Alyssa Firth is a third-year Honours History major and a Copp Scholar at the Centre for the Study of Canada working as a research assistant for Tim Cook. Along with their work at LCSC Alyssa is currently the co-President of the History Students’ Association, where they work closely with both students and faculty to provide more engagement in the history community through academic and social events. After finishing their undergraduate degree Alyssa is looking to continue pursuing a Master of Arts studying sexual and gender diversity in early-twentieth century Canada.
What field of Canadian history are you most interested in and how has this influenced your research topic?
I am most interested in the history of sexuality and gender diversity in Canada, more specifically how the First World War changed views of masculinity and femininity. I am also fascinated with studying the gay liberation movement in Canada, as I feel it has been overshadowed by its American counterpart. I am fortunate to have been provided the opportunity to research similar topics in gender and sexuality in my undergraduate studies. Through these research projects I have had the ability to further explore these interests. I have learned that there is so much that needs to be done in this area of scholarship, which has influenced my interest in hopefully pursuing this as an area of study in the future.
What inspired you to write about your research topic and what contribution do you hope to make to your area of research?
Unfortunately, the history of sexuality is a field that suffers from strong erasure. This is a field that holds personal significance to me and my identity. There are a multitude of stories out there in the archives that have yet to enter mainstream history. The main inspiration that drew me to this area of study is the beauty and resilience that can be seen in these small bits of history available to us today. I hope to contribute to showcasing these stories and hopefully contribute to the movement of making these histories less obscure.
What part of your argument changed most during the writing process, and how has this impacted how you think about the final project?
I have not gotten the chance to start shaping an argument of my own; however, through my studies at Laurier University I have had the opportunity to explore multiple fields and periods of history which have led me towards the interests I would like to pursue. Originally, I looked at pursuing Ancient History as an area of study in a postgraduate degree. However, after having the chance to learn more about gender and sexuality in twentieth century Canada, through history courses, gender studies courses, and my current research project, I have shifted what I want to focus my final project on in the future.
What research and writing tips do you find have helped you the most during your studies?
The research tips I have found helped me the most is to start out broad and narrow into a focus from these broader ideas. I have found that I tend to think of topics in terms of the bigger picture, which has often resulted in me exploring something way too broad to consolidate into a single research topic. When meeting with professors and receiving valuable feedback on research projects I have learned to start with my broader ideas when searching for sources and narrow it based on more directed ideas that have surfaced through the process.
What activities or hobbies have best helped you destress after a long day of writing?
I love to cook and listen to a good podcast. I love learning new things outside of my field of research. After a long day its nice to relax by cooking a delicious meal and spending time listening to discussions on my other interests, like ancient civilizations and mythology or whatever I am currently fixated on. I also enjoy exercising my creativity by writing poetry or working on some of my paintings.
What advice do you have for others who are also working on history research?
My biggest piece of advice would be to not stress about perfectionism when researching. Perfectionism has always been something I have struggled with, but I am slowly learning that research is not about perfectionism, but instead presenting what you have discovered through your work. I would recommend that instead of stressing about the perfectionism of the final product it is more important to focus on the actual process. Take the time to explore, as you never know what there is to be found.
Off the Cuff is an interview-style series hosted by Kyle Pritchard which explores the research of early-career academics with ties to the Laurier Centre for the Study of Canada. The series allows scholars the opportunity to present their research to a wider online audience and to express the goals and challenges that they see in the field of Canadian History today.