Editing Modernism in Canada


May 13, 2013

Michael DiSanto and George Whalley

EMiC co-applicant Michael DiSanto (Assistant Professor of English at Algoma University) is working on George Whalley (1915-83), the eminent and accomplished man of letters. Michael’s work on Whalley consists of many parts, the first of which is an edition of Whalley’s complete poems for publication in 2015. A digital edition of a wide selection of Whalley’s poetry manuscripts, typescripts, and correspondence will be a counterpart to the print edition of the collected poems. Alana Fletcher, a PhD candidate in the Department of English at Queen’s University who currently has an EMiC PhD Stipend, is co-editing the digital edition with Michael. Following the digital edition, Michael plans to edit a new collection of Whalley’s essays that will likely correspond closely with Whalley’s own plans for a two-volume edition, but will include some late and unpublished writings. Michael’s work on Whalley will culminate in the biography of Whalley he plans to publish by 2022.

At the centre of Michael’s work is an online database constructed by Robin Isard, the eSystems Librarian at Algoma University, using open-source Drupal software. The database is Rules for Archival Description (RAD) compliant, and will continue to grow until Michael is finished. At the end of his work, Michael will make the database — which is proceeding in collaboration with the Queen’s University Archives — available to the public on the Internet.

Since beginning to work on Whalley, Michael has discovered over 100 unpublished poems, which will more than double the number of Whalley’s extant poems. Michael and Alana have digitized no fewer than 4000 pages of poetry manuscripts, typescripts, letters, and other documents — all of these pages are being loaded into the database. Stacey Devlin, an undergraduate student who has been working with Michael since May 2012, has transcribed no fewer than 1200 transcriptions of poems, letters, journals, and other documents, all of which are being loaded into the database. Stacy has also constructed an elaborate and remarkable timeline of Whalley’s life that draws on his military records, letters, accounts published by friends, family, students, and colleagues, and many other sources.

To support this work, Michael has received funding from several sources, including EMiC, SSHRC, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, and Algoma University. With this funding, Michael has and will continue to be able to hire research assistants to work on the Whalley project. In addition to financial support, Michael has also received great help from a number of people, and especially from Whalley’s family, colleagues, students, and friends.

Michael has only run into some minor issues in his work so far. Technology has proven to be a small obstacle, but Michael has been able to rely on the expertise of Robin Isard, who has been generous in devoting much time to work on the project. Geography has also been a bit of an issue — Michael’s distance from Kingston and the Queen’s University Archives makes it difficult to visit as often as he would like. Moreover, Whalley’s private papers are in Southwold, England. Again, distance makes it difficult for Michael to visit as often or for as long as he would like — as does his heavier-than-average teaching load — but he has arranged a sabbatical for 2013-14, which will allow him to spend time in Kingston and Southwold.

For Michael, researching Whalley has raised several questions: how many more poems will be discovered, and how many more of Whalley’s letters will appear? What will the design of the digital edition be? Also, how many people will be willing to contribute to the Whalley biography? And, ultimately, will this work be successful in bringing to Whalley the attention his writing demands and deserves?

Michael has also been working on several papers on Whalley, including an essay entitled “Editing a Legend: George Whalley” for the EMiC Special Edition of “Essays in Canadian Writing.” This summer in Victoria, Michael will present four Whalley-related papers. One, on the RAD-compliant database, Michael will present with Robin Isard. He will present another paper related to the database with Robin and Alana at DHSI. The two other papers are Michael’s work alone: one is on Whalley’s poem “Lazarus,” which was written in response to Epstein’s sculpture of the same name, and the other is on Whalley’s and George Grant’s ideas regarding the university.

One Response to “Michael DiSanto and George Whalley”

  1. Alana Fletcher says:

    Great project, great write-up! Thanks Amanda!

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