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Conversazione - Glendon Faculty’s Informal Research Talks


Lunchtime at Glendon on November 24th offered another in the popular series of presentations by members of Glendon’s faculty about their current research and related topics. One of Glendon’s newest professors, Dr. Jean-Pierre Thomas of the French Department discussed his literary research in the highly specialized field of myth-analysis. In the intimate surroundings of the Fireside Room, he presented a bird’s eye view of the impact of the ‘sacred’ in québecois literature under the title, “Between Myth and Literature: An Exploration of the Imaginary in Quebec Literature” (Entre mythe et littérature : exploration de l'imaginaire littéraire québécois).

“Once upon a time, in a faraway land, a king terrorized his people and had a wall built around his city”, intoned Thomas in the familiar words of the traditional fairy tale. After telling the story, Thomas demonstrated the presence of universal themes and characters in this tale, and posited the notion that universality – for example of the concepts of death, friendship, enemies, superior beings – exists in the stories and myths of all cultures. His slide show illustrated their presence even in today’s pop culture and everyday activities, drawing on cartoon characters such as Batman and Astérix, Star Wars’ Darth Vader, ‘Ajax’ as a name for a household cleanser (in order to indicate strength), and many more. Thomas also discussed some major themes common to all cultures: the virgin birth, the great flood, humans who steal fire from the gods, a saviour who dies in order to redeem humanity.

Thomas is currently engaged in research which is focused on establishing a methodology for the critique and evaluation of myths. His goal is to facilitate and standardize this type of analysis in a structured framework, and to place myths in the context of their culture and history.

Jean-Pierre Thomas has just joined Glendon last September, as an assistant professor in the French Department. He holds a PhD in French Studies from the Université de Sherbrooke, and a postdoctoral fellowship from McGill University. He is the author of several articles in North American and European journals, primarily in the area of myth-analysis.

Thomas’ French-language presentation was the third in the Conversazione series this fall, preceded by psychology professor Anne Russon’s talk on October 18th on the topic of “The Social Life of the Solitary Ape”, and English professor Ian Martin’s talk on November 10th ( both in English). Martin presented his “Central Asian Diary”, an overview of his research trip on language policy last summer in Central Asia, during which he learned more than he expected in a part of the world which is ‘terra incognita’ to most Canadians. His discovery of ecological misdemeanours by a certain Canadian mining company in Kyrgyzstan made for a fascinating story.

The winter term will bring three more learned lectures in this series. Professor Michael Barutciski (International Studies) will discuss The Erosion of Non-political International Institutional Mandates, in English on January 19th; Professor Jerzy Kowal (Hispanic Studies) will give an English-language talk on the History of Hispanic Studies in Canada on March 7th; and on March 22nd, Professor Josée Bergeron (Political Science) will explore L'État et les identités (The State and Identities) in French. These lunchtime lectures encourage learning and discussion, and an awareness of the academic interests of Glendon faculty in an informal, brown-bag format. Everyone is welcome.

This article was submitted to MyGlendon by Glendon’s communications officer Marika Kemeny

Published on November 29, 2005