Flinn, John Ferguson

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Flinn, John Ferguson

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John Ferguson Flinn was born in Toronto on 24 October 1920, the son of Thomas Flinn and Margaret Robson. In 1938 he entered Victoria College at the University of Toronto “on scholarships from Harbord C[ollegiate[ I[nstitute], added more each year.” [1] There he took Modern Languages and was much involved in extra-curricular activities. He sat on the executive of the French Club for four years, ending as president, and also for four years in the Canadian Officers Training Corps, where he commanded its Machine-gun Wing III in his final year. In his final year he was also president of the German Club, a member of the executive of the Class of 1938, and a member of the Hart House Art Committee. He graduated with a BA honours in 1942.

Following graduation, Professor Flinn enlisted in the Canadian Army. He took the 15th Field Security Course at Royal Military College in Kingston in the fall of 1942, followed by an intelligence course the following summer. In 1944 he took a wireless intelligence course in the United Kingdom. He trained initially (June 1942-June 1943) with the Canadian Armoured Corps (Advanced) Training Centre and the No. 2 Training Regiment. From August 1943 he served with the Canadian Intelligence Corps as an information officer, initially (from December 1943) at the headquarters of the 2nd Canadian Corps in England, and then with the 1st Canadian Wireless Intelligence Section in the Mediterranean theatre (August 1944-March 1945) and in northwestern Europe (March-November 1945). He was promoted to captain in May 1945 and received various medals. He was transferred to the Reserve in February 1946. [2]

Back in Toronto, Professor Flynn returned to his alma mater as a graduate student, receiving his Master of Arts in 1947. In 1949 he moved to Paris, France, where he was employed as “assistant d’anglais” (until 1952) at the Lycée Turgot and “professeur d’anglais” (until 1953) at the Institut National de la Statistique et des Ētudes économiques. He then entered the Sorbonne where he studied under Professor Jean Frappier and received his Doctorat de l’Université in 1958. His doctoral thesis, ‘Le Roman de Renart dans la literature française et dans les littératures étrangères au Moyen Age’, served as the basis for much of his research work in later life. In 1959 he was hired by the University of Toronto as a special lecturer in the Department of French at University College and was also appointed to the School of Graduate Studies. He was promoted to assistant professor the following year, to associate professor in 1964 and to the rank of professor in 1967, a year after receiving tenure. He retired from the University of Toronto in 1986

At the University of Toronto, Professor Flinn was much involved in departmental administrative work. From 1964 to 1968 he served as academic secretary and undergraduate secretary of French in University College and from 1969 to 1975 as secretary to the Graduate Department of French. From 1966 to 1968 he was a member of the Academic Advisory Committee of the Graduate Department of French and at various times (1966-1967, 1970-1971, 1974-1975) was a member of the Degree Committee for Division I of the School of Graduate Studies. At various times, he served on other committees in the Department of French at University College and other College committees, in the Department of French, the School of Graduate Studies and the Faculty of Arts and Science. From 1970 to 1972 he was a member of the university Senate.

Outside the University of Toronto, he served on the Appraisals Committee of the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies for three years (1973-1976), the last two as chair; and for a number of years from 1964 was a consultant to the Certification Department of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation.

In the Department of French, Professor Flinn taught courses in language practice, French realist literature, medieval French language and literature, and practical translation. At the graduate level, he taught courses in the structure of Old French and the bourgeoise literature of the Middle Ages. He supervised a number of masters and four doctoral students.

Professor Flinn’s research centred on bourgeoise literature in the Middle Ages, particularly in France, and the iconography of the Roman de Renart and related works in medieval Europe.

He wrote one major book, Le Roman de Renart dans la littérature française et dans les literatures étrangères au Moyen Age, book reviews, a few refereed articles and numerous non-refereed publications. Two of these were articles on Reynard the Fox and Gauthier d’Arras for the Dictionary of the Middle Ages but most were translations. The latter began with English translations of 97 biographies for volume I of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography/Dictionaire biographique du Canada (1965). For Volume II (1969), Professor Flinn chaired the English Translation Committee and was translator, and continued as English translator for volumes III (1974), IV (1979) and V (1983), VI (1987) and VII (1988). He translated a number of articles, pamphlets for the Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario, booklets for the Public Archives of Canada, and legal documents for the Ontario and federal governments and the University of Toronto. He also interpreted phrases of documents for various bodies and individuals.

Some of Professor Flinn’s articles grew out of addresses presented at conferences. Most of his papers dealt with bourgeoise literature of the Middle Ages and the iconography of the Roman de Renart.

Professor Flinn died in Toronto on 14 June 2009.


[1] Torontonensis, 44 (1942) 50
[2] Curriculum vitae (September 1982) in B2009-0038/001(01); UTA, A1965-0002/009


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