Sunday, July 20, 2008

More Sad News

I've also just found out that Rick Arrandale died last month. He had been in a hospice for a while, and when I tried to write to him to tell him what he means to me and how much he inspired me, I found that I couldn't... so I sent him a dvd of Stewart Lee instead - not in a "look old chap, cheer up, here's something to make you smile," kind of way but just because I think Stewart Lee is Rick's cup of tea and because comedy is important to me and Sim and Stewart Lee is our favourite and I think I was trying to say, "here's something important to me," as a way of saying, "you're important to me too." Dumb, huh? But what else can you say?!?

Anyway, Rick was one of my lecturers at Canterbury Christ Church University (used to be Canterbury Christ Church University College - it's gone up in the world since I left!). He was a great pastoral help, navigating a lot of us through the turbulent times of early independence - you know, coming out, depression, drugs, screwing up, all kinds of things (not ALL of those were me!). He was incredible at supporting me academically as well, telling me that, actually, I was pretty good at this academia thing when I hadn't really "found myself" at school! He had a great laugh (more of a giggle, I guess you could say) and a lovely smile. He hardly ever shaved properly, and we loved that he really didn't seem to care what he looked like. I thought he was pretty hot, actually. Look at his lovely face... go on, look at that photo! Awww.

I remember during one lecture he made a reference to Royston Vasey. I was the only person who laughed and he said, "that's how you find the sickos in a crowd." Love it. (Follow this link if you don't know what Royston Vasey is - don't worry, it just means you aren't a sicko).

He introduced me to feminist theology, and goddess religions. He taught me about female genital mutilation on my twentieth birthday - nice. He made me a feminist (although the roots of that, involving a predilection to Wide Sargasso Sea over Jane Eyre - reclamation of silenced history and all that - can be traced back). His general accepting/indifferent outlook also helped me accept other aspects of myself (those roots go back to watching Mrs Potiphah through binoculars at the theatre and wondering whether anyone else was watching her instead of Phillip Schofield!). He also introduced me to mythology, mysticism, the New Age, and Jungian psychoanalysis, and humoured me through a jumbled dissertation that magically transformed itself under his tutelage into a feminist interpretation of the Perceval myth.

He was incredibly important to a lot of us at university... Janine, Ellie, Rachel, Pamela, me... You know, the ones with the problems!!!

He was all the more cooler for leaving uni after we graduated and moving to Glastonbury where he ran academic tours round... well, the tor - and other stuff, I'm sure but that was an obvious joke to make. At the Isle of Avalon Foundation, Rick introduced university students to the history, mythology and sacred sites of Glastonbury. The Isle's homepage reads:

The Directors and Staff of the Isle of Avalon Foundation regret to inform you that our Chairman, Rick Arrandale, passed over peacefully on 27th June 2008 after a long illness. We will remember him for his passion and enthusiasm for the Foundation and its students. We will all miss him. The Isle of Avalon Foundation would lke to extend our deepest sympathies to Rick's family and friends for their tragic loss.

Very Sad News

On Friday, as Sim and I were driving down to Lichfield to pick up the keys to our new house, we got a phone call from our friend Patrick – another PhD student in the department – to tell us that our lecturer Dr. Paul Fletcher had died suddenly, whilst attending a conference in Australia. It was such a shock. He had recently had a baby, May, with his partner Debs and so we’re especially thinking of both of them at the moment.

Paul was on all three of my annual panel reviews and was always incredibly supportive of me and my research. I was honoured that he spoke so highly and very fondly of me to Sim when they were both smoking out the back door of Paul’s newly acquired house, which he regularly opened up to students in order to feed them fantastic curries. He introduced Sim and me to Arvo Part, so we loved him for that. He always called Sim “Simeon,” and always asked after him. Undergraduates loved him, and there is (quite rightly) a Facebook group devoted to him. We thought he was always very well dressed.

He would begin his questions to conference speakers with an impressive oration, which the speaker would have to follow if they were to have any hope of understanding the question! He was incredibly intelligent and marvellously highbrow – no matter what the topic of conversation. I never really managed to have a “proper” conversation with him; the nearest I came was about two minutes of “baby stuff” before Debs gave birth – but then it rapidly turned into a one-to-one philosophical lecture about the nature of the necessary silence between “baby noises” and a baby’s first words! Classic.

He put a postcard of Homer J. Simpson on his door that shows a cross-section of his brain and the amount given over to thinking about donuts, which someone changed to read “Dr. Paul Fletcher.” He never looked like he ate many donuts, but then again maybe there was a secret passion we didn’t know about?

I was very shy of him, which he noticed, and he told me not to be – which didn’t really help!

During their recent house-move, Paul and Debs gave us their old vacuum cleaner – it is bright yellow, wonderfully retro, and still working okay. We said we’d send them photos and updates of how he was doing in his new surroundings, but we never did.

I looked forward to hearing Paul’s thoughts on my thesis as it began to take shape over the next few months – I’m sure it will be worse off for not having had his input.

Here's what our department put on our website:

In Memoriam

It is with great sadness and regret that the Department announces the sudden death of Dr Paul Fletcher. Paul was in Sydney, Australia participating in a conference when he had a heart attack.

A much loved colleague and friend, Paul was appointed to the Department in 1997. His research interests ranged across several fields, including Continental Philosophy, Modern Theology, and Religion and Political Theory. His teaching spanned many areas, including Christian thought, religion and film, political theology, and ethics and religion. He supervised several PhDs in areas related to such interests. Immensely popular with and highly committed to our students, his teaching regularly received high evaluations.

He made an immense contribution to the life of the Department including serving as Director of Undergraduate Studies and organising for several years the regular department research seminar series. Beyond the Department Paul's wide range of interests and engaging style brought him into contact with people across the Faculty and University.

We will miss him

I can't believe it.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Thinking about this...

Just got back from a glorious holiday in the Ardeche with Sim's family. Beautiful scenery and wonderful weather. Back now to the realities of moving house this month whilst trying to continue transcribing!

I'm thinking about submitting an abstract for a postgraduate conference happening in September at Oxford Uni, "Religion, Atheism, and the Community of Reason in Modernity." The call for papers includes both contemporary issues and historical topics. Of partiuclar interest to me would be to present and/or hear a paper on the following:

• The persistence of theological tropes in contemporary philosophy

• The relation between religious and secular ethics

• The theological turn in recent phenomenology

• The critique of religion in Nietzsche, Marxism, feminism, psychoanalysis etc

• Polemics against (onto-)theology in French thought in the sixties and seventies (Deleuze, Kristeva and the early Derrida)