by Daniel McCabe
Charles Taylor and Yvan Lamonde ought to get together for a cup of coffee some time and compare notes. Both McGill professors will be spending the next two years writing books on related themes courtesy of the prestigious Killam Research Fellowship program.
The highly competitive fellowships, worth about $64,000 a yaer each, enable scholars and scientists to devote up to two years to full-time research and writing.
Taylor, whom Globe and Mail columnist Robert Fulford calls, "by a long way (Canada's) best-known philosopher," will be focusing his attention on what he terms "the political culture of modernity."
It isn't entirely new territory for Taylor, who dealt with the subject of modernity as CBC Radio's Massey Lecturer in 1991. Taylor says he'll be spending his time writing a book about "the ways that we exist as a society which are typically 'modern.' For instance, our sense of what it means today to be part of a 'civil society,' our sense of ourselves as members of a market society, our sense of what nationalism is." Taylor wants to explore these themes and determine "how they all arose."
A rare two-time winner of a Killam Fellowship, Taylor chalks it up to the fact that he could only accept his last fellowship for a single year.
For his part, Lamonde, a professor of French language and literature, is enjoying an academic year to remember. His Killam Fellowship comes on the heels of a Governor General's Prize for the country's best French nonfiction book.
Like Taylor, Lamonde will be busy writing about ideas for the next little while. His fellowship will be used to support a two- volume intellectual history of Quebec. "Ninety percent of the research is done for the first volume (covering 1760 to 1896) and about 75% is done for the second (dealing with this century), so I'll be devoting myself to the writing," says Lamonde.
The series will explore the development of liberalism, nationalism and other movements in Quebec throughout the province's history. "I want to know how major ideas are produced, diffused, received and consumed--the full cycle," says Lamonde.
He is interested in how these ideas "penetrated society through the press, through political discourse, through Church sermons," and he also wants to discuss the impact influential cities such as Paris, New York, London and Rome had on Quebec society in this regard.
Chemistry professor John Harrod was a Killam winner last year and his fellowship was officially renewed.