Master of Arts Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) 660

An Introduction to Canadian Studies (Revision 1)

**Note: Students in Group Study courses are advised that this syllabus may vary in key details in each instance of the course. Always refer to the Moodle site for the most up-to-date details on texts, assignment structure, and grading.**


The phrase Canadian Studies is used to describe an interdisciplinary approach to the study of Canada that emerged with an upsurge of nationalism in the mid 1960s. That upsurge was marked in part by the adoption of a distinct Canadian flag in 1965 and then by the celebration of the centennial of confederation in 1967. Our national anthem, O Canada, was approved by Parliament in 1967, although not officially adopted until 1980. Canadian pride was reflected in all sorts of activities, including the inauguration of the Journal of Canadian Studies in 1966, and, in the centennial year, the publication of the first volume of Documents on Canadian External Relations, which covered the years from 1909 to 1918 (despite the fact that the development of an independent foreign policy was viewed as a primary indicator of sovereignty, the collection of documents did not appear until almost a half a century after the end of the First World War). The Canadian government also sponsored a number of centennial trains and caravans to travel the country in an effort to portray some sense of Canadian history. Then, in 1969, Mount Allison University established the first Canadian Studies program, under the direction of George Stanley, the distinguished Canadian historian who had had a hand in designing the Canadian flag. At the time, there was much talk about the Canadian "cultural mosaic," so, perhaps not surprisingly, most Canadian Studies courses quickly became, and still are, examinations of what could be termed compartmentalized nationalisms. In other words, these courses offer sections on economic nationalism, conservative nationalism, First Nations nationalism, Quebec nationalism, and so on. There is generally an added sprinkling of literature about the land, regionalism, the two solitudes, and perhaps some discussion of the concept of limited identities or unity in diversity. This kind of course inevitably tries to break away from this traditional approach by focusing on the debate over the merits and shortcomings of national history.

The debate over national history has been going on for more than a quarter of a century, although it has been particularly heated during the past decade-to the point where scholars have engaged in personal attacks on one another in public forums.* While you should have an understanding of the parameters of the debate, this course will be more concerned with what the debate reveals about the nature of Canada, where it has taken scholarship, and what light it has shed upon that most fuzzy of concepts, the Canadian identity. You will also be given the opportunity to consider whether it is fair to say-as some have recently said-that Canada may be the first postmodern nation.

Course Objectives

The objectives for An Introduction to Canadian Studies are fourfold. The course provides you the opportunity to

  1. understand some of the new approaches to Canadian Studies that have emerged from the larger debate about "national" history.
  2. discover what light historical debate can shed on the nature of the Canadian identity and aspects of Canadian nationalism and culture.
  3. attempt to define what it means to be Canadian.
  4. hone research, critical, and analytical skills.

Student Evaluation

To receive credit for this course, students must participate in the online activities, successfully complete the assignments, and achieve a final mark of at least 60 per cent. Students should be familiar with the Master of Arts—Interdisciplinary Studies grading system. Please note that it is students' responsibility to maintain their program status. Any student who receives a grade of "F" in one course, or a grade of "C" in more than one course, may be required to withdraw from the program.

The following table summarizes the evaluation activities and the credit weights associated with them.

Course Activity Weighting
Online Participation 20%
Assignment 1: Critical Review (due end of Week 4) 20%
Assignment 2: Book Review (due end of Week 9) 20%
Assignment 3: Research Paper (due end of Week 14, 20-25 pp.) 40%
Total 100%

Course Materials

The course materials for Master of Arts-Interdisciplinary Studies 660: An Introduction to Canadian Studies include the items listed below. If you find that any items are missing from your course package, please contact the Course Materials Production department at Athabasca University as soon as possible. You may call Athabasca University, toll free, from anywhere in Canada or the United States at 1-800-788-9041 and ask to speak to someone in Course Materials Production (ext. 6366). Students in the Edmonton and Calgary dialling areas are asked to call the Learning Centres to connect with the automated attendant, and then dial the four-digit extension. You may send e-mail to, or write to Course Materials Production at Tim Byrne Centre, 4001 Hwy 2 South, Athabasca AB T9S 1A4.


  • Granatstein, J. L. Who Killed Canadian History? Toronto: HarperCollins, 1998.
  • Friesen, Gerald. Citizens and Nation: An Essay on History, Communication, and Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000.
  • Francis, Daniel. National Dreams: Myth, Memory, and Canadian History. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 1997.
  • Iyer, Pico. Imagining Canada: An Outsider's Hope For A Global Future [the inaugural Hart House Lecture, 2001]. Toronto: The Hart House Lectures, 2001.
  • Ignatieff, Michael. The Rights Revolution. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2000.
  • Kymlicka, Will. Finding Our Way: Rethinking Ethnocultural Relations in Canada. Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Athabasca University Printed Materials

Reading File: The Reading File contains selected articles from various sources that are required reading for this course.

Course Guide: The Course Guide contains the course introduction, objectives, reading assignments, online participation activities, assignments and evaluation criteria, and other information that you will need to complete the course successfully. In particular, the "Study Guide" section of this Course Guide offers commentary on each unit of the course, providing background information and a roadmap to the various readings. Each unit presents a number of study questions and there are also a number of questions asked in the commentary. These questions are designed to guide you in thinking about various issues.

Athabasca University Online Materials

Course Home Page: You will find Course Information at the top of the course home page. You will find your assignments and links to submit your work to your professor on the course home page.

Athabasca University Library: Students are encouraged to browse the Library's Web site to review the Library collection of journal databases, electronic journals, and digital reference tools:

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 1, January 1, 2005.