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Herb Wyile

In memoriam

Herb WylieThe news of Herb Wyile’s untimely death on 3 July 2016 caught all of us by surprise. As many of us gathered in Wolfville for a memorial service that brought together family, friends, and colleagues from Acadia and elsewhere, our talk naturally turned to ways that we could honour a scholar who was known for both his collegiality and scholarship. A Canadian literature prize in his honour seemed like a fitting memorial to this wonderful scholar and colleague.

Herb Wyile was born in Hong Kong, the child of a British medical service family that came to Canada in 1969. He had a lifelong fascination with colonialism and its impact on regions, cultures, and peoples. A respected and accomplished scholar of Canadian Literature, Herb was a professor of English at Acadia University for the past 15 years. His colleagues in the field remark that he was a believer in understatement rather than exaggeration – litotes over hyperbole – who worked with quiet and consistent care to produce a body of work that fundamentally challenged, and changed, the way the writings of the Atlantic provinces are studied and understood.

His work focused primarily on questions raised by literature’s relationship with regionalism, history, and neoliberal economics. The books and collections he wrote and edited, including the landmark texts A Sense of Place: Re-evaluating Regionalism in Canadian and American Writing (1998), Speculative Fictions: Contemporary Canadian Novelists and the Writing of History (2002), Surf’s Up: The Rising Tide of Contemporary Atlantic-Canadian Literature (2008), Speaking in the Past Tense: Canadian Novelists on Writing Historical Fiction (2007), and the prize-winning Anne of Tim Hortons: Globalization and the Reshaping of Atlantic-Canadian Literature (2011) are characterized by sharp turns of phrase, comfort with complicated theoretical concepts, and a strong sense of justice and concern for people marginalized on the basis of their ethnicity or gender, their economic circumstances, or the region they inhabit.

A team player, Herb derived his greatest satisfaction from shared victories. Just as he loved his weekly rituals with his hockey or soccer teammates, he contributed to the collective success of so many others by playing an essential behind-the-scenes role. He mentored dozens of graduate students from across the country, worked hard for the Acadia Faculty Association, served on the national SSHRC review committee, and co-edited the journal Studies in Canadian Literature/Études en littérature canadienne (SLC/ÉLC) since 2012.

A kind, wise, smart, mirthful, gracious, generous, and gentle man, and the finest sort of friend, he will be remembered for his crackling wit and wry humour and for his genuine humility. Herb Wyile (5 December 1961–3 July 2016) died at his home in the company of his family in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, very soon after being diagnosed with advanced cancer.

Studies in Canadian Literature/Études en littérature canadienne is working to establish a Canadian Literature prize in Herb Wyile’s honour. We are seeking donations from friends and colleagues to endow a fund that will make this prize possible. The fund will be administered by the University of New Brunswick, where SCL/ÉLC is published and where Herb did his PhD. All donors will receive a tax receipt. This prize will be awarded annually to the best essay published in SCL/ÉLC over the previous calendar year. In order to make a $500 annual prize a reality, we need to raise $13,000. The first $5000 in donations will be matched, dollar for dollar, by SCL/ÉLC. He was an exceptionally generous colleague to so many of us; we are hoping that our community can come together in memory of Herb to make this prize possible.

You may support The Herb Wyile Prize in Canadian Literature by donating online or by mailing a contribution to our offices in Saint John or Fredericton. Thank you for your support.

How you can help

We encourage you to share this page with family, friends and colleagues who may have known Herb, and to help honour his memory by making a gift in support of the memorial fund at UNB online or by mail.

How to establish named gifts

Establishing named scholarships, bursaries or other funds is an easy and meaningful way to ensure that you or someone you care about is remembered with a special connection to UNB. Contact us to learn more.