Conversazione – Glendon’s faculty present informal talks on their research

Lunchtime at Glendon on Nov. 24 offered another in the popular series of presentations titled Conversazione, a series of informal lectures given by members of Glendon’s faculty about their current research and related topics. One of Glendon’s newest professors, Jean-Pierre Thomas of the French Department, discussed his literary research in the highly specialized field of myth analysis. In the intimate surroundings of Glendon’s Fireside Room, he his French-language presentation gave listeners a bird’s-eye view of the impact of the “sacred” in Québecois literature in a lecture titled, “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 and superior beings – exists in the stories and myths of all cultures. He presented a slide show which illustrated their presence even in today’s pop culture and everyday activities. Thomas drew 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 to illustrate his lecture. He 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 to establish 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.

A member of Glendon’s French Department Glendon since September, Thomas 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.

His presentation was the third in the Conversazione series this fall, preceded by psychology Professor Anne Russon’s talk Oct.18 on “The Social Life of the Solitary Ape” and English Professor Ian Martin’s talk Nov. 10 on his “Central Asian Diary”, which offered an overview of his research trip on language policy last summer in Central Asia. Martin said 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 Canadian mining company in Kyrgyzstan made for a fascinating story.

The winter term will bring four more learned lectures in this series, to be announced shortly. 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 YFile by Glendon’s communications officer Marika Kemeny.