Editing Modernism in Canada


May 13, 2013

Alana Fletcher and George Whalley

Queen’s University student Alana Fletcher has recently been awarded a second EMiC doctoral stipend to continue working towards the production of scholarly digital and print editions of the works of George Whalley. Over the last year, Alana has collaborated with Michael DiSanto on a specific component of the project: the production of an open-access online database of primary materials that includes scans of Whalley’s poetry manuscripts and typescripts, related letters, personal papers, and photographs.

The database — which was adapted from the Algoma University Archive (AUA) and the Shingwauk Residential School Centre, and built by Robin Isard, the Algoma eSystems Librarian, and Rick Scott, the Library Technologies Specialist — is connected to Michael’s open-access Whalley website, where it will eventually go live. The database is RAD (Rules for Archival Description), OAI (Open Archives Initiative), and Dublin Core compliant, so the research materials collected here can be easily moved into almost any library or archival database programmatically via OAI protocols.

Alana is the person on the ground at the Queen’s University Archives and the George Whalley fonds, which contains over 10 metres of textual material, which includes notes, drafts, final copies and correspondence pertaining to Whalley’s published and unpublished book-length works, shorter essays and articles, and poetry. Also available in the fonds are notes, correspondence, scripts, and recordings of the CBC radio and television pieces which feature Whalley as narrator or author, as well as personal and professional correspondence, and professional reports produced by Whalley in his role as a university administrator, author, and editor. There are also about 100 photographs and 50 maps, as well as 51 audio reels and 4 audio discs in the fonds. Alana is primarily occupied with scanning, editing, uploading to the database, and describing relevant texts. Since Alana began to work on the project in May 2012, over 4075 pages of Whalley’s manuscripts, typescripts, journals, and letters have been processed.

In a recent colloquium presentation at Queen’s University, Alana used Whalley’s letters to his mother, Dorothy, as an interdisciplinary case study of the ongoing personal narrativization that makes drastic role changes internally coherent, and the essential role played by readers/listeners in “witnessing” the textual construction of selfhood. Alana is now updating the database with scans and transcriptions of a comprehensive selection of Whalley’s letters to Dorothy between 1927 (the date of the earliest letter in the fonds) and 1956 (the date of the latest letter and the year of Dorothy’s death).

The main challenge Alana has faced in her work on this project is the surprising lack of awareness of Whalley and his legacy in Canada. She hopes that this project will not only publicize Whalley’s work, but also recover Whalley as the remarkable force behind the mobilization of a modernist ethic in Canada, and as a prolific producer of critical and creative works, an influential professor and institutional figure, and an intriguing humanist, sportsman, spy, and aesthete.

Alana, Michael, and Robin will be presenting a paper on the database — entitled “Archiving from the Start: An Archive Database Solution for Literary Research” — at DHSI in early June. Alana will also be presenting on Whalley in June at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, where she will be giving a paper at on Whalley’s multiple-language CBC radio adaptation of Primo Levi’s Se questo è un uomo.

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