RSC honours Fine Arts professors

More than 400 of Canada’s brightest academic minds will be converging on Victoria this weekend as the Royal Society of Canada—Canada’s national academy—comes to town. The RSC’s annual general meeting runs November 26-28 at the Fairmont Empress and will feature scientists, scholars and artists from across the country. But while such a grand gathering of vibrant minds is notable in itself, it’s triply important for Fine Arts as three of our own are being honoured.

UVic's new RSC honorands featuring Hodgins (third from left), Biro and MacLeod (far right). (UVic Photo Services)

UVic’s new RSC honorands featuring Hodgins (third from left), Biro and MacLeod (far right). (UVic Photo Services)

Celebrated playwright, Department of Writing professor and UVic alumna Joan MacLeod is one of three UVic professors elected as new fellows—the country’s highest academic honour—while noted composer and School of Music professor Dániel Péter Biró has been elected as one of three new members of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists (colloquially known as the RSC’s “rising stars”). Finally, acclaimed author and retired Writing professor Jack Hodgins will be presented with the RSC’s 2014 Pierce Medal for outstanding achievement in imaginative literature, alongside two other UVic medal winners.

“The Faculty of Fine Arts is fortunate to have colleagues of the calibre of professor Joan MacLeod and Dr. Biró, both of whom bring their research and creative practice to bear on their teaching and mentorship of our students,” says Susan Lewis, Acting Dean of Fine Arts. “We congratulate our two colleagues on their appointments to the RSC.”

Joan MacLeod

Joan MacLeod

Lewis is quick to praise MacLeod’s creative output. “One of Canada’s foremost playwrights, MacLeod’s works explore contemporary social justice issues with characters who are often on the margins of Canadian society,” she says. “She has received numerous awards including the Governor General’s Award for Drama, two Chalmers’ Canadian Play Awards, a Dora Award and the Siminovitch Prize.”

For her part, MacLeod seems equally happy and surprised by the honour. “I’m pleased about the Royal nod because my research is my stage plays, of course—my artistic practice,” she says. “I have always had a sense of community in theatre and writing, but academic community is something else. To be included in a group of eminent scholars, scientists . . . it’s astounding.” MacLeod joins existing Faculty of Fine Arts Royal Society Fellows Tim Lilburn, Mary Kerr and Lorna Crozier.

Lewis, also the Director of the School of Music, well knows the work of her colleague Biró, noting his position at the forefront of music composition and research. “In 2011, Dániel was Visiting Professor at Utrecht University and in 2014-2015, Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. His compositions are performed around the world and he is internationally active as a composer, researcher, performer, lecturer and teacher,” she says.

Dániel Péter Biró (photo: Linda Sheldon)

Dániel Péter Biró (photo: Linda Sheldon)

“I am happy to be elected a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists,” Biró says. “Composing music is not only creating something new, but also discovering the past. It’s almost like we’re conservationists of culture.”

Biró notes that the Aventa Ensemble’s Mark McGregor will be performing one of his pieces—Kivrot Hata’avah (Graves of Craving), for solo bass flute—during the RSC Gala. “This composition was selected to represent Canada in the International Society of Contemporary Music 2013 World New Music Days in Vienna,” he says. “McGregor commissioned the piece and will premiere this new version.”

Be sure to check out this new UVic video featuring Biró discussing his work.

For those not familiar with his many books, the Comox Valley-born Jack Hodgins is an influential writer dedicated to chronicling the people and stories of Vancouver Island. Winner of the Governor General’s Award in 1979 for The Resurrection of Joseph Bourne, he was also presented with the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence in 2006, was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2009, and won the 2011 City of Victoria Book Prize for his recent novel The Master of Happy Endings. He taught with the Department of Writing from 1983 to 2002 and, in the process, became a mentor to a whole new generation of authors.

 Jack Hodgins (photo: Don Denton)

Jack Hodgins (photo: Don Denton)

Yet Hodgins’ creative efforts are not limited to the page. In 2014, he wrote “Cadillac Cathedral” which he performed live on stage with the Vancouver men’s choir Chor Leoni, composer Christopher Donnison created an opera based on several short stories from Hodgins’ book The Barclay Family Theatre, and his life has been commemorated in the NFB documentary Jack Hodgins’ Island.

The Royal Society AGM kicks off with a public event—a special day-long symposium on Canadian marine biodiversity on Thursday, Nov. 26—followed by the welcoming of new fellows and college members into its fold and awarding medals for outstanding achievement. UVic is undeniably proud to have eight researchers among those being honoured. “This incredible breadth of expertise and impact really speaks to this university’s research strength as a whole,” says David Castle, UVic’s vice-president research.

UVic President Jamie Cassels is equally excited by the event. “We’re very pleased to be the presenting sponsor for this event,” he says. “This gathering is an opportunity for all of us to welcome Canada’s eminent scholars and celebrate their impacts in areas vital to Canada and the world.”

UVic’s other new Fellows include chemist Frank van Veggel and philosopher James Young, while exercise psychologist Ryan Rhodes and astronomer Sara Ellison become members of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. Ellison also joins Hodgins as a medal winner, receiving the RSC’s Rutherford Medal for outstanding achievement in a branch of physics, as does cosmologist Julio Navarro, who wins the 2015 Tory Medal for outstanding achievement in astronomy.

For those who want to stay up on our honorands’ creative practice, Joan MacLeod’s latest play, The Valley, will appear at the Belfry Theatre from Feb. 2-28, 2016. A stage version of Jack Hodgins’ Spit Delaney’s Island—based on the short story, which earned him his first Governor General’s Award nomination for the book of the same name—is being adapted for the stage by Victoria’s Theatre Inconnu from December 1-19.

Finally, Dániel Péter Biró was recently commissioned by the Klangforum Heidelberg to write a new work for voices and ensemble. The Schola Heidelberg and Ensemble Aisthesison at the University of Heidelberg premiered Biró’s Messiaen, Couleurs de la Cité Celeste in October 2015, with additional performances in Mannheim and Ludwigshafen that same month—but you can hear it right here.

Writing professor Tim Lilburn earns national honour

Noted poet and Department of Writing professor Tim Lilburn has joined the ranks of Canada’s academic elite after being elected by his peers to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. The distinction is Canada’s highest academic honour.

Poet & Writing professor Tim Lilburn

Poet & Writing professor Tim Lilburn (UVic Photo Services)

Lilburn is one of the world’s leading poets and essayists on poetics. His works—including nine books of poetry and two essay collections—help us interpret our relationship to landscapes and their ecologies, and offer paths forward to living ethically within these relationships.

“Place is a version of one’s larger body: where you live shapes you physically, psychically and spiritually,” says Lilburn. “It certainly affects how you write. If you live in a colonial mindset you tend to forget about this link—and, as a result, you forget about an important part of yourself. Poetry is important because it gives us stillness.”

Lilburn’s work has been translated into French, Chinese, Siberian, German, Spanish and Polish, and has been widely anthologized. He gives readings and lectures around the world and is a frequent guest on radio and television. In 2011, he served as a judge for the Griffin Poetry Prize, the world’s largest prize for a single collection of poetry written in, or translated into, English.

Among his many awards, he has been twice nominated for the Governor General’s Award in Literature: first for Tourist to Ecstasy in 1989, and then winning it with 2003’s Kill-site.  As the award jury noted at the time, “Lilburn has dug down to a speech which is like ‘unbearable nudity.’ Everything comes together here: immensity of canvas, ambition of language and line.”

Read more about Lilburn’s reaction to his award in this Times Colonist article.

His most recent book of poetry is Assiniboia (2012)—which you can hear him read a poem from by clicking here.

“I was lucky enough as a poet to grow up in a time of literary resurgence,” says Lilburn. “I’m talking about the great wave in Can Lit that began to build in the late ’60s and rode right through to the late ’90s . . . it seemed at the time that literature was helping to define the national identity. You see a similar thing going on in the literatures of other countries at around the same time—in Nigeria, say, with writers like Achebe, Soyinka and Okigbo. A similar phenomenon occurred in China a few years after the death of Mao.”

When asked about finding inspiration in nature, in the Canada landscape and in a greater sense of our place in the universe, Lilburn is characteristically philosophical. “I think place is a version of one’s larger body: where you live shapes you physically, psychically and spiritually,” he says. “It certainly affects how you write. I think that if you live in a colonial mindset you tend to forget about this link, and as a result, you forget about an important part of yourself.”

Tim Lilburn joins other current and past Faculty of Fine Arts colleagues Mary Kerr, Lorna Crozier, Bill Valgardson, Pat Martin Bates and Jack Hodgins as RSC Fellows.

Also elected as a Fellow this year is UVic History professor Eric Sager—the sixth UVic historian in recent years to join the prestigious academy.

This year’s new Fellows will be inducted to the academies of the RSC during the Induction and Awards Ceremony on November 22 at Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Quebec City.

A total of 66 UVic scholars, scientists and artists—including current, former and adjunct faculty members—are fellows of the Royal Society of Canada.

Founded in 1882, the Royal Society of Canada comprises the Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada. Its mission is to recognize scholarly, research and artistic excellence, to advise governments and organizations, and to promote a culture of knowledge and innovation in Canada and with other national academies around the world.

Crozier Named to Order of Canada

Lorna Crozier, the acclaimed professor of poetry with the University of Victoria’s Department of Writing, has been named an Officer of the Order of Canada by Governor General David Johnston.

Lorna Croier receives her Order of Canada from Governor General David Johnston (Photo: Sgt Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall © 2011 Office of the Secretary to the Governor General of Canada)

Lorna Croier receives her Order of Canada from Governor General David Johnston (Photo: Sgt Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall © 2011 Office of the Secretary to the Governor General of Canada)

One of Canada’s most beloved and talented poets, this latest honour comes on the heels of Crozier being recognized as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2009, and her winning of UVic’s Craigdarroch Award for Excellence in Artistic Expression in 2010. With 15 books of poetry behind her and a number of awards—including the Governor General’s Literary Award—as well as a pair of honourary doctorates for her contributions to Canadian literature and her designation as a Distinguished Professor at UVic, Crozier is in the enviable position of being highly regarded by her peers and universally loved by the students and writers she has mentored over her 20 years at UVic.

She will be honoured at a special celebration at Rideau Hall in Ottawa this fall, alongside a select list of other notable Canadians, including the celebrated likes of novelist Nino Ricci, comedian Eugene Levy, science broadcaster Bob McDonald and musician Valdy.

The Officer of the Order of Canada recognizes a lifetime of achievement and merit of a high degree, especially in service to Canada or to humanity at large. Over the last 40 years, more than 5000 people from all sectors of society have been invested into the Order, including UVic President Dr. David Turpin and School of Music professor emeritus Ian McDougall.

For more information visit www.lornacrozier.ca and http://www.gg.ca/document.aspx?id=72