The Sixties: Passion, Politics, and Style
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
Joseph Jones is a reference librarian in the Koerner Library at the
University of British Columbia.
The nine essays in this volume originated in an April 2003 conference, “The Sixties, Style and Substance,” held at Montreal’s McCord Museum. Editor Dimitry Anastakis’s introduction, which amounts to a 10th essay, provides a handy and well-documented overview of the sixties in Canada.
The reach of the papers is far less broad. By some coincidence, four of the nine have a lot to do with architecture and urban design (Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax, New York, Los Angeles). This unofficial theme bestows a colour on the entire collection.
The opening piece by Gretta Chambers amounts to a personal memoir of a Quebec in quiet revolution. It bookends with the final piece by Nicholas Olsberg in having no specific documentation (although Olsberg concludes with a small narrative bibliography that demonstrates a wide acquaintance with sources). All other contributions are undergirded with between 19 and 64 footnotes each.
Olsberg’s treatment of Los Angeles style is “Canadian” only by virtue of authorship. Krys Verral undertakes a Halifax/New York comparison that appeals to Foucault’s notion of heterotopia. In the content of all other papers, Canadian (and particularly Quebec) situations predominate.
Four of the authors are based in history departments, and their essays reflect that discipline’s approach. Frances Early explores opposition to the Vietnam War by the Voice of Women. Christopher Dummitt examines masculinity and automobile culture in post-war Vancouver. Marcel Martel investigates drug policy in Quebec and Ontario. Olivier Courteaux considers De Gaulle’s interests in Quebec.
The one remaining essay stands out for its subtle interconnection of period with politics and gender and personality and artistic expression. Kristy A. Holmes documents and analyzes Joyce Wieland’s quiltings and experimental films, which pursue the theme of “reason over passion.”
By nature, a selection of conference papers will be disparate and likely uneven. Except for Early and Holmes, the sixties in this volume feels mostly like fifties and early sixties. The general absence of countercultural rift, confrontational politics, generational disaffection, and reactive authority is striking.