Friday, March 14, 2014

haunting the place

Holywell churchyard in the morning mist, en route to the English Faculty Building - where I realized that I was talking in Lecture Theatre 2, where I lectured on a pretty regular basis for 15 years.  So I felt decidedly like a revenant.  And it was a very bitter sweet kind of haunting - it's quite lovely to be back, and Oxford always looks stunning when it's misted up.  But I woke up to the news that Marilyn Butler had died - and even though she'd been ill with Alzheimers a sad long time, that was a piece of my past perishing that was especially poignant as I walked into a space that I very much associated with her.  I heard Marilyn's lectures on Jane Austen as an undergraduate; and then we were friendly when I was a grad student - and then when I returned, after 5 years at Bristol (where, by some gloomy coincidence, I worked on Tony Benn's political campaigns - and he died today, too - and he was David Butler's tutorial partner when they were both undergraduates, and so the world is very small, in England) - when I returned, Marilyn was a simply wonderful mentor to me as a junior colleague.  I wish I had some nugget of an anecdote to share, but nothing jumps out - though what I remember best is the time that she came round to a meeting in my tiny terraced house - my first house! no wonder I won't get rid of the sofa, to this day - in Marlborough Road, and we were caballing about how to set up the Women's Writing Option in Oxford.  To think that that was then - 1985 or 6 - a real local political hot potato …But throughout that, and for years to come, Marilyn was a model of integrity, academic sanity, and enthusiasm.

So this is, deliberately, a Gothically- souped up memorial picture.

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