and even a populist, who believed that difference need not divide.

    Disclaimer: Images removed at the request of the rights holder

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2087-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword: The 1951 Report of Canada’s Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Mavor Moore

    Nobody today is sure what the word ‘culture’ is supposed to include. It can mean anything from music to manure. One of my dictionaries defines it as ‘the sum total of the attainments and activities of any specific period or people.’ At the other extreme is Quentin Crisp’s definition of culture as ‘television programs so boring they cannot be described as entertainment.’ We havecorporate culture, police culture, gang culture, aromatherapy culture… In Calgary recently I read that ‘the saving grace for Mr. Klein is that he governs a province where the culture of opposition is weak.’

    What’s notable...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction: Character, Citizenship, and Culture – Massey’s ‘Other Canada’
    (pp. 3-12)

    In Canada, a country distinguished for its cultural reticence, Vincent Massey (1887– 1967) was that anomaly, a champion of culture. His contributions in the cultural field were numerous, significant, and profoundly influential. They spanned his lengthy career as university lecturer, businessman, diplomat, cultural policy-maker, and governor general. His embrace of culture was, however, neither sweeping nor unhesitating. Massey’s attitudes were deeply ambivalent, as well as being riddled with biases of gender and race. His view of culture illuminates much about Canada’s cultural understatedness, about its propensity to ignore, even deny, its culture, and about the morass of often-conflicting assumptions that...

  6. Part One: Culture and Education

    • 1 A Methodist Educator, 1908–1921
      (pp. 15-50)

      Culture is surely one of the most complex concepts in current discourse.¹ The bearer of multiple meanings, sometimes in conflict, it seems to defy easy or precise definition. To explore Vincent Massey’s notion of culture is to enter a rich storehouse of accreted belief, value, and association in the history of English-speaking Canada and of Canadian Methodism. Far removed from the view of culture found in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1992, where it was little more than a basket of commodities with which to bargain, for Massey, culture was nothing short of the intellectual, moral, aesthetic,...

    • 2 A National Platform for Education, 1920–1926
      (pp. 51-74)

      By the late 1910s, the education gospel had reached climactic proportions. Despite being a provincial responsibility under the British North America Act, 1867, education became increasingly intertwined with notions of Canadian citizenship.¹ For some, the education gospel promised to be nothing short of Canada’s salvation as a nation. One of the formations to which this conviction gave rise was the National Council of Education (NCE), a private body launched in Winnipeg in late 1919 to foster citizenship through education. Massey was a senior officer between 1920 and 1926 and, as such, was well positioned to steer a variety of educational...

  7. Part Two: Arts of Resistance

    • 3 Becoming ‘Art-Minded,’ 1902–1930
      (pp. 77-114)

      In a 1930 speech, Vincent Massey commented: ‘We [Canadians] are becoming more “art-minded.”’¹ He was referring as much to himself as to others. Until the late 1920s, the arts played a modest, even minimal part in his understanding of culture. This was not unusual – recognition of fine art in Canada has been slow, ambiguous, even tortuous. Its validation has drawn strength from various sources, often ones that simultaneously and viscerally sought its repression.

      The role of Protestantism’s many denominations in this process is complex and begs to be sorted out. In Massey’s case, Methodism was a seminal influence on his...

    • 4 Nationalizing the Arts, 1922–1935
      (pp. 115-164)

      ‘The swift development of Canadian painting is not only a story interesting to ourselves but it also has ... [a] bearing on the large question of the relation between art and nationality,’ wrote Vincent Massey in 1948.¹ By the later 1920s, he no longer considered art a ‘superficial embellishment’ or a ‘sociological cosmetic.’ He was awakening to the role that the arts might play in forging a sense of national community² and became a zealous advocate for the development of national forums in the visual arts, drama, and broadcasting – each the topic of a section in this chapter.

      His association...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
  8. Part Three: Forging a New Framework

    • 5 The State and the Arts: British Models, 1935–1946
      (pp. 167-199)

      In late 1935, Vincent Massey arrived in London as high commissioner for Canada. He had long favoured close relations between the two countries, and, with the approach of war, he was now at the vanguard of resurgent Canadian–British cooperation. For Massey, this realignment was an affirmation of the humanism that he believed to be central to Canadian democracy and that distinguished it from a more purely capitalistic model. Humanism – which signified for him such key features as moral agency, a highly developed critical sense, a commitment to excellence, tolerance engendered by exposure to diverse perspectives, and a sense of...

    • 6 Arm’s Length: Culture, the State, and Canadian Sovereignty, 1946–1951
      (pp. 200-238)

      Massey returned from England in 1946, his diplomatic posting having served to harden his convictions about the cultural perils that Canada faced and the sources from which it drew strength. He was utterly convinced that Canada must assume responsibility for its culture or remain prey to mounting American imperialism. His early concern for overcoming Canada’s sectionalism and for locating a sense of community and unity within its ethnic and geographical diversity was now overshadowed by what he perceived to be the external forces that threatened national sovereignty.

      At the end of the war, he asked what he considered to be...

  9. Conclusion: The Force of Culture
    (pp. 239-250)

    Vincent Massey liked to use the expression ‘the force(s) of geography.’ He employed it first in the early 1920s; it reappeared inOn Being Canadianin 1948 and again in the Massey Report in 1951. The phrase characterized the unique predicament of Canadian sovereignty, which Massey envisioned above all as the surmounting of physical obstacles. He was fully cognizant of Canada’s wealth and exploitability as a resource-rich nation, its geographical affinities with the United States, and its history of colonialism. As counterweight to its immense vulnerability to geographical and material pressures, he invoked the force of culture. Only by recognizing...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 251-310)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 312-328)
  12. Index
    (pp. 329-334)