Terence Hawkes, 1932-2014

A scholar who revolutionised our understanding of Shakespeare and English studies has died

February 13, 2014

Terence Hawkes was born in Birmingham on 13 May 1932 and brought up in a pub called Drake’s Drum – a name reflecting just the sort of populist literary patriotism some of his writing was devoted to debunking. He was educated at what is now Cardiff University, spending the 1950s on his BA, MA and PhD and then the academic year 1959-60 as an assistant lecturer in English.

During this time, however, he had already taken on his first teaching role, as an instructor at what is now the University at Buffalo (1957-59). Back in Wales, Professor Hawkes spent another academic year as a lecturer in English at the University of Aberystwyth (1960-61) before returning to Cardiff for the rest of his career, serving as lecturer, senior lecturer and finally professor (1961-99). This included interludes as a visiting professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario (1969) and Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (1975).

Although his first books were the monographs Shakespeare and the Reason (1965) and Shakespeare’s Talking Animals: Language and Drama in Society (1973), Professor Hawkes later concentrated on essay collections such as Shakespeare in the Present (2002). He was also the author of Structuralism and Semiotics (1977; second edition: 2003), the inaugural book in the pioneering New Accents series for which he served as general editor.

Rob Stradling, emeritus professor of history at Cardiff, recalls Professor Hawkes as “the most enlightening and entertaining of lecturers; a master, inter alia, of topical analogy and magical metaphor…For years he delighted a wider audience as a guest on a BBC Radio Wales chat show.

“Terry revolutionised English studies on both sides of the Atlantic with his books on Shakespeare and with another immense innovation, the unprecedented Routledge series of New Accents. Dozens of younger scholars made their careers by appearing under this vastly influential imprint. His missionary-style preaching of successive poststructural modes of critical exposition was often projected by mercurial one-liners: my personal favourite being ‘Nature doesn’t grow on trees’ (ie, ‘language mediates reality’).”

Although “a redoubtable adversary in argument”, he added, Professor Hawkes also “had the keenest and most uproarious wit in any company”.

Professor Hawkes died of heart failure on 16 January and is survived by his wife, Ann, two sons and three grandchildren.


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