Themes and orientations


The major questions of the program are each taken up as the focal point of courses, each course unfolding in a series of related problems.


Major questions include:

  • What is language?
  • How is speech related to writing?
  • What can we know of history?
  • How are past, present, and future related?
  • Is all expression self-expression?
  • Is expression a construction of what ought to be?
  • What is interpretation?
  • What is a human self?
  • What is biopolitics?
  • What are media?
  • What is education?



Problems are attractors for different streams of inquiry. In a study of the self, for example, a philosophical current of thought will be strengthened by an anthropological stream. A course on empire and memory, brings together many streams: history, classics, anthropology, economics, political science, philosophy, etc.


Disciplines form one major kind of stream. There are others. The pedagogical relation is a confluence (which includes a mixing up) of those more engaged in learning and those more engaged in teaching. Complex, important problems attract diverse streams of thought and in their interaction identities are often transformed and new flows formed.


Such transformation is endemic to pedagogy and applies to other confluences: the academic and the creative/artistic streams within teaching, the full and part-time streams within student flows, individual disciplines, theoretical and methodological lives within and across disciplines, and so on.


What particular thematic configurations may one expect in the program? Three major thematic currents are:

  • The Canadian interdisciplinary humanities tradition: e.g., Harold Innis, Northrop Frye, Marshall McLuhan, and George Grant;
  • French theory, e.g., Blaise Pascal, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Luce Irigaray, Michel Serres and Pierre Bourdieu;
  • Newfoundland and Irish literature and media, e.g., Lisa Moore and Michael Winter, on the one hand, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Seamus Heaney on the other.

Why these? A satisfactory answer looks to the broad context of the natural, cultural, and political environment of Memorial in Newfoundland and Labrador in which one finds the various streams of pedagogy and research outlined above.


The work of Innis on communications and empire and of McLuhan on media exemplify the type of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary projects emulated in the program.


McLuhan’s theory that electronic culture is a new form of oral culture is of great contemporary relevance for debates about technology, globalization, international law, communication, and morality.