Visit by Giller Prize winner a highlight for graduating English students

Visit by Giller Prize winner a highlight for graduating English students

March 5, 2014


By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

Engineering students have the iron ring presentation. Nursing students have the pinning ceremony. And for the past seven years, graduating English literature students have celebrated the near-completion of their degrees with a visit from the winner of one of Canada’s most prestigious literary awards.

“In a way, it’s the perfect end to our studies in English because we’re all coming together for the love of the written word and literature, which is probably what attracted us to the program,” says Sarah Hobbs (Artsci’14), who plans to attend the reading by 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Lynn Coady this Friday afternoon.

[Lynn Coady]Lynn Coady, winner of the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her short story collection Hellgoing, will give a public reading at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre this Friday. The annual visit by the Scotiabank Giller Prize winner is organized by the Department of English and aims to give the graduating English students a capstone experience.

Several years ago, Alistair MacLean, then dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, invited departments to propose a capstone experience for their graduating students. English Professor Chris Bongie suggested inviting a prize-winning author to campus to interact with the students who would also receive a copy of the book.

“The event offered a graduating cohort the opportunity to share a unique readership experience with each other. It also introduced them to Canadian literary prize culture with the hope that they would continue to take an interest in the annual prize and so remain connected to their degree in English literature,” says Shelley King, head of the Department of English. “And it provided an opportunity for the wider Kingston community to hear a winning author and to mingle, however briefly, with our graduating class.”

The Department of English launched the inaugural Giller Prize event with funding from the faculty, and philanthropic support has helped maintain it ever since. An anonymous donation of $10,000 kept it going for several years and, more recently, Jim and Kelly Osler have generously donated to extend the event.

Owen Quenneville (Artsci’14) is excited to attend his first author talk and hear Ms. Coady read from her award-winning short story collection, Hellgoing. He is currently reading Ms. Coady’s 2011 novel, The Antagonist, for a course on hockey literature taught by Professor Sam McKegney.

“Our prof has really tried to prepare us for the event, encouraging us to do as much reading from The Antagonist so we can take that to the talk,” he says. “I think hearing her perspective on her writing is something we can then bring back to our studies and make the class that much more interesting.”

Ms. Hobbs is partway through reading Hellgoing, and she is impressed by Ms. Coady’s literary voice. “She is shrewd, and snarky, and she has these brilliant observations about human nature,” she explains. “The book is fantastic.”

Mr. Quenneville says Queen’s students stand to benefit from having celebrated Canadian authors visit campus.

“The visit is a good thing because some students don’t particularly like Canadian literature. They generally disregard it as boring,” he says. “Lynn Coady’s stuff is very interesting and you can’t just dismiss it.”

The public reading and book signing takes place on Friday, March 7 from 3-5 pm at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. All are welcome to attend.