The COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered some of the biggest challenges of our time, including systemic racism, economic inequity and the climate crisis. What comes next and will it shape a new world?

In such situations, some people yearn for a return to a remembered (or perhaps imagined) former normalcy. Others hope that perhaps we can put things back—but better. Still others are convinced that we face both the opportunity and the necessity of creating something entirely new.

If there is to be a new world, must it be founded on fundamentally new and different shared values and assumptions?  If so, what might those be? How might they be different from what has gone before and (some would say) brought us to this place? How do we identify and articulate our convictions and beliefs in ways that are honest, humane, productive and inclusive?

Enter the great change

Writing and the Great Change Upon Us looks exactly at these issues. Starting at 5pm on Thursday, Dec 3, internationally acclaimed writer and UVic Department of Writing  alumna Esi Edugyan explores what this new world might look like, and the role of writers in shaping it, in the first of a new series of public lectures organized by UVic’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society (CSRS).

Everyone is welcome to register for this free virtual event led by another eminent Canadian literary figure: poet, essayist and current Writing professor Tim Lilburn.

A novelist, essayist and cultural commentator, Edugyan is the author of the best-selling Half-Blood Blues (2011) and Washington Black (2018). She is a two-time winner of the Giller Prize, a Distinguished Alumni of UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts and a former instructor in our Writing department.

Lilburn is a member of the Royal Society of Canada, was the first Canadian to receive the European Medal of Poetry and Art, and has been twice nominated for the Governor General’s Award, which he won for his poetry collection, Kill-site.

Values for a new world

Edugyan’s talk is the first of the lecture series, “Values for a New World,” running December through March. The series delves into urgent questions such as:

  • What role, if any, do religion and spirituality play in helping to inform deep conversations about current and future challenges?
  • How do we articulate convictions and beliefs in ways that are honest, humane, productive and inclusive?
  • How do we proceed if respectful yet frank dialogue is becoming increasingly difficult?

The series, presented annually as a joint initiative of CSRS and the Anglican Diocese of Islands and Inlets of British Columbia, is reinvented this year—like so much else in this new time—by going virtual.

Its group of speakers—including Noam Chomsky (Feb 2), Miroslav Volf (Jan 7), Thomas Homer-Dixon (Feb 23) and Linda Woodhead (March 4)—will each participate in an interactive online talk, and one panel discussion on March 16.