The Hugh MacLennan Lecture

John Hugh MacLennan, internationally acclaimed Canadian author and five-time winner of the Governor General's Award for Fiction, was born in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, March 20, 1907. When he was 7 years old, his family moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia. MacLennan was ten years old and living in Halifax when the Imo and the French munitions ship the Mont Blanc collided in Halifax Harbour on December 6, 1917. The resulting explosion, known as the Halifax Explosion, was the greatest man-made explosion in human history prior to the atomic bomb, and his first published novel, Barometer Rising (1941), chronicles this event. His next novel and probably his most famous work, Two Solitudes (1945), was a best-seller in both Canada and the United States, and in 1946 won him the first of five Governor General's Awards. In 1951 Hugh MacLennan moved to Montreal and joined McGill University's Department of English, where he continued to write and publish, winning his last two Governor General's Awards for his collection of essays Thirty and Three (1954), and the novel The Watch That Ends the Night (1959). Montreal remained his home until he died on November 7, 1990.

The Hugh MacLennan Lecture series was established in 1992 with help of a 5-year grant from the M.E. Hart Foundation, and receives ongoing support from the Friends of the Library. John Metcalf delivered the first lecture in the series on October 21, 1992, in the Stephen Leacock Building.

McGill University's Rare Books and Special Collections is the repository of the Hugh MacLennan papers, which includes correspondence, two unpublished novels, the drafts of Two Solitudes and The Watch that Ends the Night, and many articles. Some of this material is available online through the Hugh MacLennan Virtual Library Project.

The Hugh MacLennan Lecture is sponsored by Donald Walcot.


  • Book bans and their impact on Canadian communities, a round table discussion with panelists Michelle Arbuckle (Executive Director of the Ontario Library Association), Brendan de Caires (Executive Director of PEN Canada), and award-winning Canadian author Robin Stevenson on Thursday, April 25, 2024 at 5:30 p.m. Leacock 26 More information and registration.

Past lectures

  • Ann-Marie MacDonald in conversation with Professor Erin Hurley (Hybrid Event)
    Stories and How They Tell Themselves
    April 26, 2023
    Watch the lecture

  • Rosemary Sullivan in conversation with Anne Lagacé Dowson
    "The Betrayal of Anne Frank" and Beyond: The Work and Process of Rosemary Sullivan
    May 4, 2022 
    Watch the lecture
  • Danny Ramadan in conversation with Ann-Marie MacDonald
    Navigating Identity Through Storytelling
    April 29, 2021 
    Watch the lecture
  • Carol Off
    Crossing the Line
    October 8, 2020
    Watch the lecture
  • Esi Edugyan in conversation with Amanda Parris
    April 29, 2019
    Watch the lecture
  • Louise Penny
    Murder for a Living
    April 19, 2018
    Watch the lecture
  • Charlotte Gray
    A Personal Portrait of Canada at 150
    April 27, 2017
  • Thomas King 
    Blue Metropolis First Peoples Literary Prize and interview with the CBC's Rosanna Deerchild
    April 15, 2016
  • Sarah MacLachlan
    My friend has a manuscript. Will you read it?” & other FAQs
    April 28, 2015
    Read a review of Sarah MacLachlan's Lecture by Janet Blachford
  • Michael Ondaatje
    Mongrel Art: A discussion of literature and its neighbours
    March 26, 2014
  • Rabbi Lisa Grushcow
    Spiritual Solitudes: Liberal Religion in a Secular Quebec
    April 23, 2013
  • Charles Foran
    City Unique: Montreal in the Life and Imagination of Mordecai Richler
    March 20, 2012
  • Kate Pullinger
    The Future of Fiction: Historical to Digital 
    April 28, 2011
  • The Honourable Ken Dryden
    Becoming Canada: Our Story | Our Politics | Our Future
    October 14, 2010
  • Charlotte Gray
    Truth and truthiness in biography
    April 23, 2009
  • Eleanor Wachtel
    The Lives of Writers
    April 17, 2008
  • Noah Richler
    Why Stories Matter... A defence of the arts in the new Canada
    April 26, 2007
  • Nicole & Émile Martel
    Parental translation, a primer –
    l’ABC de la traduction parentale:

    Nicole and Émile Martel on translating "Life of Pi” to French
    September 28 ,2005
  • Agnes Whitfield
    Two Solitudes: The Paradoxical Destiny of a Canadian Classic
    April 7, 2004
  • John Metcalf
    Something Happened Here
    September 30, 2003
  • Susan Stromberg-Stein
    The Essence of Louis Dudek — from my point of view
    October 9, 2002
  • Edward O. Phillips
    Comedy of Manners
    October 9, 2001
  • Roch Carrier
    The Paper and the Screen
    October 10, 2000
  • Trevor Ferguson
    Imagine That: Imagination as the Language of God
    October 6, 1999
  • May Ebbitt Cutler
    Fear of the Original: A Canadian Phobia
    October 1, 1998
  • Dr. David Staines
    Stephen Leacock: The Man Behind the Humour
    October 8, 1997
  • Susan Swan
    The Writer and Pop Culture
    October 3, 1996
  • Douglas Gibson
    The Book in Canada Today: A Publisher's Perspective
    November 7, 1995
  • Dr. Victor C. Goldbloom
    Hugh MacLennan’s Two Solitudes — Today
    September 29, 1994
  • Mme Louise Gareau
    Hugh MacLennan As I Knew Him
    October 13, 1993
  • John Metcalf
    Inventing Canadian Literature
    October 21, 1992
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