In Memoriam: Professor Laura Marcus

Image credit: Professor Laura Marcus FBA | The British Academy

We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Laura Marcus on Wednesday 22 September, after a short illness. During the course of her distinguished career, Laura was a friend, teacher, and colleague to many of us. Her work on autobiography, Virginia Woolf, psychoanalysis, and cinema profoundly informed the modernist studies we practise now, and her books, characterised by historical depth, theoretical acumen, and vivid prose, were justly lauded: The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period (2007) was awarded the MLA’s James Lowell Prize.

Laura was a sparkling orator. Many modernists, all over the world, have been enthralled by her brilliant papers at the conferences and seminars she so much enjoyed attending. We were grateful to have Laura as our introductory speaker at the 2010 Inaugural BAMS conference in snow-laden Glasgow. She truly recognised the importance of our organisation in fostering the modernist community in the UK. Collaboration was at the heart of Laura’s work; this is reflected not only in her strong presence at academic events, but in her many co-authored publications, including Close Up 1927-1933: Cinema and Modernism (1999) and The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century English Literature (2004), and her work on Women: A Cultural Review

Laura was a caring, considerate listener. BAMS members, past and present, have benefited from her interested and astute questions about our own work, her candid career advice, and her amazing ability to untangle and clarify knotty thinking. She was incredibly generous with her time, despite the numerous scholarly projects, committees, and other academic labours that took up considerable space in her diary. She was notably supportive of early career scholars, and was deeply committed to the graduate students she taught and supervised at Kent, Southampton, Birkbeck, Sussex, Edinburgh, and Oxford, and the remarkable number of doctoral candidates she examined.

Laura was also a wonderful, witty friend. Alongside the deeply intellectual conversations, we will cherish the moments of lightness and merriment we shared with her: chats about the sumptuous costumes in Mad Men; her inexplicable – yet strongly felt – dislike of red sauce; and the many giggly taxi rides back from conference dinners. For many of us, Laura was the model for the scholars, teachers, and colleagues we aspire to be.