Academic Conference to Highlight Life of George Whalley


This July, Algoma University and Queen’s University will be joining together to host a weekend long conference to honour the centenary birth of George Whalley. The conference will be held at Queen’s University from July 24th – 26th. Guest speakers include Michael Ondaatje, Elizabeth Hay, John Baxter, and Werner Nell. A special performance by pianists Duo Turgeon in the Isabel Bader Centre of Performing Arts will highlight Saturday evening’s event.

George Whalley (1915-83) was an eminent and accomplished Canadian scholar, poet, naval officer, secret intelligence agent, CBC script-writer and broadcaster, musician, biographer, and translator. The three-day conference aims to highlight different aspects of Whalley’s life and works and his exceptional contributions to Canadian literature and culture.
The conference is being spearheaded by Algoma U’s English faculty member, Dr. Michael DiSanto, who is helping to fill the gap in the literary, cultural, and military history of the twentieth century by elevating Whalley’s profile at both a national and international level. “Whalley was a profoundly gifted individual. His extensive writings and his service in the Royal Navy during the Second World War demand and deserve renewed attention in the 21st century. He showed great bravery as a naval officer and secret intelligence agent. His book The Legend of John Hornby is one of the great Canadian biographies. Several of his radio dramas, such as ‘If This Is A Man,’ an adaptation of Primo Levi’s first-hand account of life in a concentration camp, made significant contributions to CBC radio. He had an exceptional life that ought to be better known in Canadian history.”

Day One (July 24th) of the conference will highlight “Romanticism and Aesthetics: Critical Reflections on Art, Culture and Nature”. John Baxter (Professor of English, Dalhousie University) and Warner Nell (Professor of Comparative Literature and Culture Studies, Martin Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Germany) will deliver the keynote addresses the first day. Day Two (July 25th), “George Whalley, the Man and the Legend”, will feature guest speakers Michael Ondaatje (winner of the Booker Prize and the Governor General’s Award) and Elizabeth Hay (winner of the Giller Prize). Day Three (July 26th) will mark the 60th anniversary of the Canadian Writers’ Conference.

A special performance from world-renowned pianists Duo Turgeon will also headline the evening of July 25th. Drs. Anne Louise-Turgeon and Edward Turgeon, two members of Algoma U’s Music faculty, have established themselves as one of North America’s prominent piano duos, having performed hundreds of concerts at venues such as the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Yong Siew Toh Concert Hall in Singapore, and others. Duo Turgeon is the only North American piano duo to have taken first prizes in both the International Schubert Competition for Piano Duos (Czech Republic) and the Murray Dranoff International Two Piano Competition (Miami). They have given world premiere performances of works by John Corigliano, Aaron Copland, Alex Pauk, and Libby Larsen. Duo Turgeon will perform at 7:30 p.m. in the Isabel Bader Centre of Performing Arts. Tickets are available to the general public for $25.00. For more information, please visit

Those interested in attending the conference are encouraged to attend all three days, which will include keynote talks, panels, and papers, as well as a reception and music performance.
To register for the event and/or purchase tickets for the Duo Turgeon concert, please visit

For more information on the conference, please contact the Event Coordinator, Dr. Michael DiSanto at [email protected] or call 705.949.2301, Ext. 4347.