Editing Modernism in Canada


September 29, 2010

MEA panels on Sheila Watson, Wilfred Watson, and Marshall McLuhan

In June 2011 the Media Ecology Association will hold its twelfth annual convention, “Space, Place, and the McLuhan Legacy” (June 23-26, 2011; University of Alberta) in Edmonton to celebrate the centenary of Marshall McLuhan’s birth (http://www.media-ecology.org/#/). McLuhan is connected to Edmonton not only through birth but through his lasting friendship with two Canadian writers: Sheila Watson, who published her modernist novel The Double Hook while engaged in a doctoral study of Wyndham Lewis under McLuhan’s supervision; and Sheila’s husband, poet and playwright Wilfred Watson, with whom McLuhan pursued a decade-long dialogue resulting in the publication of From Cliché to Archetype in 1970. As it happens, 2011 also marks the centenary of Wilfred Watson’s birth.

In recognition of McLuhan’s connection with Wilfred and Sheila Watson, we should like to convene panels at the MEA exploring the relationships among these three intellectuals and artists: what they held in common, certainly—including an interest in new media—but also the points at which their thinking diverged. Although we have in mind two separate panels—one focusing on Marshall’s relationship with Sheila, the other, on his dialogue with Wilfred—composition of the panels will be shaped by the range and inter-relation of the proposals we receive.  The papers presented on these panels will be expanded and reworked for inclusion in an edited collection to be published by the University of Alberta Press.

We invite papers that address any aspect of the relationships among these three intellectuals and artists.  Possible topics include:

  • Sheila Watson and Marshall McLuhan’s engagement with the work of Wyndham Lewis (or James Joyce)
  • Sheila Watson and Marshall McLuhan on ‘figure’ and ‘ground’
  • Sheila Watson and Marshall McLuhan on photography
  • Marshall McLuhan and Sheila Watson’s or Wilfred Watson’s engagements with myth and its function in society
  • Wilfred Watson, Sheila Watson, and Marshall McLuhan on the construction of a Canadian artistic practice
  • Marshall McLuhan, Wilfred Watson and/or Sheila Watson on the relationship and differences among cinema and theatre and the book
  • Wilfred Watson and Marshall McLuhan’s collaboration on From Cliché to Archetype
  • Wilfred Watson’s exploration of McLuhan’s ideas in his plays—e.g. Let’s Murder Clytemnestra According to the Principles of Marshall McLuhan—poetry or essays
  • Wilfred Watson’s decade-long reassessment of Marshall McLuhan following the latter’s death in 1980.

Anyone interested in submitting a proposal might begin by looking at the CFP issued by the MEA (http://www.media-ecology.org/activities/index.html) and reflecting on it in relation to the work of Sheila Watson and/or Wilfred Watson.  Please note that panel submissions are subject to the standard vetting process of the Media Ecology Association. The MEA publishes conference proceedings—selected papers—on its website. We invite submissions from scholars interested in reworking their fifteen-minute conference papers into 25 to 30 page book chapters informed by each other’s work. While the University of Alberta Press has expressed a strong interest in publishing the resulting manuscript, it will still undergo the standard review process.

Please send 500 word proposals, including title, university affiliation, contact information, and biographical note to Paul Hjartarson (paul.hjartarson@ualberta.ca) and Kristine Smitka (smitka@ualberta.ca) no later then November 1st, 2010.

2 Responses to “MEA panels on Sheila Watson, Wilfred Watson, and Marshall McLuhan”

  1. Larry Popowich says:

    dear kristine,
    i was a student of sheila’s and wilfred’s in early 1970s and involved in some productions of wilfred’s plays. i’ve long been deeply fascinated by wilfred’s writing and thought and spent some time studying it in completion of my ma work at ubc in vancouver.

    i would be interested in attending the panel discussions described above. is there any provision for non-presenters to attend?
    regards, larry popowich

  2. Kristine Smitka says:

    Dear Larry,

    Thank you for your interest in the panels. The discussion will be open to all delegates of the MEA conference. Registration is open to the public: details and accommodation information will be forthcoming in mid-March and will be posted on the mea2011.org website.

    It would be a pleasure to meet one of Sheila and Wilfred’s former students. I am sure you would have much to add to the conversation.

    I hope to see you there,

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