Elizabeth Fallaize, 1950-2009

January 14, 2010

A leading authority on French literature who became the first female tutorial fellow of her Oxford college, and the university's pro vice-chancellor for education, has died.

Elizabeth Fallaize was born on 3 June 1950 and educated at Dame Allan's School in Newcastle, Wallington Grammar School and the University of Exeter. She stayed at Exeter for a PhD on the literary periodical Le Boulevard.

Her teaching career began in 1975 at what was then Wolverhampton Polytechnic, followed by 13 years at the University of Birmingham from 1977-90. There she published a book in French on Andre Malraux, a short English guide to one of his novels, and a definitive study of The Novels of Simone de Beauvoir (1988).

It was in 1990, however, that Professor Fallaize broke the mould by becoming the first female fellow and member of the governing body of St John's College, Oxford in the four centuries since it was founded in 1555.

She helped establish the Women in French support network and Oxford's first MA in women's studies while also writing French Women's Writing: Recent Fiction (1993) and editing Simone de Beauvoir: A Critical Reader (1998).

She went on to co-author, with Colin Davis, French Fiction in the Mitterrand Years (2000) and to edit The Oxford Book of French Short Stories (2002), which covers the period from the 18th to the 21st century.

Her eminence as a scholar was recognised when Oxford made her professor of French in 2002, and the French Government appointed her Commandeur dans l'Ordre des Palmes Academiques last year.

Yet Professor Fallaize also made a wider contribution to the life of the university through her roles as junior proctor, chair of the modern languages faculty and then pro vice-chancellor for education, a post that saw her playing a leading role in the recent Quality Assurance Agency audit, as well as contributing to Oxford's strategic plan.

For Ritchie Robertson, tutorial fellow in German at St John's, Professor Fallaize was "not only a fine communicator and excellent public speaker, but warm, sociable, direct, rigorously honest with herself and with others, perceptive about people's characters, unfailingly and unfussily efficient, and courageous when faced with challenges".

"She showed that managerial skills are compatible with deep humanity, and useless without it," he added

Forced to retire early due to motor neurone disease, Professor Fallaize died on 6 December 2009. She is survived by her husband, Alan Grafen, and two children from a previous marriage.


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