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  • Historical Identities: The Professoriate in Canada
  • Heather Murray
Paul Stortz and E. Lisa Panayotidis, editors. Historical Identities: The Professoriate in Canada. University of Toronto Press. x, 438. $70.00

At first glance, the contention of this volume appears counter-intuitive: that the professoriate is the under-examined element in analyses of higher education. This statement may slight the amour-propre of faculty members, who see themselves as central to the university; indeed, as composing the university (although the erosion of peer governance should have put paid to this utopian notion). But, according to editors Paul Stortz and Lisa Panayotidis, 'in previous studies, the professoriate has been treated opaquely, in roundabout ways, without concentrating on the agent itself' by researchers concerned with larger institutional questions. The intent here is to put the professorial horse back in the front of the academic cart.

If previous work has operated too generally, it would be equally unwise to compensate by concentrating on individual scholars, however interesting those careers might be. (A focus on 'great men' and their inferred impact already is a weakness of English-Canadian intellectual historiography.) The professoriate is not the driving force, nor, to continue the motif, is it in the driver's seat. The intent is to relocate professors as 'agents' without seeing their actions as unfettered or automatically causal. Rather, the editors assert that 'the culture of the professoriate in particular time and space does not separate environment and agent' (8). This is what the title term Historical Identities is meant to convey. (Pierre Bourdieu's conceptualization of 'disposition' would be relevant here: actions are largely determined by material circumstances, yet personal differences help to account for dispersions in the cultural – or institutional – field.) The editors detail [End Page 129] potential avenues of research for those wanting to follow this analytical middle way.

This route is not taken by all of the essayists, but what Historical Identities lacks in theoretical cohesion, it gains in variety. William Bruneau surveys international scholarship on the professoriate and assesses the state of the art. Michiel Horn challenges the myth of professorial apoliticality with the stories of scholars running for public office, as does Steve Hewitt's research on faculty who were targets or informants in 'cold war' on-campus surveillance. E. Lisa Panayotidis also shows the professoriate in the public eye, through a visual culture analysis of the be-gowned and bewhiskered caricatures in the student annual Torontonensis.

This volume is noteworthy for its geographic diversity and for escaping from University of Toronto–centricity, which commonly occurs, given the depth of that provincial university's archive. Barry Moody narrates the nineteenth-century battle over the Didactics appointment at Acadia, setting the contretemps in its financial, political, and theological networks. Malcolm MacLeod's statistical study of Memorial faculty during the post-war period of exponential growth reveals shifting demographics, while Donald Fisher's more anecdotal study of Bishop's in the same period tracks changes to traditional academic culture. Thérèse Hamel examines the devolution of the Normal Schools in Quebec, and the universities' assumption of educational credentialing, from the point of view of the faculty affected.

Gender, sexuality, and family background also receive consideration. Elizabeth M. Smyth details the work of the women's Roman Catholic teaching orders and their arduous transition into higher education, and Dianne M. Hallman focuses on the teaching vocation of one woman religious, Irene Poelzer. Marianne Ainley offers biographical accounts of some pioneering women in mid-twentieth-century science faculties, while Alison Prentice (who has long insisted that 'support' staff receive their academic due) exposes the dependency of male professors on the unacknowledged work of the 'faculty wife.' Cameron Duder's is a groundbreaking study of lesbian and female-affiliated faculty, centred on the personal papers of microbiologist Frieda Fraser. In a closing study, Paul Stortz has analyzed the composition of the University of Toronto faculty at mid-twentieth century to discern which formative factors in early life underpinned their professional choices. A useful selective bibliography completes the collection.

Historical Identities in total makes a strong argument for placing the professoriate under the analytic lens. As the contributors would themselves note, more research is required...


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