Montreal Modern: Sanitized Images in English Canadian Periodicals, 1950-1970

Will Straw, Director
McGill Institute for the Study of Canada
McGill University

It is well known that periodicals of low esteem, both Canadian and non-Canadian, regularly covered Montreal, during the immediate post-World War II period, in ways that emphasized the city’s allegedly corrupt and vice-ridden character. In middle-brow periodicals like Saturday Night, Maclean’s and weekend magazines distributed with newspapers (like Canadian Magazine), a contrary discourse emerged. This contrary discourse drew, as might be expected, on more appealing images of Montreal’s cosmopolitanism and quality attractions. By the end of the 1950s, however, coverage of Montreal as a travel destination emphasized Montreal’s ascendant status as a modernizing, technologically-centred metropolis. As with most coverage of Montreal within the Anglophone Canadian press, the city was constructed as both sufficiently exotic to compete with other, foreign tourist destinations, and Canadian enough that its appeal was posed in terms of the traveller’s self-education about his or her own country. While the low-brow construction of Montreal as sin city involved magazine stories with lurid illustrations of night-time immorality, coverage of Montreal’s emergent technological modernity relied on glossy photographic spreads highlighting the growth of infrastructural elements like freeways and technological advances of the sort which would come to greatest prominence in Expo ’67. Complementing my earlier research on Montreal as “city of sun,” this paper will trace alternative images of Montreal in the mainstream, middlebrow English-Canadian periodical

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