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Professing English

Professing English: A Life of Roy Daniells

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Professing English
    Book Description:

    Roy Daniells (1902?1979), an English professor who finished his career at the University of British Columbia, and an outstanding scholar, teacher and poet, influenced at least four generations of students.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7879-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-4)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. 5-18)

    The young man sitting in the sun near the Rothschild tomb in the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise wore a beret like a Parisian, but he was clearly not French – his grey flannels suggested an Englishman, perhaps a colonial, come to see Paris. Thin and broad-shouldered, he had a long bony face with bright blue eyes, just now bent towards long tapering fingers that held a pen and a writing pad. As he wrote, he looked up at the tombs surrounding him, then began to write again: ′Are the majority of these orthodox Jews really now in torment, and as I...

  5. The Beginnings:: 1902–1930

    • Chapter One Plymouth Brother
      (pp. 21-35)

      Roy Daniells was born a Plymouth Brother. As his mother gave birth on 6 April 1902, his father and grandfather were on their knees in the next room praying. The practice of calling on God to keep a newborn strong in the faith was a common one; Edmund Gosse, inFather and Son, tells a similar story about his Plymouth Brethren childhood. Roy, who gave a lusty yell at birth, grew up to be a sickly child and a delicate youth. The prayers and hymns meant to carry life onward and upward filled him, as they did Gosse, only with...

    • Chapter Two Breakdown
      (pp. 36-48)

      Daniells′ religious fears were accentuated by the Great War, which existed for him on a personal as well as a metaphoric level. Two cousins had enlisted and gone to France; they returned wounded and shellshocked, reinforcing the horror of war in the boy′s mind. He had been taught that this war was the new Armageddon, a fear intensified by the hellfire preaching of two Plymouth Brethren brothers named Oliver and McClure, who frequently stayed with the family. The boy remembered McClure as a man with false teeth, a white beard, and a shiny bald dome: even in midsummer, he wore...

    • Chapter Three Rescue
      (pp. 49-64)

      Victoria in 1923 was a fairly tightly knit little town, an outpost of empire, still dominated by the shipyards and the navy at Esquimalt. The artist Jack Shadbolt, who became Roy′s good friend, considered Victoria highly class-conscious and conservative. He recalled the Oak Bay English ′with their beautiful fair-haired daughters and their wonderful complexions and their cultivated accents. Oak Bay High School had a totally different tone to it than Victoria High School had.′¹ He felt that lines were drawn between the Oak Bay and native-born English (which included Scots and Irish), between Oak Bay High School and Victoria High...

  6. University of Toronto:: 1930–1937

    • Chapter Four A New World
      (pp. 67-85)

      The decade inaugurated by the crash of 1929 was to be dominated by the Depression, the Spanish Civil War, and the emergence of Adolf Hitler. But when Daniells began his long journey in September 1930, he was conscious only of the first: he desperately needed to save money. He boarded the CPR – travelling by coach – for Toronto. For several days and nights, he sat in his seat as he watched first the Fraser Valley roll by, then the Rocky Mountains, then the Prairies. After two longish stopovers at Calgary and Winnipeg (and five days of travelling in the...

    • Chapter Five Following the Path
      (pp. 86-106)

      While crossing from Canada to England on theAlaunia, Daniells had met up with a classmate, Archie Hare, and notified his parents that he would ′push on′ to Paris with Hare. There he expected to contact Jim through his U of T friends ′Dee′ (Dorothy) Livesay and Stanley Ryerson. Jim had encouraged him in late May by writing: ′I am rather troubled with excessive thinking of you,′ but then dashed his spirits by adding that she wanted to discuss Marx and Spengler.¹ He had arrived in Paris on 5 June and settled into the Hotel Lutece on Rue Berthollet.


    • Chapter Six Love and Politics
      (pp. 107-119)

      During the fall of 1932, the Depression had been a continual topic of discussion. Jobs were scarce and the future uncertain. In December, Daniells wrote his parents saying that politicians were ′defending an impossible system and that fact is bound to emerge sooner or later. I wish [J.S.] Woodsworth every success. If he doesn′t succeed we shall probably get trouble on the Prairies and in the mining towns and such places.′¹ In the meantime, he was thankful not to be in the bread line. A year later, he concluded there was bound to be a revolution; the unemployed would not...

    • Chapter Seven Europe
      (pp. 120-131)

      With a Royal Society fellowship to support him and access to England and the Continent assured, Daniells′ primary concern for the next year and a half was to write the dissertation required for his degree: ′An Inquiry into Some Formal Problems in English Non-dramatic Literature of the Seventeenth Century.′ He wanted to discuss seventeenthcentury poetry in terms of the Baroque, a new way of looking at the formal aspects of literature and culture. Unlike Woodhouse, who would have been content with a history of ideas approach, Daniells was gravitating towards Davis and Brown, who emphasized formal analysis, a close reading...

    • Chapter Eight A Narrow Circle
      (pp. 132-145)

      In the fall of 1934 Daniells began his new position as an instructor at Victoria College. He taught second-year and fourth-year honours classes, the latter an early combined American and Canadian course. In addition, he taught two hours a week in classes in which J.D. Robins and Pelham Edgar were the principal lecturers. Early in November he gave what he thought was a poor lecture on Holmes and Lowell, promising himself, ′Must do better in future.′ His class was difficult, ′most unenthusiastic,′ and American literature was not his subject.¹ However, matters improved considerably in the second term, when he taught...

    • Chapter Nine Professing English
      (pp. 146-166)

      By late September 1935 Daniells was again teaching at Victoria College, now assisted by Northrop Frye. In the next few years, he was to discover the real nature of university teaching: its joys, its tensions, and the problems that a cloistered life presented to a person like himself. Several of his contemporaries were creative poets, artists, and critics as well as professors of English, closely connected with the new Canadian literature and criticism. He was soon to follow their example.

      He also carried on the mentoring tradition that had assisted him. Many U of T faculty attempted to meet the...

  7. University of Manitoba:: 1937–1946

    • Chapter Ten ′This Winnipeg!′
      (pp. 169-188)

      With very mixed feelings, on 9 September 1937, Daniells took the train from Toronto to Winnipeg. Toronto had been good to him, and he recognized that uprooting connections which began in 1930 would be more painful than he had anticipated. E.K. Brown, outgoing head at the U of M, was helpful to his successor with advice and advance information, but it had become clear to Daniells that conditions at Winnipeg would be very different. He was also a little worried about his academic future – had he made the right choice in leaving an established position at Victoria College? As...

    • Chapter Eleven ′The End of an Era′
      (pp. 189-205)

      It was the end of an era. Not just the end of the troubled peace of the thirties, but the end of a whole way of life: the nostalgia that Evelyn Smith (née Stewart) felt was for the Toronto world of the thirties and Europe just before the debacle in 1939. In Winnipeg the newspapers had ceased to rail against A.R.M. Lower, who insisted that Canadians should have a choice regarding their participation in war, and were instead reporting the bombing of Britain, the fall of Belgium and France, and the deaths of young Manitobans in Hong Kong.

      Throughout the...

    • Chapter Twelve ′O Canada′
      (pp. 206-226)

      For Canadians, the 1940s brought a shift in political allegiance from England to Canada, making possible a shift in artistic allegiance. For the first time, Canadian novelists, although still drawing on European forms, could fully claim their own landscape and construct their own myths. In this new wave of literary nationalism, the Second World War was a catalyst. When Daniells had first arrived in Winnipeg, he had found himself among a group of Canadian nationalists, such as J.W. Dafoe, who regularly wrote editorials for theWinnipeg Free Pressabout Canada as ′a North American nation′ that should determine its own...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • Chapter Thirteen Casting Anchor
      (pp. 227-240)

      During his nine years in Winnipeg, Daniells came to know himself a little better. It was partly that he was attempting to write fiction; seeing objectified on paper the boy he had been helped him to understand the man he had become. As well, he had begun in 1941 to read Franz Kafka′s novels, which gave him unexpected insight into his own personality. Kafka′s allegories he recognized as ′the quest of an individual for salvation,′ a modern version of Bunyan′sThe Pilgrim′s Progress. But whereas Christian′s path was prepared by divine help, Kafka′s protagonists were ′cruelly′ alone, and found themselves...

  8. University of British Columbia:: 1946–1960

    • Chapter Fourteen Anatomy of a Department
      (pp. 243-261)

      Daniells arrived in Vancouver in early August 1946. The UBC department he was joining was, in effect, a teaching department, characterized as such by Birney a year later when he attempted to persuade a friend to apply: ′You would find some likeable people in the dept. and the general age level agreeably below fifty ... I think you would like an atmosphere where nobody expects you to grind out books so long as you seem to be a competent teacher. You would probably have about 8 hours a week with quite a lot of essays to mark.′ At this point,...

    • Chapter Fifteen The New Head
      (pp. 262-275)

      When Daniells had been formally confirmed as head of English at UBC, Sedgewick had introduced him at a department meeting with the comment: ′This is your new head. You will find him very different from me.′ William Robbins, who had arrived three years earlier than Daniells, interpreted this to mean that Sedgewick was saying that Daniells would run a tight ship. He also wondered if Sedgewick′s interest in Chaucer and Shakespeare would give way to Daniells′ in Milton and the Metaphysicals.¹ Edward Morrison, appointed six years earlier, also listened carefully. He knew that Sedgewick, who had a tendency to speak...

    • Chapter Sixteen ′The Revolt of the Dukes′
      (pp. 276-285)

      By simultaneously antagonizing his department and his dean, Daniells placed himself between a rock and a hard place. The dynamics of academic departments are such that if the senior members of a department are not governed, or represented, by their head to their satisfaction, they may object to his procedures and go over him to the dean and president and attempt to unseat him. Daniells′ diary records the process, and Birney′s letters reveal the impetus. One young professor, observing the clash, found a convenient tag from English history, describing it as ′the revolt of the dukes.′¹ At Runnymede in 1215...

    • Chapter Seventeen Developing English
      (pp. 286-308)

      During the fifties at UBC, Daniells aimed to transform what was, in effect, a strong undergraduate teaching department into a teaching and publishing department with an effective graduate program. To this point, the professor of English, almost invariably male, took undergraduate training in Canada and did graduate work in England or in the United States despite Toronto′s Ph.D. program. But conceptions of the profession were rapidly changing. There were growing expectations that students should be able to take graduate study in Canada, that professors of English should be scholars as well as teachers, and that faculty could be female as...

    • Chapter Eighteen A Canadian Literature
      (pp. 309-318)

      In the mid-fifties Daniells could look back on almost a quarter century of highly successful activity in developing a Canadian literature. In the early thirties, he had taught one of the first combined American and Canadian literature courses to English honours students at Victoria College, Toronto. In the forties at Manitoba, he had encouraged Sinclair Ross, Adele Wiseman, and Margaret Laurence, institutionalized theManitoba Arts Review, and regularly spoke on the CBC on Canadian topics. In fact, one of his 1944 broadcasts about the importance of landscape in Canadian writing was so stimulating that both Northrop Frye and Marshall McLuhan...

  9. University of British Columbia:: 1960–1970

    • Chapter Nineteen The Lions′ Den
      (pp. 321-340)

      In March 1959, Daniells received a great surprise when he opened a letter from Albert Trueman, now head of the just founded Canada Council, which stated that he had been awarded a special $8,000 Canada Council Fellowship with research travel expenses. Daniells had not applied for this grant, and only three were awarded across Canada. He decided to take his first sabbatical in twenty-eight years of teaching English and to use the grant to research his long-projected book on the Baroque. His doctoral thesis had been augmented by several papers in the forties and fifties, but what he needed now...

    • Chapter Twenty Academic Publishing
      (pp. 341-352)

      In the fall of 1963, Daniells had been totally dispirited. His department was fractious; he felt he had not received adequate support from the dean and president; he had a wife and family to support; and in four years, he would be sixty-five. But he could not get any clear statement from the UBC administration about whether he could continue to teach beyond retirement age. He decided to apply to Simon Fraser University, then in the process of construction.

      In November he met with Patrick McTaggart-Cowan, the designated president of SFU, and formally applied for a position to Gordon Shrum,...

    • Chapter Twenty-One University Professor
      (pp. 353-370)

      Daniells′ research was long delayed by administration, and the book that was to be hismagnum opuswas not published until late in his academic life. Many of the friends and colleagues of his youth were now dying. In April 1964, E.J. Pratt had died. Later that spring, after receiving an honorary LCD degree from Queen′s University and while attending a meeting of the Royal Society in Montreal, Daniells was asked an odd question by A.S.P. Woodhouse, a question he did not fully understand until later in the summer. Then, after Daniells had been formally told that the University of...

  10. Vancouver:: 1970–1979

    • Chapter Twenty-Two The River of Time
      (pp. 373-398)

      This poem, echoing Henry Vaughan′s ′They are all gone into the world of light, / And I alone sit lingering here!,′ expresses the predicament of both the young and the old Daniells.¹ Vaughan′s poem is the quintessential statement in English poetry about the fear of the loss of salvation, the primary fear of Daniells′ religious life. In his own poem, he explains that the bullying theology of the seven Scotsmen, the ministering Brethren, had cut off the young man, and now the adult, from Vaughan′s eternity, ′the world of light,′ and confined him to his own skull, where, through frightful...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 399-442)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 443-452)
  13. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 453-454)
  14. Index
    (pp. 455-474)