Photo: James Gillespie

Barbara Thompson Godard (1941-2010) was Professor of English, French, Social and Political Thought, and Women's Studies at York University, where she was named to the Avi Bennett Historica Chair in Canadian Literature.

With a B.A. from the University of Toronto and an M.A. from l'Université de Montréal, Dr. Godard completed her doctorate at l'Université de Bordeaux and began teaching at York in 1971 as a visiting assistant professor. She was hired into a tenure-track position in 1976. A prolific and gregarious scholar, she published eight books, 80 book chapters and 115 articles and catalogue entries. She translated the major writers of Québec feminism, including Nicole Brossard, Yolande Villemaire and Louky Bersianik. She also served as editor or on the editorial board of 22 journals. She was a founding co-editor of the feminist literary periodical Tessera , a contributing editor of Open Letter and The Semiotic Review of Books and the book review editor for Topia: A Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies . She also made longstanding contributions to Resources for Feminist Research , Voix et Images , and ECW , among others. A copy of Professor Godard's Curriculum Vitae is included among the documents of this collection.

Barbara Godard inspired her colleagues and students through her critical creativity and her unwavering commitment to interrogating and producing the conditions for full civic engagement in the university and in the public sphere.

On December 5 & 6, 2008, a gathering was organized by students, former students, colleagues, and friends of Barbara Godard to honour her, not only for her resounding impact on Canadian literature through her work as translator, theoretician and critic, but also for her immense contribution, through teaching and collaboration, in helping to create an avant-garde community of women writers and artists in Canada.

Entitled "Inspiring Collaborations," the symposium began with a joint keynote address by Nicole Brossard and Daphne Marlatt (both pre-eminent figures in the French and English Canadian literary scene), and included two large round-table discussions, the first centered on Tessera , a review of literature and criticism of which Barbara was a founding editor, the second involving past and present students speaking about her influence on them. Interspersed with these events were musical and vocal performances and poetry readings, a screening of an early film involving Barbara as a student, along with exhibitions of visual and video art, all by people who in some way were inspired by her (see the copy of the programme for "Inspiring Collaborations" included in this collection).

It was by no means certain that Professor Godard would be able to attend the 2008 celebrations because, in the summer and fall of that year, she was exhausted by intensive chemotherapy treatments against cancer, and was worried about the effects of excitement and a crowd of people on her battered immune system. But she did attend, for hours at a time, in a striking outfit with a broad-brimmed black hat, supplying from the floor precise names and dates to roundtable participants when their memories faltered. She also found time and energy to prepare a moving and witty communication of thanks at the end of the day (included as one of the texts in this collection).

Flushed with the emotional and intellectual high of the December event, organizers decided to look into preparing some kind of published festschrift for Barbara, involving in the first instance and as much as possible the proceedings of the December, 2008 event, including visual and video art, as well as a more formal, international, academic collection of essays reflecting Barbara's interests. It was early decided that Yorkspace was the most suitable site for the "Inspiring Collaboration" proceedings. Slowly, we have been able to post a selection of texts and visual material, and we intend to present as much documentary evidence as we can, including excerpts from a film made by Brenda Longfellow and associates during the event. This collection is not intended to present academic or reviewed publications, and in our editing we have tried to respect the spontaneity of the event.

Yorkspace also seems to be the logical place for an eventual posting of the complete writings of Barbara Godard, especially of unpublished articles or those now difficult to find. But such a project, as anyone who knows her work will agree, is an enormous undertaking that will take some time. This collection might also be the place to include later articles and hommages to Barbara that do not fit the parameters of the printed festschrifts.

Meanwhile, the second part of the mandate has gone forward, with a call for proposals, a heartening response, a primary selection, and the possibility of two printed publications: one in book form, and another as a special number of the periodical, Open Letter . Yorkspace will, of course, include information on those eventual printed publications, if not the texts themselves.

In the noon hour of May 10, 2011, a brief ceremony was held to mark the naming of a section of St. Mary Street (leading west of Bay, just south of Danforth) as Barbara Godard Way. This initiative was proposed by Barbara Sternberg, encouraged by Cheryl Sourkes, and seen through City Hall by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. All three spoke eloquently about Barbara to the people assembled. Pictures were taken by a City of Toronto photographer, and by Cheryl Sourkes. See under "texts" addresses given by Barbara Sternberg and Cheryl Sourkes at that time. To view all items related to this ceremony, see the series: Unveiling Ceremony of Barbara Godard Way

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