Julia Swindells, 1951-2011

December 8, 2011

Julia Swindells was a "reluctant academic star" who, despite making Cambridge her home, "always remained a Northerner in her heart".

Professor Swindells was born in Macclesfield on 13 August 1951, and studied for a degree in literature at the University of Leeds before moving to Goldsmiths, University of London to complete a postgraduate certificate in the teaching of English and drama. She spent four years teaching at the secondary school level at Itchen Sixth Form College in Southampton, but returned to London in 1978 to train as a journalist at City University London.

After completing a term of the course, however, she went instead into academia. And after time at the University of Southampton and the University of Cambridge as a temporary research assistant and part-time tutor for adult education, she joined Jesus College, Cambridge to complete her doctorate in Victorian writing.

Professor Swindells spent five years tutoring, supervising and lecturing for a number of institutions, including Cambridge, The Open University, the University of East Anglia and the University of North Carolina, after which she returned to Cambridge in 1989, where she was based at Homerton College. While there, she was variously director of English studies, senior member and fellow.

Between 2001 and 2006, she was senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Cambridge, and in 2006 she was made senior research fellow of Homerton. In 2007, she left Cambridge to join Anglia Ruskin University as research fellow in English. She was made a professor of English in 2010, and left the institution in September 2011.

Outside academia, Professor Swindells was a talented pianist and a passionate advocate for the Labour Party.

Her friend Lisa Jardine, centenary professor of Renaissance studies and director of the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters at Queen Mary, University of London, described meeting Professor Swindells in 1982 as a "turning point" in her life and said that the "trace of our friendship" could be found in all of her (Professor Jardine's) work.

"I had never encountered anyone of such total integrity, such intensity of commitment and feeling, and such deeply lucid thoughts on politics," she said. "We fell for one another immediately. I am in absolutely no doubt that my own personal and political development was permanently shaped in dialogue with Julia.

"Beyond this, Julia was simply the best friend a person could have, filling our time together with warmth and laughter. Her sense of humour and her timing for a well-placed piece of irony were impeccable. Her sense of fun was infectious. Her loss is beyond words."

Professor Swindells took her own life on 29 October. She is survived by her husband, Ben, and her daughter, Cassie.

sarah.cunnane@tsleducation.com.

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