A Conference in Honour of George Whalley

full name / name of organization: 
Michael DiSanto / Algoma University and Queen's University
contact email: 
michael.disanto@algomau.ca

A conference in honour of the centenary of the birth of George Whalley will be held at Queen’s University, July 24-26, 2015. Each one of the three days will recognize different aspects of Whalley’s life and work:

Friday, July 24: Romanticism and Aesthetics: Critical reflections on art, culture and nature
Saturday, July 25: George Whalley, the Man and the Legend
Sunday, July 26: The Canadian Writers’ Conference 60th Anniversary

Participants are strongly encouraged to attend all three days of the event, which will include keynote talks, panels, and papers, as well as a reception and a music performance. The organizers are glad to receive academic and non-academic proposals. Members of the Kingston community and Whalley’s family, friends, former colleagues, and students are all welcome to attend.

The proceedings of the conference, including papers, and possibly audio and video recordings, will be edited and published in an open-access edition online.

A conference website will be available in the near future at www.georgewhalley.ca.

The deadline for proposals sent in response to all three calls for papers below is 31 October 2014.

Day 1, July 24—Romanticism and Aesthetics: Critical reflections on art, culture and nature

2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of George Whalley: poet, war hero, and scholar. In recognition of Whalley’s contributions to the study of British Romanticism through his work on Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and his commitment to “aesthetics, the philosophy of art, and the question ‘What does art convey about reality?’” (Annick Hillger), the Department of English at Queen’s University invites you to participate in an interdisciplinary conference on Romanticism and Aesthetics.

In his now archived notes in preparation for the broadcast of his 1955 television special, “An Introduction to Aesthetics,” a part of CBC’s Exploring Minds series, George Whalley wrote:

“Aesthetics, like any other kind of philosophy, is the affectionate search for truth. The Truth it is looking for is the Truth to do with works of art, and to see how the work of artists fits into the structure of reality, where it belongs in the world, what it does for us, and what it does to us.”

This fragment could serve as an epigraph to Whalley’s career and the critical tradition of “aesthetics” that followed. In the spirit of Whalley’s “affectionate search for truth” we ask now, what is art? How ought one to speak of the experience and value of art—including literary art—without, as Whalley feared, “treating works of art as ‘things’” (Poetic Process) of scientific study. Likewise suspicious of the intrusion of the mechanics of scientific study, Coleridge laments of the imaginative consciousness that “We have purchased a few brilliant inventions at the loss of all communion with life and the spirit of nature” (Lay Sermons). How does one then frame the question in inquiring after the truth-claims or the definition of art? What is the manner and purpose of this inquiry, which we call “aesthetics”? What happens at the intersection of art, culture, and nature?

We invite proposals addressing the following possible areas of study:

a) Symbols in Life and Art
b) The Significance of Poetry to the Romantics
c) Beauty as a Criterion for Definition [: Whither Beauty?]
d) Modern Art Criticism and its Romantic Relations
e) The Limits/ Boundaries of Imagination and Genius
f) Why study “Aesthetics”?

Proposals should be no more than 500 words, and include a brief biography of the presenter(s). They can be sent to Jaspreet Tambar (j.tambar@queensu.ca) and Shelley King (kings@queensu.ca).

Day 2, July 25 – George Whalley, the Man and the Legend

George Whalley (1915-83) was an eminent Canadian man of letters: scholar, poet, naval officer and secret intelligence agent during World War II, leading expert on the writings of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, CBC script-writer and broadcaster, musician, biographer, translator, and president of the Kingston symphony. He taught English at Queen’s University (1950-80), and was twice head of the department. He wrote five books, edited or co-edited eleven other books, and published over 120 essays and reviews. Informed by a life intersecting with important historical events and constant intellectual inquiry, Whalley’s remarkable range of work ranks him with other great Canadian thinkers such as George Grant and Northrop Frye. An introduction to Whalley’s life and works can be found at www.georgewhalley.ca.

We invite proposals for both academic and non-academic papers. Possible topics might include (but are not limited to) Whalley’s:

a) criticism, including his Coleridge scholarship and Poetic Process: an essay in poetics (1953)
b) poetry in Poems 1939-1944 (1946), No Man An Island (1948) and The Collected Poems of George Whalley (1986)
c) The Legend of John Hornby (1962) and/or Death in the Barren Ground: The Diary of Edgar Christian (1980)
d) CBC Radio broadcasts
e) translation of Aristotle’s Poetics (1997)

Papers might also focus on:

a) Whalley as educator and mentor
b) his service in the Royal Navy, the Naval Intelligence Division, and the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve
c) his influence on writers and scholars
d) his contributions to Queen’s University
e) public intellectualism after Whalley’s example

Proposals will be no more than 500 words, and include a brief biography of the presenter(s). They can be sent to Alana Fletcher (alana.fletcher@queensu.ca) and Michael DiSanto (michael.disanto@algomau.ca).

Day 3, July 26 – The 60th Anniversary of The Canadian Writers’ Conference

From 28-31 July 1955, the Canadian Writers’ Conference was held at Queen’s University. Co-organized by George Whalley, the conference set out to investigate the state of “The Writer, his Media, and the Public” in Canada, bringing together writers and “representatives of the leading publishing professions, literary critics and the mass media, and an audience of interested people from Eastern Canada” (Whalley to John McClelland, 13 July 1955). The conference, which included public evening talks, morning discussion groups, and poetry readings, featured an impressive slate of Canadian writers, including Earle Birney, Desmond Pacey, Eli Mandel, Anne Wilkinson, Dorothy Livesay, Hugh Garner, James Reaney, Jay Macpherson, Phyllis Webb, Adele Wiseman, Ralph Gustafson, Douglas Spettigue, Miriam Waddington, Irving Layton, Frank Scott, Louis Dudek, A.J.M. Smith, and Morley Callaghan.

The issues raised at this conference, from the “lack of genuinely contemporary Canadian poetry in the school texts” in Canada and a need for cheaper editions of Canadian works (Earle Birney, Writing 47-8), to concerns about “literary criticism in Canada today was inadequate … to the public or to the writer” (48) and “the disappearance of the book” itself (John Grey, Writing 53), have echoed throughout Canadian literary history. The New Canadian Library, the Center for Editing Early Canadian Texts, and Editing Modernism in Canada have sought to address the continuing problem of access to Canadian books identified in 1955, while state-of-the-field exercises like the Calgary Conference on the Canadian novel (1978) recalled the 1955 conference’s debates on whether the Canadian novel could be more than a lesser offshoot of the epic tradition (Douglas Grant, Writing 39).

The 1955 Canadian Writers’ Conference, which was presaged by a 1941 Artists’ Conference at Queen’s and followed by the 1956 Conference on British Columbia Literature at UBC, aimed to bring together a community of Canadian writers, critics, publishers, and readers. In this spirit, we invite proposals for papers to be read during a day of sessions that mark the 60th anniversary of the Canadian Writers’ Conference. We welcome papers on topics including (but not limited to):

a) publishing in Canada since 1955, especially Canadian book series
b) the writer’s function in Canada, the writer as celebrity, and the writer/critic
c) Canadian criticism, its promise, and its pitfalls
d) Canadian literature as publicly engaged or academically cloistered
e) funding for writing in Canada
f) the role of conferences, workshops, symposia, colloquia in building a Canadian literary community
g) the “disappearance of the book,” 60 years later
h) reading in Canada: who reads, what’s read, and why?

We encourage academics and non-academics to submit proposals, and we also welcome offers to read poems or other creative writing. Proposals will be no more than 500 words, and include a brief biography of the presenter(s). They can be sent to Alana Fletcher (alana.fletcher@queensu.ca) and Michael DiSanto (michael.disanto@algomau.ca).

cfp categories: 
general_announcements
interdisciplinary