A new Canadian Studies course, Magic, Myths and Monsters in Canada (CAST-3043H), is encouraging students to explore other ways of knowing and the different understandings of reality that come with them.
Taught by Dr. Mark Dickinson ‘02, the course examines the existence of magic, myths and monsters in Canadian history and how these phenomena are sometimes misrepresented or reduced to caricature in the cultural mainstream.
One of the objectives of this course, Prof. Dickinson says, is epistemological reconciliation. “I see this course as a starting point to meaningful conversations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples about the nature of reality.” Colonial and capitalist frameworks of understanding, Prof. Dickinson says, have conditioned us to perceive the land in ways that diminish what is really there. “What if the world was far larger and far more complex than we have been led to believe?”
Prof. Dickinson drew inspiration for this course from his conversations with Indigenous teachers, foremost among them Doug Williams, Gidigaa Migizi, ‘69, the late Nishnaabeg elder and former chief of Curve Lake First Nation.
“Doug’s friendship and vast knowledge of the Nishnaabeg intelligence system definitely informed how I interact with the world I live in,” Prof. Dickinson says. “Doug helped me and so many others understand that not everything that is real can be seen.”
Speaking about the course, fourth-year Indigenous Studies student Isabel Michaelson (Peter Gzowski College) says Magic, Myths and Monsters in Canada opens a space for students to discuss how other cultures and peoples operate within very different frameworks.
“If you are looking for a class with all the answers, then this is certainly not the course for you,” Michaelson says. “Skepticism, confusion, and critique are all welcome. But be prepared also for some of the magic, myths, and monsters to begin showing up in your world as well.”