Thinking and Dreaming with the Massey Lectures

Well, it is November, and if watching TV is any indication, it is the beginning of the traditional Christmas commercial season promising family happiness and bliss if only we buy that perfect gift. For me, November is a special turning point of the calendar, for it means the beginning of the CFL playoffs (of special resonance this year with the success of the Bombers) and also the anticipation of listening to the Massey Lectures, sponsored by the CBC and Massey College of the University of Toronto.

The Massey Lectures is celebrating its 50th anniversary. This year’s lectures feature Montreal-raised, New Yorker writer and author Adam Gopnik. The lectures are titled  Winter: Five Windows on the Season, “an intimate tour of the artists, poets, composers, writers, explorers, scientists, and thinkers, who helped shape a new and modern idea of winter.”

Over the years the subject matter and delivery of the lectures have varied wildly, but they are consistently engaging and stimulating, exploring questions of the times which are not usually considered in our hurried day-to-day lives. Many of the lectures have been published by House of Anansi Press. Past lectures that left a deep impression on me are:

Doris Lessing, “Prisons We Choose to Live Inside” (1985)

Charles Taylor, “The Malaise of Modernity” (1991)

Conor Cruise O’Brien, “On the Eve of the Millennium” (1994)

Michael Ignatieff, “The Rights Revolution” (2000)

Ronald Wright, “A Short History of Progress” (2004)

Stephen Lewis, “Race Against Time” (2005)


One response to “Thinking and Dreaming with the Massey Lectures

  1. Ursula Franklin! (1989, The Real World of Technology) Also, a friend and I did spend time talking about the “Mayonnaise of Modernity” and found our reading influenced by it.

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