Victoria College / C.E. Rathé
The Victoria College French Department, like those of other colleges at the University of Toronto, experienced unprecedented growth during the sixties. Faced with increasing numbers of students – the result of Canada’s exploding population and the growing interest in French studies fuelled by political circumstances – the chairman, Hilliard Trethewey, and his successor, Robert Harden, were preoccupied with recruitment.
In the early sixties the department saw the retirement of Alta Lind Cook, who continued to take an active interest in her younger colleagues. She would make a whimsical contribution to the bilingual and bicultural revolution with her publication in 1974 of Daisy, which featured a flower cartoon illustrating idiomatic
expressions in French and English. In 1963 Archie Hare left Victoria to become registrar at New College. Alan Ross was appointed his successor and of necessity reduced his teaching load. The department thus lost the service of two senior teachers and part of the service of another. These developments further underlined the need for new recruits.
From 1962 to 1965 the department never made less than three new appointments per year and in 1964, broke all records with five. After 1967, when three new members were added, there was a slow-down, but at least one new appointment would be made every year until 1971. These recruits came from the United States, New Zealand, England, and France, as well as from other Canadian universities, and six of them were former Victoria College undergraduates. In all,
twenty-four tenure-track appointments were made: fourteen lecturers, eight assistant professors, and two associate professors. Trethewey made the annual pilgrimage, either to New York or to Chicago, to look for new talent at the mla convention.
Most of these young teachers and scholars settled in for the long term, putting their mark on the department and making valued contributions not only to the teaching of French at Victoria but also to the graduate school and to the administration of the University of Toronto, especially after the creation of the unified department in 1975. Trethewey was justifiably proud of his role in building the department. He was deeply concerned about the careers of his “children,” took a personal interest in their research and professional advancement, and was in turn respected and loved as a “pater familias.” His wife, with genuine warmth
and friendliness, also played an important part in the establishment of a family atmosphere in the department. For many of the younger faculty members, who had come from other centres, the Tretheweys were indeed surrogate parents.
In this extraordinary period of recruitment, Jean Orsoni, Ronald Predovich, and John Priestley briefly held positions as lecturers but moved to other posts after a short time in the department. Three full-time appointments were made in 1962. Paul Bouissac had pursued classical and French literary studies at the Sorbonne and received the licence ès lettres and the diplôme d’études supérieures in these disciplines. He did extensive research concerning the ancient circus and in his early years in Toronto even tried to import a circus. His work Circus and Culture was published in a second edition in 1985 and has been translated into Italian and
Japanese. The recipient of a doctorat du troisième cycle en linguistique from the Sorbonne in 1970, he has achieved an international reputation in the field of semiotics. Harry Secor had been both an undergraduate and a graduate student at Yale University. He studied abroad on a Fulbright scholarship and in 1957 received his doctoral degree from Yale. Before coming to Toronto, he taught at Vassar College. A scholar of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance in France and a dedicated bibliophile, Secor was director of the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies at Victoria from 1969 to 1975 and chair of the Toronto Renaissance and Reformation Colloquium in 1974-75. The third of the 1962 recruits was Pierre Spriet, a native of France who came to Victoria from the University of Illinois. Although he was a specialist in English literature of the Renaissance, he made an important contribution to the teaching of the French Department until he decided in 1969 to return to France in order to take up a
position at the Université de Bordeaux.
The year 1963 also introduced three new colleagues. Denis Bouchard, after obtaining an undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona, had gone to France as a Fulbright scholar and completed his licence ès lettres at Aix-en-Provence in 1956. He received his doctoral degree five years later from the Université Laval for his dissertation on Saint-Exupéry. He taught at Skidmore College and Laurentian University before coming to Victoria. A poet in his own right, Bouchard has studied and taught with great insight and sensitivity the work of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Saint-Denys Garneau, and Anne Hébert. Robert Harden, after completing his undergraduate studies at Victoria College, received an ma from Columbia and a PhD from the University of North Carolina in 1959. Following appointments in the United States, he taught at the University of British
Columbia. He pursued his scholarly interests in medieval and Anglo-Norman literature while making an important contribution to the department as chair from 1967 to 1972. The year 1963 also brought David Smith, who had studied at Leeds and the Sorbonne before teaching in Surrey at the secondary level. He completed his doctoral degree at Leeds in 1961. The year before, he had accepted an appointment at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and it was from there that he came to Victoria. A most distinguished eighteenth-century scholar, he has made important contributions to research on Helvétius. He has also been active in the Madame de Graffigny project. At the same time he undertook heavy administrative duties before unification and became the first chair of the University Department of French in 1975.
Monique Léon arrived in 1964 and brought to the department professional expertise and extensive experience in the teaching of French phonetics to foreigners. Associated with the Institut de Phonétique de Paris, she had taught in the Institut des Professeurs de Français à l’Étranger at Paris and in the United States. After three years at the Université de Besançon and two years at Ohio State University, she accompanied her husband, Pierre Léon, to Toronto, accepting a position at Victoria while he was appointed to University College. A gifted teacher, she has enjoyed a world-wide reputation in her field and has many publications to her credit. From 1984 to 1989 Professor Léon was director of the Language Laboratory and Learning Centre. John McClelland had been a Victoria undergraduate. He completed his doctoral degree at the University of Chicago
in 1965. Before returning to Victoria as a lecturer, he spent a year at Mount Allison University and two years at the University of Western Ontario. A distinguished scholar of the French Renaissance, he has specialized in the poetry of that period and in particular the work of Pontus de Tyard. In 1983 he was cross-appointed to the Centre for Comparative Literature.
The third of the 1964 appointments, Brian Merrilees, received both his ba and his ma from the University of Otaga in New Zealand before going to Paris, where he completed the requirements for the doctorat de l’université in 1964. After a year at the Cherry School in Oxford, he came to Victoria. Here he has taught courses in medieval French literature and done extensive editorial work on medieval texts, including Le Voyage de Saint Brendan (1984) with Ian Short. Merrilees’s administrative talents have been greatly appreciated both at the college and in the
university. He served as the second chair of the University Department of French from 1980 to 1984, when he resigned to become vice-provost of the university. Robert Taylor, a Victoria undergraduate, continued his education at the University of Toronto. He completed his PhD dissertation on Bernard de Clairvaux under the direction of professors Trethewey and Dembowski. Taylor taught at the University of California (Berkeley) for two years before returning to Toronto. His major interests have included medieval French literature, linguistics, and philology. His critical bibliography La Littérature occitane du moyen âge was published by the University of Toronto Press in 1977. Cameron Tolton, also of the quintet of 1964, was yet another product of Victoria College. He went on to graduate work at Harvard University and completed his doctoral degree in 1965 with a thesis on abstract vocabulary in the work of André Gide. As well as assuming administrative duties in the department, he has continued his research interest in
this author. His study of Si le grain ne meurt, entitled André Gide and the Art of Autobiography, appeared in 1977. Tolton has also been a pioneer in the development at the University of Toronto of film studies, a field in which his expertise is widely recognized.
The year 1965 saw three more additions to the department. Edward Burstynsky had been an undergraduate at Victoria and after teaching high school, had continued with graduate studies at the University of Toronto. He completed his PhD in 1967. His primary interest lay in the field of linguistics, so that for a time he was cross-appointed to the Centre for Linguistic Studies. He eventually transferred to the Department of Linguistics, where he became chair in 1974. John Chidaine, a native of France, went to the United States during the Second World War. At the University of Arizona he took degrees in anthropology. Out of
his anthropological studies, he developed an interest in comparative linguistics that led him to Ohio State University. He completed his PhD there while teaching at Victoria. Like many of her colleages, Noreen Swallow, also appointed in 1965, had been an undergraduate at Victoria. She completed her PhilM at the University of Toronto in 1966. A teaching fellow in the college from 1963 to 1965, she was appointed lecturer and later promoted to the rank of assistant professor. In 1976 she was cross-appointed to Erindale College.
A single appointment was made in 1966. France Robert, a native of France and wife of Pierre Robert of University College, had been a part-time instructor at that college from 1963 to 1965. The year after she was appointed lecturer at Victoria. She received a doctoral degree at the Université d’Aix-Marseilles in 1979 for a study of Jacques Ferron.
She also did research on Provençal families who had emigrated to Quebec.
Two new recruits came to the college in 1967. A graduate of the University of British Columbia, Paul Perron received his doctorat de l’université from the Université de Bordeaux in 1965 for a dissertation on “La Notion de l’échec chez Alfred de Vigny.” His research interests have centred around semiological theories, which he has applied to the literature of Quebec and, in collaboration with Roland Le Huenen, to Balzac. Their study of Eugénie Grandet, entitled Balzac, sémiotique du personnage romanesque, was published in 1980. Perron has also made an important contribution to the administration of the University Department, serving as chair from 1990, and to the graduate school, where he was associate dean. Edward Walker did his undergraduate work at University
College and received his PhD from the University of Toronto in 1966. His research has dealt with seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French theatre and in particular with the work of Charles Rivière Dufresny. Quebec literature has also been an interest of his. Walker came to Victoria after teaching for six years at McMaster University in Hamilton. He has also served the college as dean of men.
A native of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, Roland Le Huenen participated during his vacations in the University of Toronto Summer School while pursuing his studies at the Université de Caen. Upon completion of his diplôme d’études supérieures, he moved to the Université de Strasbourg, where in 1968 he obtained his doctoral degree for his work on Jules Lagneau. The same year he joined the French department at Victoria. Like Paul Perron, he
has been interested in the application of semiological theory; their analysis of Eugénie Grandet has been mentioned. The following year, 1969, saw the appointment of Aubrey Rosenberg. After a career in nursing, he studied French at the University of Toronto, obtaining his PhD in 1970 for a thesis on the work of Tyssot de Patot under the direction of David Smith. Rosenberg has published extensively in the field of French eighteenth-century literature. Studies of Nicolas Gueudeville and Rousseau appeared in 1982 and 1987 respectively. He has also made important contributions to the administration of the department and the graduate school.
Frank Collins was recruited in 1970. After undergraduate studies at Carleton University and a year at the Ontario College of Education, he had taught high school in Ottawa. He then completed his ma at the University of Toronto in 1968
while working as a teaching assistant at Victoria. Under the direction of Robert Harden, his dissertation on words related to “courtoisie” in the work of Chrétien de Troyes won him a PhD in 1974. Collins’s research interests have centred around medieval language and comparative linguistics. Two volumes on Paris School Semiotics and studies of A.J. Greimas have been translated in collaboration with Paul Perron. Also joining the Victoria staff in 1970 was Claudine Vercollier, who came to Canada from France in 1968 and taught for two years in an elementary school in Windsor. She had already obtained the diplôme d’études supérieures and the capes when she was appointed lecturer at Victoria. In 1974 she completed a doctorat de l’université at the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle for her dissertation “Étude de trois héroines romanesques et de leurs univers: Eugénie Grandet, Clélia Conti et Emma Bovary.” The French
novel of the nineteenth century has been the focus of her research. The last of the full-time appointments in this period, Witold Morawski, was a native of Poland who had studied French literature and language at the University of Warsaw. Arriving in Canada, he was an instructor for a year at Glendon College. He came as a teaching assistant to Victoria in 1970 and was appointed lecturer the following year. Since 1977 he has held a position as senior tutor. His special area of expertise has been in language practice.
Richard W. Jeanes, who had been the moving force in obtaining approval for and designing the first language laboratory at Victoria, remained director of the facility after it moved in 1961 to the sub-basement of the newly completed E.J. Pratt Library. It now comprised twenty-seven booths, a classroom for oral instruction, and a spacious and updated control room. Further strength was given to the
programme by the appointment of Jeannette Jeanes as secretary. From 1961 to 1976, when she retired, Mrs Jeanes was the heart and soul of the lab and created a special French ambiance, which greatly enhanced the oral programme. In 1964 her contribution to teaching was recognized by her appointment as instructor. She later became assistant professor. The duties of secretary were taken over by Jacqueline Park, who had come to Victoria as a result of the summer programme in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, and later by Rita Woitschatske. A further important development in oral instruction in the college was the appointment in 1964 of Monique Léon, who was placed in charge of the instruction in phonetics. New materials were developed, and the students regularly received one hour a week of instruction in this area. In the same year John Sellars was engaged as a full-time technician responsible for the maintenance of the lab. In 1974 this position was combined with that of the secretary, and from that time the college has benefited
from Sellars’s special talents. When Monique Léon retired in 1989 after five years as director of the lab, a responsibility she had taken over from Richard Jeanes in 1984, Sellars succeeded her in the position. His contribution to the administration and maintenance of the lab cannot be exaggerated. The facility, now housed in the basement of the old Victoria College building, has evolved into a Learning Centre complete with word processors available to students of the college. It is, in fact, the nerve centre of a sophisticated communications network, without which the college might grind to a halt.
Any account of oral instruction at Victoria during this period must also recognize the contribution of part-time instructors who, often underpaid, enriched the programme with their intimate knowledge of things French and with their devotion to the students. Three outstanding instructors between 1960 and 1975 were
H. Sarrailh, Georgette Jacquemin, and Nicole Trembley. The department also benefited immensely from the expansion at this time of the support staff in the college. The French and German departments were fortunate to acquire the services of a number of excellent secretaries, outstanding among whom was Elsa Scharback; she retired in 1986.
During the sixties the Victoria French Club, which had been for decades an important part of the undergraduate experience in the college, continued the programmes traditionally associated with such clubs: talks by faculty members, short skits, sing-songs, and so on. Monthly meetings afforded the opportunity for faculty and students to meet
in a less formal setting. At this time, students and teachers were less interested in fostering a sense of community. The department was experiencing some of the disadvantages of explosive growth. None the less, a strong student president could even then breathe energy into the French Club. Such was the case, in the mid-sixties, with John Groves and Pierre Dubé. The latter went on to do graduate work in French and subsequently became a member of the faculty at the University of Waterloo.
The early seventies saw a radical change in the way in which students contributed to the cultural life of the department. Abandoning the formal club structure of the past, they participated enthusiastically, under the guidance of young French lecteurs, in the organization of café-concerts. Two notably energetic animateurs of this period were Danielle Zana and Lucien Benacem. The diminished importance
of French clubs is to be regretted in some ways, but today’s undergraduates have different priorities and frequently work long hours and study part-time. Further, the unstructured programmes, which became the norm in the seventies, tended to destroy class cohesion and identification, which had been the basis of the strong French Club in the college.
The strength of the Victoria French Department, built up during this period in an extraordinary way, can be demonstrated by the fact that, of the first four chairs of the unified department after 1975, three came from Victoria. Furthermore, the scholarly contributions of its professors have guaranteed them an important place in graduate teaching at the University of Toronto. Faculty initiative in recommending book purchases for the E.J. Pratt Library has resulted in one of the best collections of French materials for undergraduates in the university. The
generosity of Professor Laure Rièse in donating her very special and valuable collection of contemporary French materials to the Pratt Library is further proof of the strong position that the teaching of French has enjoyed in the college.