Sandra Djwa has provided readers with a fascinating artifact: a cultural biography with a human face. Roy Daniells (1902-1979), an English professor who finished his career at the University of British Columbia, and an outstanding scholar, teacher and poet, influenced at least four generations of students and is the subject of Professing English. Once established as a professor, Daniells was a key figure - a cultural catalyst - in the consolidation of English as a discipline and the development of Canadian literature as a recognised body of writing and a legitimate focus of scholarship, interacting with major personalities of the era like Earle Birney, Northrop Frye, E.J. Pratt, Sinclair Ross, Margaret Laurence and A.S.P. Woodhouse.
Djwa's examination of his life is a moving personal story as well as a mini-history of literary studies in Canada. It is also the account of an individual struggling against a strict religious upbringing who turned instead to the devotional poets of the seventeenth century. In this biography, Daniells' life becomes a prism refracting aspects of the discipline - the old ties between religion and literature, the making of a professor, mentorship and the way it functioned, women in the academy and changes in the discipline and the professoriate. His devotion to English studies and his unflagging encouragement of young Canadian writers and students makes Daniells one of the greatest unsung heroes in recent history. Thanks to this wonderful biography, he will receive the recognition he so justly deserves.