York endows Writer-in-Exile Bursary to give writers new voice

York University has endowed a Writer-in-Exile Bursary to support writers who have been victimized in their own country. The bursary will support writers who have faced imprisonment, torture, or who have been threatened with death for peacefully practicing their profession.

The announcement of the bursary coincides with the PEN-Canada conference “Building a Writers in Exile Network,” being held in Ottawa, March 17-19.

The Writer-in-Exile Bursary has been established through the York University Foundation to support a senior or mid-career writer-in-exile studying at York and registered in the Graduate Program in Communication & Culture; or, in exceptional cases, while registered for undergraduate studies in York’s Faculty of Arts or Fine Arts.

The eligible writer shall be a PEN-Canada (Poets, Essayists, Novelists) sponsored refugee, or some other individual qualified for the designation “Writer-in-Exile.” So far, the York University Foundation has received over $37,000 towards this initiative.

“Donations to finance the Writer-in-Exile Bursary on an annual basis quickly exceeded the minimum investment of $25,000 and the endowment is well on its way to reaching a target of $100,000,” said Professor Emerita Joy Cohnstaedt (left). “The bursary is made possible through income generated from this fund.”

“We thank the many generous donors who helped us exceed our ambitions for this bursary,” said Paul Marcus, president and CEO of the York University Foundation. “We especially thank Joy Cohnstaedt for all she has done for York University.”

The Writer-in-Exile Bursary was initiated by Cohnstaedt to honour her father-in-law, the journalist of Jewish faith, and editor, Wilhelm Cohnstaedt, who was active in the government and politics of the Weimar Republic between 1918 and 1933. He resigned from the editorial board of the Frankfurter Zeitung after refusing to write an editorial welcoming Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor. He fled Germany just ahead of the Storm Troopers. With the help of the then publisher of The New York Times, he lived in exile in the USA until his suicide in 1937.

“The bursary closely corresponds to the aims and interests of the Graduate Program in Communication and Culture; namely: to liberate dialogue from prejudice and fear; to advance knowledge through the freedom of critique; and to foster public and democratic communication,” said Dr. Elizabeth Seaton, Acting Director of the Graduate Program in Communication and Culture, a collaboration between York University and Ryerson University.

“The Faculty of Graduate Studies recognizes and appreciates the support that the Writer-in-Exile Bursary will provide to its recipients,” said John Lennox, dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. “The bursary is intended to be a practical and, we hope, instrumental means of enabling expatriated writers both to practice their profession and to broaden their base of knowledge and expertise in a challenging program and supportive university environment.”

This bursary builds on York’s strong history of international studies and research relating to human rights issues.

“The Faculty of Arts is eager to contribute to a strategy for assisting writers-in-exile, particularly as writers-in-residence or visiting writers, at York University,” said Robert Drummond, dean of the Faculty of Arts. “We will all benefit from this contact, and the possibility of public lectures and other forms of outreach will be of an advantage to the larger Toronto community.”