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304 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 Plymouth Brethren and of the long agony of his leaving them. This is very fully treated in the biography, so well that I could hope for more. He exchanged letters on religious subjects with his friends Northrop Frye and Robert Finch, which might warrant collection. He was (like Frye) immersed in that old heathen Oswald Spengler, but he showed no interest in Karl Barth, the greatest Protestant theologian of the century, who might have resolved some of his perplexities. It is good to be left with unanswered questions at the end of this impressive biography. (WILLIAM BLISSETT) Roberta Hamilton. Setting the Agenda: Jean Royce and the Shaping of Queen=s University University of Toronto Press. 354. $45.00 For many Queen=s University students, Jean Royce, registrar from 1933 to 1968, >was= the university. For thirty-five years she registered, advised, and admonished students; yet she receives only a few sentences in the official history of Queen=s. In this biography Roberta Hamilton sets out to ascertain her contribution, at the same time casting light on the underreported working conditions, career options, and constraints faced by women during the period. The author is well placed to evaluate Royce=s career, being both a Queen=s academic familiar with the institution and a sociologist wise to the ways of bureaucracy. She writes with verve in a breezy, colloquial style which should make this book appealing to a wide readership; and she has delved deeply into the records. Yet for all her ingenious readings of laconic official documents, she is not able to substantiate the contention, implied in her title, that Royce actually >shaped= the direction of Queen=s. Of course it depends what one considers vital in the history of institutions; spirit and values, which Royce certainly embodies, are just as important as programs and policies. But this is not Hamilton=s point. She would like to credit Royce with influence over specific developments through her role as registrar, secretary and minute-taker to many committees, and drawer-up of agendas. However, nothing in the book shows her influencing, or even expressing opinions on, decisions regarding curriculum, the establishment of new departments and programs, governing structure (except for memos on the Senate and Board of Trustees), or criteria for admission and degrees. It is not convincing to argue that, given the workings of power structures, she >must have= had this influence, even if the minutes are silent about it. Rather she seems to have played, as she herself believed, a >housekeeping= and supportive role. Going far beyond the requirements of her position, as this biography amply demonstrates, she sought out good students through outreach work with high schools, guided them to suitable courses, encouraged them, and sometimes even helped them materially when they humanities 305 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 risked failure. Then she steered them to further opportunities whether they thought they wanted them or not. Such activities may be the stuff of legend (around the campus), but they are not the stuff of riveting biography. There is a whole thirty-four-page chapter of verbatim accounts by former students of their encounters with the registrar: one hundred and four variations on the theme of >I came, I met Jean Royce, I registered.= The large number of reminiscences is evidence of Hamilton=s thorough and accurate research, but otherwise could better have been drastically condensed. Particularly in the account of Royce=s retirement years, nuggets such as the appreciative analysis of Royce=s friendship with Margaret Hooey have to be extracted from a welter of less interesting details about her monthly grocery bills or payments to her cleaning lady. Frequent reflections on the nature of biography, admirably postmodern though they are, also impede the flow of the narrative; there is much to be said for overcoming self-consciousness and getting on with the story. But Royce left little in the way of personal revelation, so that the author is left to supply it herself with surmises, suggestions, and hypotheses. This is, then, as much an encounter with Hamilton...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 304-305
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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