Peter Fawcett, 1942-2013

A British academic honoured by the French government for his major contributions to the understanding of French literature has died

October 10, 2013

Peter Fawcett was born in Croydon on 18 June 1942 and educated in High Wycombe and then at Clifton College, Bristol, before going on to study for a degree in French and Spanish at Exeter College, Oxford, with a year abroad in Grenoble. He decided to continue at Oxford to do a DPhil on “The aesthetic foundations of André Gide’s fiction”, sparking a lifelong interest in an author who remained at the heart of his subsequent research.

In 1967, Dr Fawcett joined the French department at the University of Leicester as a lecturer. Later promoted to senior lecturer, he went on to spend his whole career at the institution, eventually as head of the School of Modern Languages from 1995 until his retirement in 1999 (although even after that he continued to teach and retained his links with the institution as a university fellow).

Coincidentally, Dr Fawcett’s mother, Dorothea Kisby, had been one of Leicester’s first students: she was photographed when the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) planted a ginkgo tree outside the Fielding Johnson Building in 19.

As a scholar, Dr Fawcett was responsible for three carefully annotated volumes of Gide’s correspondence with leading literary figures, all issued by the French publisher Gallimard. These were André Gide-Jean Schlumberger: Correspondance 1901-1950 (1993) and André Gide-Pierre Louÿs-Paul Valéry: Correspondances à trois voix (1888-1920) (2004), both edited with Pascal Mercier, and André Gide-Paul Valéry Correspondance 1890-1942 (2009). The last of these won the 2009 Prix Sévigné. Even more prestigious was the 2011 award by the French government of the title of Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques for Dr Fawcett’s long-standing contribution to French culture.

A generous, witty host, a mentor for young researchers and an enthusiastic teacher whose passion for theatre led to a number of outstanding productions when he ran the Leicester University Theatre Workshop, Dr Fawcett also proved an excellent administrator. This was demonstrated not only by an agility in mental arithmetic that often left fellow exam board members stunned, but also by his success in forging Leicester’s hitherto separate single-language departments into a common structure.

Dr Fawcett died of myeloma on 15 September. He is survived by his wife Margot, a daughter, a son and three grandchildren.

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