International Festival of Authors adds academic conference

Oct 24, 2014 | Arts

By Kate Richards

The International Festival of Authors takes an academic approach for the first time in its 35 year history and enters a partnership with Humber College’s School of Liberal Arts and Science.

The 11-day festival began Thursday and is held at the Harbourfront Centre in downtown Toronto. The IFOA will welcome more than 150 participants from 20 countries worldwide in over 100 events.

The IFOA features many big names in the global literary community, including L.A. Confidential and Black Dahlia author James Ellroy who is being interviewed by American-born Canadian author Linwood Barclay Friday evening.

Other well known authors include Colm Tóibín (also featured Friday evening), Joseph Boyden, Wayson Choy, David Cronenberg, Ann-Marie Macdonald, and Valerie Martin.

Many of the works, which include fiction, non-fiction, drama and poetry, hone in on an historical perspective.

“There’s a history focus overall,” said Maeve O’Regan, communications and marketing co-ordinator for the IFOA. “But we’re specifically looking at books that focus on the effects of World War I.”

The academic conference is called Representing World War I: Perspectives at the Centenary.

The IFOA continues to collaborate with Humber’s School for Writers, which will host a workshop for this year’s festival as well, said O’Regan. “So this is something that’s been a long time in the making.”  Now, Humber’s School of Liberal Arts and Science is a “new partnership and one that we hope to work with again next year, possibly with a different focus in mind,” she said.

The conference takes place between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2 and will include about 40 speakers who will discuss multiple aspects of the effects of WWI.

“Everyone at the conference is publishing scholarly material and is an expert in WWI studies in some capacity or another,” said Daniel Hambly, co-chair of the conference and an historian in Humber’s School of Liberal Arts and Science. “Most of them are historians but there are a lot of different subcategories within WWI research,” he said.

Some of those subcategories include nationalism, gender, medical history, cultural memory and literary narratives.

One of the more innovative cultural analyses in the conference uses letters written on the home front by Canadian soldiers and sets them to early 20th century classical music, said Hambly. The panel is led by an academic from McMaster University and the choral conductor and artistic director of the Bach-Elgar Choir in Hamilton.

The IFOA runs until Nov. 2.