Marie-Christine Leps, associate professor in the Department of English in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, died on Oct. 17 following a short illness.
She was born March 31, 1953, and raised in Montréal, QC, where she attended CEGEP and McGill University. In 1985, she completed her doctorate in comparative literature and began a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at York University. She commenced teaching in York’s Department of English in 1987 and devoted her career to the University, where she was an associate professor.
At York, in addition to her focus on literary theory, discourse analysis, and modernism/postmodernism, she contributed to the graduate programs in English, Humanities, and Social and Political Thought. From 2011-14, and again in 2015-16, she served as the director of the Graduate Program in English and worked vigorously on behalf of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
In 2012, Professor Leps attended the Institute for World Literature at Harvard University (IWL), an experience that proved to be personally and professionally enriching (she served on its advisory board for several years). Since the 1990s, the field of world literature has emerged as one of the most compelling ways in which literature departments have offset the globalization and homogenization of culture. The impact of world literature studies on York’s English Department has been significant. Professor Leps developed a graduate diploma in world literature – the first in Canada – that enables master’s and doctoral candidates to study broadly and also do pilot projects leading to major research papers or doctoral dissertations. In the summer of 2014, the IWL invited her to showcase York’s new diploma program at the Institute (held in City University of Hong Kong). She served as the coordinator of the Graduate Diploma in World Literature from its inception until the Summer of 2022.
In October 2014, she co-organized a York symposium on “Trajectories in Comparative and World Literature” to launch both the Graduate Diploma in World Literature and the Graduate Diploma in Comparative Literature. A colloquium for graduate students followed two years later. In March 2022, she organized and hosted a colloquium, “World Fictions of Friendship in Critical Times,” showcasing the work of 10 York graduate students and a faculty member.
Professor Leps was the author of Apprehending the Criminal: The Production of Deviance in Nineteenth-Century Discourse (1992) and, in September 2022, the co-author (with Lesley Higgins) of Heterotopic World Fiction: Thinking Beyond Biopolitics with Woolf, Foucault, Ondaatje. She published numerous articles on discourse analysis, modernist and postmodernist fiction, and world literature, and was a gifted public speaker.
She is survived by her husband, Bruno Leps, and her daughter and son-in-law, Caroline and Callum Arnold Leps.
As per her request, there will be no funeral or memorial service. Donations to the Princess Margaret Research Fund would be appreciated.