A Vision Beyond Reach: A Century of Images of Canadian Destiny
Contains Bibliography, Index
Gerald J. Stortz is an assistant professor of history at St. Jerome’s
College, University of Waterloo.
Joseph Levitt, who teaches history at the University of Ottawa, is best known for his extensive work on the career of Henri Bourassa. A Vision Beyond Reach, which grew out of the Bourassa material, is a much more ambitious project. This is a study of what Canada was and, perhaps more importantly, what it could be. Many of those whose ideas are examined — such as Donald Creighton, W.L. Morton, and J.W. Dafoe — have already been well served by others who have studied their work; yet their inclusion here is not merely redundant, for Levitt places them with more obscure and in some cases long-forgotten contemporaries. Others have simply been ignored by historiographers. A prime example is one of the most prolific authors and commentators of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, John Castell Hopkins.
As Levitt notes in his introduction, the material would have lent itself admirably to a collection of essays on these individuals. He has, however, chosen to do something quite different. The division comes not by personality but by overriding attitude. Eras are described as “colonial, imperial, uncertain,” etc. The result is admirable as one gets a real sense of how Canadians thought of themselves at various times in their history.
For Canadian historians this is a most useful book and one that will undoubtedly soon appear on course outlines as a complement to Carl Berger’s The Writing of Canadian History (University of Toronto Press, 1976) and some of the newer works on Quebec historians. It is not, however, a work that is likely to have mass appeal. This is in many ways unfortunate, for Professor Levitt has provided information that is relevant to all those who seek an explanation of why Canadians think the way they do.