New Yorker columnist Adam Gopnik talks about winter imaginations
It’s a real banner year for the CBC. And the Massey Lectures. Celebrating their 75th and 50th years, respectively, it seemed only appropriate to commence current Massey lecturer Adam Gopnik’s visit to Guelph’s Norfolk United Church on Oct. 25 with a full audience rendition of “Happy Birthday to You.”
Over the course of its broadcast, the lecture has been hosted by Martin Luther King, Jr., Noam Chomsky, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Northrop Frye, and in recent years they’ve been hosted by the likes of Douglas Coupland, Margaret Atwood, Wade Davis, Michael Ignatieff, and Thomas King.
Speaking in Guelph for a satellite presentation of the annual weeklong Massey Lectures, the New Yorker columnist and author—joined by University of Guelph history department professor Stuart McCook—spoke extensively on topics and passages in his new book, Winter: Five Windows on the Season.
In Winter, Gopnik—who describes his book as “a cultural history” of winter—explores different imaginations from explorers, painters, pilgrims, poets, scientists and more imagined winter over the last 200 years.
The writer explained that he focused mainly on the last 200 years’ “imaginations” of winter because, before then, the season was regarded largely as a time of burden and punishment. He likened his own attitude towards winter as that of a child watching the snowfall outside from the comfort of a living room.
“If I had a heaven, I would sculpt it after winter” Gopnik said.
For Gopnik, who wrote four books including children’s novels featuring significant winter scenes, the topic seemed natural the second he was approached about giving this year’s Massey Lecture.
Winter is divided into five sections/windows; recuperative winter, in which Gopnik discusses winter as a time that allows people to blossom in the spring; radical winter, in which winter is discussed as a tough and physically demanding time, especially as experienced by polar explorers; romantic winter; remembering winter, a section about the cultural baggage that comes with living in a winter city; and recreational winter, a section that talks about Gopnik’s favourite sport: hockey.
After opening up the floor for audience questions, Gopnik agreed to sign copies of his books and meet some of his fans.
While the Massey Lectures have been broadcasted by the CBC since their genesis in 1965, it has only been since 2002 that the lectures have been delivered each fall in front of large audiences in lecture halls on universities across Canada.
This year’s Massey Lecture, now having completed its tour across Canada, will air from Nov. 7 to Nov. 11 on CBC Radio One’s Ideas.
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