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Honorary degree citation - Hugh MacLennan*

By: Patricia Morley, June 1987

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Hugh MacLennan, a writer whose work is quintessentially Canadian and whose literary concerns have allowed us to see ourselves more clearly.

"If you seek for a monument, gaze around you." This tribute was paid to British architect Sir Christopher Wren. Writers are social architects who reflect and often shape society by giving us a deeper understanding of ourselves. In novels such as Barometer Rising, Two Solitudes, Each Man's Son, The Watch That Ends the Night, Return of the Sphinx and Voices in Time, MacLennan wrestled with his Canadian identity and its distinctiveness: with the harshness and strengths of a Puritan culture, with our political tensions, with all our anomalies and complexities.

Writers are makers: one of the medieval meanings of the word is "one who brings about a condition, a state of mind." Margaret Laurence referred to MacLennan and several other writers of his generation as "sodbusters". They were and are among the makers of Canada.

MacLennan's accomplishments include being a Rhodes scholar, a distinguished teacher, and an outstanding tennis player. However Scotman's Return is not a description of his forehand stroke but a brilliant collection of essays. If you are unfamiliar with his prose style, try this description of the natural beauty of Scotland: "One evening, watching a rainbow form over Loch Leven, the mists drop down the hills into rain, then watching the sky rent open and such a tumult of golden light pour forth that the mountains themselves moved and were transfigured, still moved and then were lifted up until they ceased to be mountains and turned themselves in an abstraction of sheer glory and gold -- watching this I realized, or thought I did why these deperate people had endured so long against the civilization of the south."

Many of MacLennan's beloved Highlanders came to Canada and formed part of the backbone of this nation. As MacLennan's father loved to tell his son, "It's not easy being Scots." It's not easy being Canadian either. But writers like MacLennan remind us, "It's not meant to be."

Hugh MacLennan has been writing and publishing for half a century. His deeds honour him more than any poor words of mine could do.

Mr. Chancellor, it is my privilege to present to you, on behalf of the Senate and by the authority of the Board of Governors, Hugh MacLennan, that you man confer on him the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.

* deceased

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