Dean's Message 2011-2012

Faculty of Humanities




Dean's Message 2011-2012


In the 18th century there was an optical device called a Claude glass. Named after the French landscape painter, the glass was a small convex mirror that artists would hold up to capture the reflection of a particular scene in nature. Because the glass was tinted a dark colour, it was sometimes called a black mirror, the title that the Montréal band Arcade Fire chose for a 2007 song about the self and its reflections in the world today.

The Canadian artist Jack Chambers experienced a Claude moment in 1968 when, as he was driving eastbound on the 401, he saw the landscape stretching out behind him in his rearview mirror. Stopping on the side of the road and taking a snapshot from the highway 59 overpass, he turned that original mirror image into his 6 x 8 foot painting 401 Towards London.

The irony about a Claude glass, noted ever since its invention, is that artists had to turn their back on the scene they wished to paint in order to see its reflection in the mirror. Don’t look directly at the thing you want to see, they said; turn around and see it framed in a rearview mirror.

The problem with living life in a rearview mirror is that you’re turning your back on the action. You’re living in a time-delay, not in the moment. What you perceive in the glass is always already behind you.

University reputation can be like that. What we read or hear anecdotally from others about a school is often past its stale date. It’s something that somebody once saw in a Claude glass, darkly.

I invite you instead to experience Brock with fresh eyes.

In our Faculty of Humanities, we are building our reputation in the here and the now. We are a young and vigorous community of knowledge and vision, with a strong track record of undergraduate teaching by award-winning professors, advanced graduate studies with innovative researchers, highly acclaimed programs in the fine and performing arts, the only Canadian university in a UNESCO biosphere reserve, and with interdisciplinary and international opportunities on our very doorstep.

While aware of what’s behind us, we are forward-looking too. A Brock Humanities degree gives you strengths that are transferable to virtually every career: skills in reading, problem-solving, critical reasoning, speaking, and writing; training in research, synthesis, and analysis of information; and in certain programs hands-on practice in technique or performance.

But in recognizing our common humanities, we also include opportunities for self-reflection and personal growth, service learning in local or global communities, engagement of diverse intellectual and cultural points of view, and exposure to a range of human issues to prepare our women and men of Brock for imaginative leadership.

I invite you to explore the forward-thinking world of Brock on this website, or arrange a campus visit and experience a class taught by one of our award-winning teachers and scholars. I’m teaching one of our first-year surveys, English 1F91, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 to 11 in Academic South 204. You’re welcome to sit in.

And if you do, you’ll discover the bold new Brock, the here-and-now Brock, whose motto Surgite – Push on! – means that the world is all before you. Not a reflection behind you.

Come scope us out.

Douglas Kneale, Dean
Faculty of Humanities