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UMaine’s Can-Am Center analyzes the counterculture 50 years later

On Wednesday, April 17, the University of Maine’s Canadian American Center presented a series of three lectures focusing on North American counterculture during the 1960s and 1970s. These presentations, which took place in the Memorial Union’s Bangor Room, featured the respective research of Professors Stephen Hornsby, Richard Judd and Frédéric Rondeau.

Hornsby, who was the first to present, currently serves UMaine as director of its Canadian American Center and as a professor of geography and Canadian studies. His lecture, titled “Hippie Maps and City Views: California’s Counterculture Cartography,” focused on the unusual maps and related artwork produced during the Golden State’s countercultural epoch.

“It seems clear that the hippies created their own distinctive maps and city views, which were much different to the modernist maps of the oil companies and federal government mapping agencies,” Hornsby said. “Subversion and the rock n’ roll culture characterized many.”

These pictorial maps, which touch on themes varying from Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” to famous San Francisco rock groups, have influenced the history of cartography, Hornsby explained.

Judd, a professor emeritus of history who retired from teaching last August, spoke on the legacy of famed New England writer Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau’s back-to-nature philosophy, as espoused in his book “Walden,” became quite popular within the nation’s counterculture movement.

Judd integrated his question of whether Thoreau would be classified as a “hippy” in today’s world with scholarship and opinions on the author from the time of his life until now, leaving the decision for each audience member to make independently.  

“I became interested in Thoreau quite early since my field of expertise is New England Environmental History,” Judd admitted. In 2014, I published a book titled Second Nature: An Environmental History of New England and I devoted most of one chapter [“A Transcendental Place”] to Thoreau.”

Last year, Judd authored “Finding Thoreau: The Meaning of Nature in the Making of an Environmental Icon,” a biography of the Transcendentalist icon.

Frédéric Rondeau, a recently promoted associate professor of French and assistant director to the Canadian-American Center, delivered the series’ final presentation. Titled “Where to land when you are high? Territoriality and Quebec Counterculture,” his lecture analyzed the emerging counterculture in 1970s Quebec, its literary leaders and  the ecological concerns and views.

“I have been working on counter-culture literature for many years now,” Rondeau stated. “But recently I wanted to work on the ties between counterculture and nature, ecology and territoriality to see if I could find something that would help me consider the current ecological situation.”

In 2016, Rondeau’s edited collection of texts on the 1960s and 1970s Quebec counterculture, “La contre-culture au Québec,” which was published by the University of Montreal Press, has since been lauded by ICI Radio-Canada as a must read.

“Thinkers, writers and activists of the counterculture were trying to abolish the distance that modern Occident has created between nature and culture,” Rondeau stated. “They were looking for a way to live on a territory and with the territory, as part of the territory, by trying to interpret its signs and its language.”

Rondeau’s most recent publication, “Sharing the Empty Spaces: the poetry of Michel Beaulieu and Gilbert Langevin,” was also published by the University of Montreal Press, and has likewise received critical praise.

Since its creation in 1968, the university’s Canadian-American Center has become one of America’s leading institutes on the study  for Canadian studies and Canadian-American relations. In 1979, the center was designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a National Resource Center on Canada, one of only four in the country.

Throughout his tenure as director, Hornsby said that he has emphasized “the research and publication side of the Center’s work,” but added that its “teaching and outreach on Canada have not been neglected.” The 2014 Historical Atlas of Maine, which is considered the Center’s “signature publication,” was jointly authored by Professors Hornsby and Judd.

“Maine history is impossible to understand without understanding the Canadian experience as well,” Judd said.

With the golden anniversary of the 1960s nearing its end, the professors offered their reflections on the tumultuous and transformative decade.

“The influence of the sixties still lives on affecting a wide range of popular culture, from style of dress to music, food preferences, and environmental awareness,” Hornsby said.

“It’s a fascinating and complicated period that we’ve only just begun to understand,” Judd observed. “Since I lived through it, it’s difficult for me to think of it as ‘history’ in the scholarly sense, but the more I read about it, the more I’m convinced that it’s one of the most dynamic and transformative periods in American history.”

More information about the professors’ published works may be found online at: The Canadian American Center is located at 154 College Avenue within the University of Maine and can be reached over the phone at: 207.581.4220; or by emailing Stephanie Crosby at

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