Trinity College / lawrence kerslake
With the transition to the period 1960-75, continuity in the faculty of the French Department at Trinity College was provided by the senior members, “the three Bills”: William Rogers (head), William Kennett, and William Ruddock. Since their appointments in the immediate postwar period, no other staff members had stayed for more than three or four years. The 1960s would bring the next (and, to date, the last) round of continuing appointments, those faculty members who would see the department through some of the most radical changes in its history, both in curriculum and in administration.
Upon the departure of Lucie Polak and Jessie Gillespie at the end of the 1959-60 session, Trinity restored its staff complement in French with three new members.
To help meet the ever-increasing need for oral instructors, Mireille Walker, whose husband was in the Department of French at University College, was hired for 1960-61 to conduct conversation classes. Her varied background – born in French Equatorial Africa of a missionary father, student at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, resident of Algeria – was a source of fascination for the still somewhat provincial undergraduates of the day. Geneviève Strobel-Colleville, too, joined the staff at Trinity in 1960. A native of Cherbourg, she had eight years’ experience as a teacher at the Alliance Française in Paris and had taught French language and literature at the University of Calgary for a year before coming to Toronto. During her six years at Trinity, she taught first- and second-year literature courses and composition and oral classes at all levels. In the 1965-66 session she suffered from ill health and left at the end of that year to move to Halifax with her husband and daughter.
The third of the appointments made in 1960 added a serious scholarly presence to the department at Trinity. The holder of a doctorat d’état, an established expert on Chateaubriand, and the author of two books, Fernande Bassan had been teaching at Goucher in Maryland for two years but was obliged to leave because the provisions of the United States Immigration Act would not allow her to prolong her stay. Goucher’s loss was Trinity’s gain. Bassan arrived with two Siamese cats and immediately made her personality felt. She commanded the attention and respect of her students with her no-nonsense, demanding approach in class and was even known to go to the cafeteria to hunt out and confront a student skipping one of her lectures. In addition to her teaching and scholarship, Bassan assumed responsibility for the newly opened language laboratory during the first two years of its operation and was instrumental in enlarging and strengthening the college library’s holdings in
French studies. When the administration proved reluctant to offer her the promotion to associate professor to which she reasonably felt entitled, she left Trinity in 1964 to pursue her career elsewhere, the first step being a one-year position as visiting associate professor at Trent University.
Four temporary appointments in the first half of the 1960s can receive only brief mention. With one book already in print and a second completed in manuscript, Donald Charlton came from the University of Hull as a one-year replacement for Rogers during the latter’s sabbatical in 1961-62. Despite overtures from the college to stay on, Charlton chose to return to England, where he has forged a distinguished career at Warwick. Françoise Kaye, a native of France with teaching experience at Memorial University in Newfoundland and the University of Manitoba, came to Trinity for 1962-63, teaching a variety of literature and
language courses and assuming responsibility for the language laboratory. The college would have been happy to extend her contract, but she left to accompany her husband to Ottawa. Also from France, where she had taught at the collège and lycée level, Alice Charra joined the staff at Trinity as a lecturer in 1963, after three years’ experience at various post-secondary institutions in the northeastern United States. Primarily involved in language instruction during her stay at the college, she took over the direction of the language laboratory until her departure in 1965 for a position at McMaster. William Sayers, holder of a ba and an ma from Toronto and a doctoral candidate at Berkeley, came to Trinity as a lecturer for 1964-65. Noteworthy among his assignments was the course in Old French, for which the college had had no properly trained staff member since the departure of Polak in 1960.
The arrival of Jeannette Laillou (now Jeannelle Savona) in 1963 marked the first of the new appointments that would last into the 1990s or beyond. Laillou Savona’s academic training was as an angliciste, with a diplôme d’études supérieures from the Université de Bordeaux at the time she came to Trinity and subsequently a doctorat de l’université with a thesis that became the subject of her first book, Le Juif dans le roman américain contemporain (1974). In addition, she had experience teaching French at St Andrew’s in Scotland and for two years as a Fulbright exchange teacher at Stephens College in Missouri. Beginning as a lecturer, she rose through the ranks to associate professor and would eventually become full professor and holder of the W.R. Brock Chair after Rogers’s retirement in 1984. Within a few years of her joining the department at Trinity, Laillou Savona began to direct her research interests more and more towards
modern French theatre, work that resulted in the publication of several articles and the book Jean Genet (1983). She also served for a number of years on the editorial board of the journal Modern Drama. The final areas of study to attract her inquiring mind would be feminist theory and women’s writing and gay and lesbian literature. This ongoing recyclage has made Laillou Savona an intellectually stimulating presence, and her research interests have equipped her to offer courses that answer particular needs in the department’s offerings.
The account of the next appointment in French at Trinity is bound up with that of the chair which he holds. The college had been the beneficiary of a most generous bequest from the late Gerald Larkin, making possible the construction of the three-storey building that bears his name, a much-needed addition of space for classrooms, offices, and cafeteria. To honour the memory of Larkin, the Executive
Fitch accepted a visiting appointment at Trinity for 1965-66, a period during which he and the college could evaluate each other at first hand. The impressions were mutually satisfactory, and as of 1966-67 Fitch was named full professor and holder of the Gerald Larkin Chair in French, all at the age of thirty. The confidence that Rogers and, on his recommendation, the college administration demonstrated by making this appointment has been amply justified. It would be impossible even to sketch Fitch’s subsequent scholarly achievements in the brief space afforded here. The list of his books, articles, and papers on modern French authors – Beckett, Sartre, Camus, Malraux, Julien Green, Bernanos – and on theoretical questions extends for a number of pages. Fitch has been one of those most instrumental in winning for literary theory a central place in the intellectual life of the department. His status as a scholar was formally recognized in 1989 with his being named to the highest academic position, University Professor. At Trinity,
in addition to his teaching and research, he served as acting head of the college department during Rogers’s sabbatical in 1971-72, then as head from 1972 until the amalgamation of the college units into a single department in 1975. Actively involved in graduate teaching and the direction of theses since coming to Toronto, he also served a term as associate chair for graduate studies from 1977 to 1980.
One of Rogers’s staffing concerns was to appoint a director of the language laboratory who would provide the continuity that had been lacking during the first five years of the facility’s operation. That need was filled by the arrival of André Séguinot in 1965. With a number of years’ experience as professeur de collège d’enseignement général and, more recently, having taught for three years at the French Institute in New York, where he wasresponsible for the language laboratory and the audio-visual programme, Séguinot had the pedagogical and
technical expertise that Rogers was looking for. A bonus was provided by Séguinot’s lively personality, humour, and enthusiasm. A born raconteur, a black belt in judo, with a fund of (occasionally risqué) anecdotes and songs, he quickly made his mark with students and colleagues. After coming to Toronto, Séguinot undertook the work necessary to obtain the graduate degrees (ma, Toronto; doctorat du troisième cycle, Aix-en-Provence) that would certify his position in the university. His teaching in phonetics was an essential element in the undergraduate programme, and his knowledge of linguistic studies allowed Trinity to offer a course in stylistics for the first time in 1967. For a number of years he was the principal instructor in stylistique comparée at the college. During his tenure as director of the language laboratory, Séguinot has been responsible for developing several series of programmes for use in the lab, in addition to co-authoring a set of textbooks, Ici on parle français, for high school French
classes. More recently he has been involved, both in and out of the university, in the field of translation, teaching courses for undergraduates and in the Diploma in Translation programme and contributing to the organization of the Association des Traducteurs et Interprètes de l’Ontario, including a four-year term as president.
In 1966 Rogers added another important component to the Trinity department’s ability to offer a balanced undergraduate programme. For some time he had wanted to hand over the teaching of French-Canadian literature to another colleague, preferably a francophone Canadian. He found his candidate in a young Franco-Ontarian, J. Raymond Brazeau, who had done his ba and ma at the University of Ottawa and had completed the course requirements for the PhD at Toronto. Perfectly bilingual, Brazeau had been a lecturer at University College for a year before accepting Rogers’s proposal that he cross Hoskin Avenue to join
the staff at Trinity. His arrival at the college coincided with a considerable surge of interest in Quebec literature among undergraduates, and the courses that he offered answered an appreciable need. With contacts in the Quebec literary world, he was able to invite authors such as Claire Martin to visit Trinity. Later he served for a number of years as the University Department of French adviser to students spending their third year at Université Laval.
The other appointment in 1966 was that of Lawrence Kerslake, who, like Rogers and Ruddock, had done his undergraduate degree in Modern Languages at Trinity. After graduate studies at the University of Chicago, he accepted Rogers’s invitation to return to the college as a member of the department. With training in medieval studies, he was able to ensure that the Old French course would be regularly available at Trinity, and with his primary specialization in the
Enlightenment, he soon took over the eighteenth-century course from Kennett, allowing the latter to concentrate on the nineteenth-century novel. Upon the creation of the University Department of French in 1975, Kerslake became the first associate chairman for undergraduate studies and helped shape departmental policies and procedures during the initial period.
Of those colleagues who would obtain tenure and remain at the university into the 1990s, the last to be appointed to Trinity while the college still enjoyed autonomy in staffing was Nicole Debrie (now Maury). Specializing in phonetics and linguistics and later in didactique de la langue, she proved to be a valuable addition to the programme in language instruction at all levels, particularly in corrective oral work. Maury stayed at Trinity for the period 1968-72, transferred to University College in 1972, and four years later returned to Trinity, where she
remains. She obtained her doctorat du troisième cycle after joining the staff, served a term as associate chair for undergraduate studies, and was promoted to full professor in 1992. Her undergraduate courses in orthoépie and oral expression, as well as her work with graduate students, are an essential component of French studies at Trinity and in the university.
This account of staff at Trinity College during the period 1960-75 must end with mention of “one who got away.” In 1970 the college department acquired the services of Jean-Loup Bourget, a twenty-six-year-old coopérant who had placed first in the agrégation in 1969 and who had taught at Trinity College Dublin and the University of Glasgow. A man of wide interests, he was about to begin a doctorate on “The Melodrama in the American Cinema, 1939-1959.” Trinity would have liked to be able to offer him a position after the two-year period of his coopérant