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In memory of Dr Julie Campbell

Published: 10 June 2014

Dr Julie Campbell died on Wednesday 21 May, 2014. She is a great loss to English at the University of Southampton, where she worked for over ten years.

Julie took her first degree (BA Honours in Modern Arts – English) at Kingston University. This was followed by an MA in Anglo-American Literary Relations (University College, London), and a PhD on ‘narrative play’ in the prose fiction of Samuel Beckett and Vladimir Nabokov (Royal Holloway, University of London). She taught at Kingston University for five years, and was then Reader in British Literature (a British Council-funded post) at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. In 1995, she joined the English Department of La Sainte Union, which later became New College, Southampton. She joined English at the University of Southampton in 2003.

A colleague recalls the ongoing importance of Julie’s early work as a Beckett scholar with an anecdote. ‘She was one of the very few scholars to have written on Beckett's long-forgotten early short story "Echo's Bones". In fact, there was only one other piece on it prior to her’s, though more people are writing about it now. It wasn't easy to come by, and it's a sign of how well Julie knew the Beckett archives that she had tracked it down at a time when hardly any scholars knew of its existence. And no wonder: the story was originally commissioned in 1933 by Chatto & Windus for the collection of short stories More Pricks Than Kicks. The editor thought that the manuscript was a bit thin and needed an extra story, but when Beckett obliged, they were horrified by what he'd sent them and turned it down. Faber finally published “Echo's Bones” as a single volume in 2014, and when this event was featured in the TLS's miscellany column "NB" it was Julie's article that was cited in order to explain the story's importance.’ Julie’s more recent research was focused on Samuel Beckett’s radio drama in relation to the specific qualities of the medium: the voice, sound and silence, and the listening experience. This was widening into a larger project on Beckett and the act of listening, and had come to include work on his stage drama and prose work. Julie was writing a monograph on Beckett, with the working title ‘Listening to the Voice in Beckett.’ Julie leaves publications that will continue to inspire Beckett scholars. Click here for a list.

Julie was renowned as an excellent and passionate teacher and mentor. In the words of one colleague, she ‘genuinely inspired her students with a sense that their studies could be vivid and meaningful tools for a life well and fully lived’. Students remember her real interest in them as both developing scholars, and as individuals with complex lives. As one recalls, she gave them confidence and ambition by treating them as ‘the writers of the future’. Another remembers that she came away from her dissertation supervisions ‘not only clearer as to the direction I should be taking with my work, but also in life!’ The extraordinary number of thank you cards she received each year testified to Julie’s deep and consistent popularity amongst undergraduate and MA students.

Julie was doing what we now call 'Public Engagement' sooner and more indefatigably than most. She will be long and well-remembered for her yearly charity fund-raising pantomimes at The Bent Brief pub, which often featured past as well as current students, and allowed her to turn her scholarly interest in the theatre to less-serious effect. Colleagues will miss that knock on the office door every year... the winning smile... twisting your arm oh-so-gently into buying a ticket, then another, then a raffle ticket, then another: she was a very persuasive fundraiser! Julie chose Cyrano de Bergerac as the pantomime for December 2013. Her illness prevented her from being fully involved in the show, but it didn’t stop her mentoring the grateful writer/director by email and text. And she was able to inspire the cast and crew by attending their final dress rehearsal.

Julie’s kindness to younger colleagues, her quiet collegiality, her intense engagement with her research, and her passion for teaching will be much missed.

 

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