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Trent University Professor Leonard Conolly Launches New Book and Celebrates Three New Distinguished Appointments

Book chronicles 50 years of Shaw Festival history celebrating Shaw Festival’s 50th anniversary

Trent University Professor Leonard Conolly
Trent University Professor Leonard Conolly

Trent University’s Professor Leonard Conolly is celebrating the launch of his new book, The Shaw Festival: The First Fifty Years, along with three new appointments as senior fellow at Massey College (University of Toronto), honorary fellow at Robinson College (Cambridge), and editor of the Journal of Canadian Studies.

Officially launched on May 26, 2011, The Shaw Festival: The First Fifty Years, written by Professor Leonard Conolly and published by Oxford University Press is a narrative account of the festival’s history both on and off the stage from its beginnings in 1962, to the present.

The product of four years of research, the book, says Prof. Conolly, aims to appeal to a broad public without compromising rigorous scholarly standards.  “The Shaw Festival,” explains Prof. Conolly, “is one of Canada’s great cultural success stories. That’s the wonderful thing for me, I feel so fortunate that my main scholarly interest and enthusiasm is Shaw – and there is my laboratory. I write about the plays and can see them in productions of world-class quality.”

Prof. Conolly’s interest in Shaw was sparked by a high school reading of Saint Joan. “I got hooked then,” says Prof. Conolly. “So many of Shaw’s plays work on different levels. You come away from the plays feeling anguish at an emotional level, but there is this intellectual energy there as well. Shaw presents intense human emotions, but at the same time challenges his audience to come to terms with complex social questions.”

Prof. Conolly’s early encounter with Shaw translated into a life-long passion. Literary advisor to the estate of Bernard Shaw, Corresponding Scholar for the Shaw Festival, President of the International Shaw Society, and founder of the L.W. Conolly Theatre Archives at the University of Guelph, Prof. Conolly was uniquely positioned to write the history of a festival with which he has been associated for more than two and a half decades.

In addition to his new book, Prof. Conolly celebrates three new appointments: namely, a senior fellowship at Massey College (University of Toronto), an honorary fellowship at Robinson College (Cambridge), and the editorship of the Journal of Canadian Studies.

“The fellowship at Massey College is exciting for me,” explains Prof. Conolly. “This fellowship gives me the opportunity to participate in the academic and social life of the college, linking me to a very vibrant interdisciplinary community.” While the majority of senior fellows at Massey are U. of T. faculty, Prof. Conolly shares the honour with other members of the Trent community, including Professor Thomas H.B. Symons, Trent’s founding president, and James Orbinski, Trent alumnus and president of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) at the time the organization received the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize.

Prof. Conolly has been a visiting fellow at Robinson College in 1981 and is now excited by his appointment as honorary fellow at this primarily undergraduate college. In addition to participating in the college’s academic and social life, Prof. Conolly will take advantage of his time at Robinson to continue his research in Cambridge University’s library.

Prof. Conolly’s appointment as editor of the Journal of Canadian Studies represents somewhat of a home-coming for the journal, which was established in 1974 by Prof. Thomas H.B. Symons. The Journal of Canadian Studies was established as a flagship scholarly journal for Trent, and has since become one of Canada’s leading interdisciplinary journals in humanities and social sciences. 

According to Prof. Conolly, the supportive environments in the English Department and at Trent generally, have helped him pursue his passions both inside and outside of the classroom. “I have found that culture at Trent very helpful and supportive. The support and curiosity colleagues show for each others’ research is very encouraging, and the flexibility of the curriculum in the English Department has given me, and my colleagues, the opportunity to teach our enthusiasms and that is a wonderful link to the research that we all do.”

Former president and vice-chancellor of Trent (1994 to 1997), Prof. Conolly has twice received Volunteer Service Awards from the Province of Ontario (1993 and 2010) for his work with the Guelph Spring Festival and the Shaw Festival, respectively, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2002. In 2005 he received the Distinguished Research Award from Trent University and in 2008 the degree of DLitt, honoris causa from the University of Guelph. He has published 15 books and over fifty research essays and reviews, founded two scholarly journals, and is series editor for the Broadview Editions series of literary texts.

Posted on Monday, June 13, 2011.

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