Reviewer calls Horn’s history of York a ‘masterwork of the genre’

Canadian universities appear to be in a retrospective mood. Several new histories have appeared recently and others are in the works, wrote James Pitsula, history professor at the University of Regina, in a review of York University: The Way Must Be Tried for the Canadian Historical Review’s March edition. Michiel Horn’s York University is the best of the lot, said Pitsula.

Scholarly, engaging, beautifully illustrated, remarkably comprehensive, steeped in affection, but not sentimental, it is a masterwork of the genre…. The author’s voice is distinctive, but not obtrusive. We appreciate his wry asides, but the story is that of the University community as it sees itself, in all its diversity and multiplicity of perspective, not the community as filtered through the predilections of the author. Horn stands on the sidelines – bemused, entertained, heartened and inspired – and always with a sly smile on his face.

Horn’s audience is primarily York people. He makes very little effort to reach out to readers who do not have a direct connection with the University. The index is proper name only, so that scholars wishing to make thematic comparisons with other universities cannot readily do so. In focusing so entirely on York, Horn has missed an opportunity, since the York story is in some ways Canada's story.

Beneath the externalities, [York] embodies the new Canada. Over the years, it has attracted significant numbers of students who were the first in their family to attend university. Today, the student body is multicultural, with more than a third of the students of visible minorities.

The photo on page 251 of Horn’s book tells it all, concluded Pitsula. It depicts the members of the Visuomotor Neuroscience Lab at York University, the research team headed by Doug Crawford, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Visual-Motor Neuroscience. Their names are Florin Feloui, Gerald Keith, Michael Vesia, Alina Constantin, Matthias Niemeier, Jachin Ascensio-Monteon, Gunnar Blohm, Honying Wang, Farshad Farshadmanesh, Denise Henriques, Joe DeSouza, Aarlenne Khan, Jessica Klassen, Lei Ren, Saihong Sun and Xiaogang Yan – the new Canada.