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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2013/2014

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Sally McKay


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 417

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23675

Office Hours: Thursdays, 10:00-11:00 am (or by appointment)

Course Objectives:

Course Description and Objectives: This course focuses on critical reading, providing a thematic inquiry into the visual arts in Canada from the earliest explorations and settlements to the present. We will evaluate key practices and art historical moments in Canadian art using a variety of critical texts with particular attention paid to post-colonial issues of nationhood, constructed narrative, and identity. Through readings, written assignments, class discussions, in-class exercises and lectures students will become familiar with canonical Canadian artworks, as well as with contemporary Canadian artists and art writers who challenge and extend Canadian art historical narratives. Students will develop critical reading, writing and research skills as well as strategies for forming their own frame of reference regarding the practice of Canadian art history and art criticism.


NOTE: students must come to every class prepared with their reading notes, loose-leaf paper, and writing utensils.


NOTE: There will be no class on Oct. 23. Instead, students are required to attend Kent Monkman’s lecture on October 23 at 7:30 p.m., Council Chambers / GH 111.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Course Texts:

1) Custom Courseware for ART HIST 3B03 Aspects of Canadian Art available at Titles

2) assorted texts from e-books and e-journals available online through the McMaster Library

Method of Assessment:

Evaluation Breakdown:

In Class Assignments......................................................................................... 15%

Reading Responses (due on a weekly basis )..................................................... 30%

Constructed Narrative (due Sept. 24) ................................................................ 10%

Quiz (in class Oct.22) ........................................................................................ 15%

Critical Research Paper (due Nov.26) ...............................................................  30%


Evaluation Details:

In Class Assignments (15%)

Students will conduct and hand in a short assignment during each class. It is of utmost importance for the class that we each remain welcoming and open to points of view that differ from our own. Students are expected to participate fully, treat one another with courtesy and respect, and contribute with sensitivity to a group dynamic of collaborative exploration. Students are expected to participate fully in group discussions and in-class exercises.


Reading Responses (30%) (due on a weekly basis)

Each week, students are required to hand in reading notes on the texts assigned for that week. These notes must include the following for each reading: two-three sentences outlining the author’s frame of reference, three-four sentences outlining the key points that the author is making, at least one question that the text raises for you. Each week’s reading responses must be compiled into a single .pdf or .rtf file and uploaded to that week’s drop box folder on Avenue to Learn. All students will prepare notes for all readings and bring them to class for group discussion. 


Constructed Narrative (10%) (Due Sept.24, in class)

hard copy, 600-650 words, double-spaced, Times New Roman or Palatino

In Margaret Atwood’s story “Death by Landscape” real paintings were interpreted through the perspective of a fictional character. Choose a Canadian artwork that you are already familiar with. Write your own fictional text responding to the artwork you have chosen. Invent a character, give that character a context and a frame of reference, and describe your chosen artwork from that character’s point of view. (Note: your fictional character can be based on a real person, or it can be completely invented, but it must be someone other than yourself. The important thing is to evoke the character’s point of view and describe the artwork from that point of view.) Attach an image of the artwork (a black & white printout or photocopy is acceptable).


This is a not an academic paper, but a creative work of fiction. The following questions will be used to evaluate your paper: Has the author conveyed a specific point of view, and does the interpretation of the artwork seem consistent with that point of view? Is the story interesting and engaging? Is the description of the artwork compelling? Does the reader get a strong impression of both the artwork and the character describing it? Is the paper free of spelling and grammatical errors?


Quiz (15%) (in class Oct.22)

The quiz will consist of image identification questions and fill-in-the-blank questions pertaining to the readings. A study guide for slide identification will be provided on Avenue to Learn.


Critical Research Paper (30%) (Due Nov.26, in class)

hard copy, 2000-2500 words, double-spaced, Times New Roman

Drawing from course material, identify a critical question that arises for you pertaining to the practice of Canadian art history. Select three academic texts by different authors that inform your research question. State your research question clearly at the beginning of your paper, and explain how your frame of reference informs your research. Include a short methodology paragraph briefly explaining why you have chosen your three texts. Write an analysis of each text, indicating how each of the authors approaches the issue that you have raised. Present your own response to the question, explaining how your interpretation is supported by, and/or differs from, each of the authors that you have chosen.

                    The following questions will be used to evaluate your paper: Does the paper have an interesting and clearly articulated research question? Does the author articulate their own frame of reference? Does the paper have a well-articulated methodology section? Does the paper draw from texts that inform the research question? Does the paper provide a cogent analysis of each text? Does the author clearly articulate their own response to the research question? Does the author critically situate their own assessments with and against the material they have researched? Is the structure of the paper clear and easy to follow? Is the source material referenced with properly formatted citations? Is the paper free of spelling and grammatical errors?

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Required Readings




• Robert Belton, “Introduction” and “A Survey of Visual Culture in Canada,” in Sights of Resistance: Approaches to Canadian Visual Culture (Calgary: University of Calgary), pp1-6 and 19-47. [eBook - main Library catalogue online ]


• Margaret Atwood, “Death by Landscape,” in Wilderness Tips (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1991) pp.109- 29 [LIBRARY RESERVE]

• Loren Lerner, “Rejection and Renewal: Art and Religion in Canada (1926-2010),” Journal of Canadian Art History, vol. XXXIII, no. 2 (2012): 21-51 [LIBRARY RESERVE]


SEPT. 10, 11, 13


• J Russell Harper, “The Golden Age in Quebec: The Beginning” in Painting in Canada:  A History (Toronto:  University of Toronto Press, 1966) 55-78. [custom courseware]

• Charmaine Nelson, “Slavery, Portraiture and the Colonial Limits of Canadian Art History” Canadian Woman Studies 24 no. 2 (Winter 2004): 22-29 [online Library database: ARTbibliographies Modern (ABM)]

• Gillian Poulter, "Representation as Colonial Rhetoric: the image of 'the native' and 'the habitant' in the formation of colonial identities in early nineteenth-century Lower Canada," Journal of Canadian Art History, vol.16, no.1 (Dec 1994): 10-29. [free download of JCAH Vol. XVI:1 (1994) at]


• John E. Crowley, "'Taken on the Spot': The Visual Appropriation of New France for the Global British Landscape," The Canadian Historical Review vol.86, no1 (March 2005): [online Library database: ARTbibliographies Modern (ABM)]



SEPT. 17, 18, 20 (Constructed Narrative due Sept.17, in class)


• Dennis Reid, “Paul Kane and Cornelius Kreighoff, 1845-1865” in A Concise History of Canadian Painting, Second Edition, (Canada: Oxford University Press, 1988): 50-66 [custom courseware]

• Heather Dawkins, "Paul Kane and the Eye of Power: Racism in Canadian Art History," in Vanguard, vol. 15, no. 4 (September, 1986),87-100) [online at]


• Paul Kane, Wanderings of an Artist Among the Indians of North America (London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans and Roberts, 1859): vi-x, 101-103, 180-190, 290-292 [online at]

• Katherine V. McHenry, "Canadian Art," Brush and Pencil, vol.8, no. 6 (Sept. 1901): 331-333, 335-336 [online Library database: ARTbibliographies Modern (ABM)]


SEPT. 24, 25, 27


• Scott Watson, “Race, Wilderness, Territory, and the Origins of Modern Canadian Landscape Painting,” in Beyond Wilderness: The Group of Seven, Canadian Identity, and Contemporary Art, John O’Brian and Peter White, eds. (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007) pp.276-89 [custom courseware]

• Gerta Moray, “Wilderness, Modernity and Aboriginality in the Paintings of Emily Carr.” Journal of Canadian Studies 33 no.2 (Summer 1998): 43-65 [online Library database: ARTbibliographies Modern (ABM)]

• Marcia Crosby, “Construction of the Imaginary Indian,” in Vancouver Anthology: The Institutional Politics of Art, Stan Douglas, ed. (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1991) [custom courseware]


• Newton MacTavish, “Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven,” in The Fine Arts in Canada (original ‑Toronto: The MacMillan Company of Canada Limited, 1925) (facsimile - Toronto: Coles Publishing Company, 1973) pp.151-59 [LIBRARY RESERVE]


OCT. 1, 2, 4


• Lora Carney, “Modernists and Folk on the Lower St. Lawrence: The Problem of Folk Art,” in Antimodernism and the Artistic Experience: Policing the Boundaries of Modernism, Lynda Jessup ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001) pp.104-16 [custom courseware]

• Kirsty Robertson, "Battlegrounds and Carpet Bombing," Fuse Magazine, vol. 32, no. 1 (Dec 2008): 6-13 [online Library database: ARTbibliographies Modern (ABM)]

• Richard William Hill, “Getting Unpinned: Collecting Aboriginal Art and the Potential for Hybrid Public Discourse in Art Museums,” in Obsession, Compulsion, Collection: On Objects, Display Culture, and Interpretation, Anthony Kiendl, ed. (Banff: Banff Centre Press, 2004) pp.193-206 [custom courseware]


• Browse Allyson Mitchell’s website,


OCT. 8, 9, 11


• Paul-Émile Borduas, “Global Refusal & Global Refusal Ten Years After,” in Documents in Canadian Art, Douglas Fetherling, ed. (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 1987) pp.112-27 [custom courseware]

• Ray Ellenwood, “Introduction,” in Total Refusal: The Complete 1948 Manifesto of the Montréal Automatists, Ray Ellenwood, trans. (Toronto, Chicago: Exile Editions, 2009), ix-xxx [custom courseware]

• Roald Nasgaard, Abstract Painting in Canada (Vancouver, Toronto, Halifax, Yarmouth: Douglas and McIntyre and Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, 2007) pp.143-49 and pp.162-63 [custom courseware]


• John Bentley Mays, “Painters 11's brush with notoriety,” The Globe and Mail (Apr 3, 1993): C15 [online Library database: ARTbibliographies Modern (ABM)]


OCT. 15, 16,

(Note: no class on Oct. 18th)


• Gerald McMaster, “Contributions to Canadian Art by Aboriginal  Contemporary Artists,” in Hidden in plain sight: Contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canadian Identity and Culture, David Newhouse, Cora Voyageur, Daniel Beavon, eds. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005) pp. 140-62 [custom courseware]

• Carmen L. Robinson, “Thunderbirds and Concepts of Transformation in the Art of Norval Morrisseau,” Journal of Canadian Art History, vol. XXXIII, no. 2 (2012): 53-73 [custom courseware] 


• Browse the website of the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective:


OCT. 22, 23, 25

(QUIZ in class, Oct. 22)

(NOTE: There will be no class on Oct. 23. Instead, students are required to attend Kent Monkman’s lecture that evening.)



• Kent Monkman talk, Wednesday, Oct.23,  7:30 p.m., Council Chambers / GH 111

• David McIntosh, “Kent Monkman’s Postindian Diva Warrior: from Simulacral Historian to Embodied Liberator,” in Fuse Magazine, vol. 23, no. 3 (Toronto: July, 2006): 20. [online]

• Lee-Ann Martin, “The Waters of Venice: Rebecca Belmore at the 51st Biennale,”

Canadian Art, vol. 22, no.2 (Summer 2005): 48-53 [e-text]


• Sholem Krishtalka, “At Play in the Fields of Unified History,” In Toronto (July 2012): 31, 33 [online]


OCT. 29, 30

(NOTE: no class on Nov.1)


• Anne Whitelaw, “Art Institutions in the Twentieth Century: Framing Canadian Visual Culture,” in The Visual Arts in Canada: The Twentieth Century, Anne Whitlaw, Brian Foss, Sandra Paikowsky, eds. (Oxford, New York, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2010), 3-15. [custom courseware]

• Susan Crean, “Taking the missionary position: why did the Royal Ontario Museum impose a white perspective on an exhibition about Africa?” in This Magazine, vol. 24, no.6 (1991) pp.23-28 [custom courseware]

• Judith Mastai, “There is no such thing as a visitor,” in Museums After Modernism: Strategies of Engagement, Griselda Pollock and Joyce Zemans, eds. (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Limited, 2007) pp.173-77 [custom courseware]



• Brenda Goldstein and Dana Samuel, “A future history of Toronto’s art cultures: A conversation,” in uTOpia Volume Two, The State of the Arts: Living with Culture in Toronto, Alana Wilcox, Christina Palassio, Jonny Dovercourt, eds. (Toronto: Coach House Books, 2006), 220-29 [Library Reserve]

NOV. 5, 6, 8


• Michael Snow, “On Wavelength” and “La Région Centrale,” in The Collected Writings of Michael Snow, Louise Dompierre, ed. (Waterloo, ON: Wilfred Laurier Press, 1994), 39-46, 53-56 [eBook - main Library catalogue online ]

• Anne Low, Otherwise Unexplained Fires: Joyce Wieland and the Experimental Film Scene in 1960s,” C Magazine, no.99 (Autumn 2008): 36-39 [online Library database: ARTbibliographies Modern (ABM)]

• Kass Banning, “The Mummification of Mommy: Joyce Wieland as the AGO’s First Living Other,” in Sightlines: Reading Contemporary Canadian Art, Jessica Bradley and Lesley Johnstone, eds. (Montreal: Artextes editions, 1994) pp.153-67 [custom courseware]


• Daniel Baird, “The Rematerialization of the Idea Traffic: Conceptual Art in Canada 1965-1980,” Border Crossings, vol. 29, no. 4 (Dec 2010-Feb 2011): 66-72 [online Library database: ARTbibliographies Modern (ABM)]


NOV. 12, 13, 15 (Quiz in class, Nov. 12)


• Jamelie Hassan, “What Counts as Culture,” in Theory Rules, Jody Berland and Will Straw, eds. (Toronto: YYZ Books and University of Toronto Press, 1996), 101-114 [custom courseware]

• Luis Jacob, “Golden Streams: artists’ collaborations and exchange in the 1970s,” C Magazine, no. 80 (Jan. 2004): 14-22 [online Library database: ARTbibliographies Modern (ABM)]

• Tagny Duff, “FWD, RWD, and PLAY: Performance Art, Video and Reflections on Second-Wave Feminism in Vancouver 1973-1983,” in Caught in the Act: An anthology of performance art by Canadian Women, Tanya Mars and Johanna Householder, eds. (Toronto: YYZ Books, 2004), 41-53[custom courseware]


• Browse the Kate Craig Online Archive at the Western Front,


NOV. 19, 20, 22


• Peggy Gale, “A History in Four Moments,” in Mirror Machine: Video and Identity, Janine Marchessault, ed. (Toronto: YYZ Books and Centre for Research on Canadian Cultural Industries and Institutions, 1995) pp.55-66 [custom courseware]

• John Greyson, “The Singing Dunes: Colin Campbell, 1943-2001,” in C Magazine, no.74 (Summer 2002): 29-31  [online Library database: ARTbibliographies Modern (ABM)]

• Paul Enright and AA Bronson, “Particularizing some general ideas: an interview with AA Bronson,” in Border Crossings, vol. 23, no.1 (Feb 2004) [online Library database: ARTbibliographies Modern (ABM)]


• Browse the online exhibition Video Art in Canada at Vtape,

NOV. 26, 27, 29

(ESSAY DUE Nov.26)


• R.M. Vaughan, “Entering David Blackwood's Newfoundland, with a little help,” The Globe and Mail (Feb. 28, 2011) [online,]

• Sarah Milroy, "Alex Colville and the disturbance beneath the tranquility," The Globe and Mail (Jul. 17, 2013) [online,]

• Deborah Root, “The Mystical Language of the Everyday: Jamelie Hassan’s at the Far Edge of Words,” C Magazine, no.103 (Autumn 2009): 36-42 [online Library database: ARTbibliographies Modern (ABM)]


• Valerie Behiery, “Imaging Islam in the Art of Arwa Abouon,” Journal of Canadian Art History, vol. XXXIII, no. 2 (2012): 129-147 [LIBRARY RESERVE]


Dec. 3, 4


• Jim Drobnick and Jennifer Fisher, interview with FASTWÜRMS, "HEXhibitionism," in FASTWÜRMS: Donky@Ninja@Witch, exhibition catalogue (Vancouver: Contemporary Art Gallery, 2008), 27-42. [custom courseware]

• Stephanie Domet, "Homos on the range," Herizons, vol. 17, no. 2 (Fall 2003): 26-29. [online Library database: ARTbibliographies Modern (ABM)]

• Kate-Christine Miller, “Feminist Art Gallery,” Shameless online (August 17, 2011) [online,]


• re-read Robert Belton, “A Survey of Visual Culture in Canada,” in Sights of Resistance: Approaches to Canadian Visual Culture (Calgary: University of Calgary), pp1-6 and 19-47 (e-book). [eBook - main Library catalogue online ]

• David Balzer, “Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller Chat About Their New AGO Survey,” Canadian Art online (April 2, 1013) [online,]



Other Course Information:

Policy on Late and/or Missed Work: It is the responsibility of each student to meet the requirements of submission for coursework. Handing work in late is not acceptable. A penalty of one full letter grade will be imposed for every academic day assignments are late. For example, a grade of A will be reduced to an F if assignment is five days late. Exceptions to this policy will only be made in specific instances where a student is eligible to file a McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF) and follows the proper procedure online at Please note the following stipulations.


 • MSAF is a self-reporting tool for Undergraduate Students to report absences due to minor medical situations that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation   for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period.

Extensions or Accommodations: Extensions or other accommodations will be determined by the instructor and will only be considered if supported by appropriate documentation.  Absences of less than 5 days may be reported using the McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF) at  . If you are unable to use the MSAF, you should document the absence with your faculty office.  In all cases, it is YOUR responsibility to follow up with the instructor immediately to see if an extension or other accommodation will be granted, and what form it will take. There are NO automatic extensions or accommodations.

Avenue to Learn: In this course we will be using Avenue to Learn.  Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of this course, private information such as first and last names, user names for the McMaster e-mail accounts, and program affiliation may become apparent to all other students in the same course.  The available information is dependent on the technology used.  Continuation in this course will be deemed consent to this disclosure.  If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure please discuss this with the course instructor.


Support Services: The University provides a variety of support services to help students manage their many demands. Reference librarians can provide invaluable research assistance. The Student Accessibility Services Centre (SAS) provides assistance with personal as well as academic matters. MUSC B107 and