York English professor wins prestigious Polanyi Prize for 2007

The notion of tragedy and the work of an ancient Greek philosopher are of special interest to York English Professor Darren Gobert. By combining philosophy, psychology, theatre and literature to explore the nature of emotion in tragedy, Gobert is hoping to revise Aristotle.

Gobert’s research received some special recognition yesterday when the government of Ontario announced that he was the recipient of the prestigious John Charles Polanyi Prize for 2007 in literature. The prize recognizes important research achievements of Ontario scientists and academics in the early stages of their careers. Gobert was one of five Ontario academics to receive the prize.

"Ontario’s future lies in our ability to compete internationally through cutting-edge research and innovation," said Minister of Training, Colleges & Universities John Milloy in making the  the announcement. "These five individuals represent some of the best and brightest researchers in our province. Together, and with the many other dedicated and talented scientists, researchers and innovators across Ontario, they are helping to keep Ontario at the forefront of the global economy."

Gobert, based in the Faculty of Arts, specializes in comparative modern and contemporary Western drama, and dramatic and performance theory. As a critic, he has published or has work forthcoming on Bertolt Brecht, Michel Marc Bouchard, Jacob Bernays, Molière, and Caryl Churchill. As a theatre practitioner, he has written stage adaptations and directed plays by Albee, Beckett, Chekhov and others. He is a member of the editorial advisory board and the book review editor of Modern Drama, for which he has edited a special issue (Fall 2007) on contemporary drama from the UK.

His current book project considers problems in the philosophy of emotion since Descartes’ Les Passions de l’âme; it details how these problems have been enacted in the history of spectacle.

Each year since 1987, up to five outstanding Ontario researchers are awarded the Polanyi Prize in the fields of chemistry, literature, physics, physiology and medicine or economics. The awards are in honour of Univertsity of Toronto Professor John Charles Polanyi, recipient of the 1986 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work in reaction dynamics. Valued at $20,000 each, the awards are targeted to researchers in the early stages of their careers who are planning to continue post-doctoral studies at an Ontario university.

The other recipients of the Polanyi Prize recipients for 2007 were:

  • Professor Quincy J. Almeida, of Wilfrid Laurier University, for physiology and medicine,
  • Professor Sarah Phillips Casteel, of Carleton University, for literature,
  • Professor Naomi Matsuura, of the University of Toronto, for physiology/medicine and physics,
  • Professor Derek Andrew Pratt, of Queen’s University, for chemistry.