Doctor of Letters
Born on the first of January 1949, Douglas Fetherling grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia in a set of very trying circumstances, ones he relates in what is perhaps his most famous book, his acclaimed Travels by Night: A Memoir of the Sixties (1994). His life has been truly one of triumph over adversity.
The emergence of his career as a person of letters, as a poet, essayist, editor, independent scholar, cultural historian and visual artist began when he moved to Canada in the mid 1960s. He settled in Toronto in 1967, where his job at The Anansi Press placed him creatively in the midst of an important Canadian movement, a time of vibrant growth in Canadian literary culture. It was during this time that the Anansi Press was facilitating such (now) famous Canadian writers as Margaret Atwood.
Over the past three decades his daily work has always placed him in highly creative and productive locations. Thus, among very many other things, he has been a consulting editor at Books in Canada, literary editor of the Toronto Star, and instructor in the journalism and urban planning programs at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. In just the past decade alone, he has been literary editor of the Kingston Whig-Standard (1988-1992), an Asia-Pacific Foundation Fellow in China (1990), writer in residence at Queen's University (1993), general editor of the journal Canadian Notes and Queries and routine contributing editor to the magazines Saturday Night, Books in Canada, Canadian Art, and The New Brunswick Reader. He has worked in all of these capacities while serving on innumerable arts panels and cultural committees.
In addition to being a plural enabler of culture, he is a recognized writer of the first reader. He is the author or editor of fifty books, many in the field of Canadian studies, and his books include much acclaimed history works such as The Rise of the Canadian Newspaper (1990), cinema history and criticism works such as Documents in Canadian Film (1988) and Some Day Soon: Essays on Canadian Songwriters (1990), cultural studies such as A George Woodcock Reader (1980), a novel set in the context of the Vietnam War titled The File on Arthur Moses (1994), travel narratives inclusive of The Other China: Journeys Around Taiwan (1995), eight volumes of verse - the most recent of which is Letters Outward (1995) - and his much praised, much anticipated literary memoir, Travels by Night: A Memoir of the Sixties (1994). As a visual artist, he has had many solo exhibitions, particularly including ones in Toronto at the Arlene Stamp's Studio, Beacon's, and the Annex Art Centre - and at the Robert MacLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa. It is a commitment to perfection which unites all of these efforts into a fine creative whole, and into the public record of a genuine and first-class mind.
His prodigious work is nationally recognized as a model of intellectual, artistic and cultural excellence, and he has recently been awarded the prestigious Harbourfront Prize "for substantial contribution to Canadian letters."
He currently lives in Toronto, where his work in progress includes a biography of George Woodcock and a second volume of memoirs.
A Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) will be conferred on him at the evening convocation.