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Conference in Honour of George Whalley, Queens University

Posted by Michael John DiSanto on February 11, 2015 in News

A conference in honour of the centenary of the birth of George Whalley (25 July 1915 – 27 May 1983), the eminent Canadian man of letters, will be held at Queen’s University, 24-26 July 2015. The author of Poetic Process (1953) and The Legend of John Hornby (1962), and a frequent contributor to CBC radio (1953-71), Whalley served in the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve (1940-1956) and taught at Queen’s (1950-80). An introduction to his life, a timeline of its significant events, samples of his writings, a selection of photographs, and a full bibliography of his works are available at

The event has been organized so that each of the three days is devoted to a different element of Whalley’s wide-ranging interests. The first day will focus on Romanticism and Aesthetics and feature plenary talks by John Baxter (Dalhousie University), the co-editor of Whalley’s translation of Aristotle’s Poetics, and Werner Nell (Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg), who has published widely in Englightenment and Romantic aesthetics. The second day of the event is devoted to Whalley and his works. There will be papers on his poems and criticism, Coleridge scholarship, the writings on John Hornby and Edgar Christian, and other topics. Michael Ondaatje and Elizabeth Hay will participate in a panel discussion on Whalley’s life and influence. The 60th anniversary of the Canadian Writers’ Conference at Queen’s, 28-31 July 1955, for which Whalley edited the proceedings entitled Writing in Canada (1956), will be the focus of the third day. Its purpose is to bring together writers and readers, publishers and critics to revisit and ask anew questions about writing in Canada.

On Friday afternoon the Principal of Queen’s will host a reception. The participants will gather Saturday afternoon at the HMCS Cataraqui, in recognition of Whalley’s heroic wartime service. That evening they will hear a performance of chamber music in the Bader Centre, in a tribute to Whalley’s profound love of music and his contributions to the Kingston community. A selection of bronze sculptures by George’s younger brother Peter Whalley, the accomplished artist and political cartoonist, will be exhibited in the Bader Centre. Queen’s Archives will prepare an exhibition of materials selected from the Whalley fonds. Some of the sessions will take place in the Whalley room in Watson Hall, in the presence of Elizabeth Harrison’s fine portrait of Whalley in his naval officer uniform.

Michael John DiSanto (Algoma), Shelley King (Queen’s), and Steve Lukits (RMC) are organizing the event. They are receiving assistance from Alana Fletcher (PhD Candidate, Queen’s) and Jaspreet Tambar (PhD Candidate, Queen’s). The event is funded by Queen’s and Algoma and affiliated with Editing Modernism in Canada. Established and emerging scholars, Whalley’s former colleagues and students, his family and friends, and the general public are welcome to attend. A page dedicated to the conference is available on the Whalley website: The proceedings will be published in an open-access digital edition on the website.

Michael John DiSanto is Associate Professor and Chair of English at Algoma University. He completed his MA (2000) under John Baxter and his PhD (2005) under Rohan Maitzen. John’s great admiration for and scholarly work on George Whalley inspired Michael to edit Whalley’s collected poems and write his biography. His work is funded by a SSHRC Insight Grant and is pursued in collaboration with Editing Modernism in Canada.