Ann Moss, 1938-2018

Tributes paid to a wide-ranging and highly innovative scholar of Renaissance literature

September 20, 2018

A wide-ranging and highly innovative scholar of Renaissance literature has died.

Ann Moss was born in Solihull in the West Midlands in January 1938 and grew up in Coventry, where she attended Barr’s Hill Grammar School.

Although no girls from the school had previously applied to Oxbridge, she secured a scholarship to read modern and medieval languages at Newnham College, Cambridge (1956-59) and began a PhD there. Cambridge, she once wrote, taught her “intellectual discipline” but also fostered “what was considered a slightly wild tendency to look always for the original angle and import insights from the other modes of thought I was discovering”.

After working on her thesis for a year, however, Professor Moss decided to follow her husband to Wales. She worked for a year as an assistant lecturer in French at the University College of North Wales but gave up the post in 1964, when she had a child.

After her marriage broke down in 1966, she applied to work at Durham University. Although Professor Moss later reflected that she “wasn’t qualified at all: two children (considered then to be an encumbrance) and a thesis stalled over a few years, no administrative experience”, she was offered a dual position as resident tutor at Trevelyan College (then still under construction) and lecturer in the French department.

Professor Moss remained at Durham for her whole career, becoming a full-time member of the French department in 1979 and professor of French in 1996, before retiring and becoming an emeritus professor in 2003. She was also elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1998.

An authority on Early Modern writing in Latin from all over Europe, Professor Moss wrote on myth, theology, rhetoric, pedagogy and many branches of intellectual history. Her books included Ovid in Renaissance France: a Survey of the Latin Editions of Ovid and Commentaries Printed in France before 1600 (1982), based on her PhD, the highly influential Printed Commonplace-Books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought (1996; published in French in 2002) and Renaissance Truth and the Latin Language Turn (2003).

In her last years at Durham, Professor Moss was head of the School of Modern European Languages. She proved highly effective in re-establishing the threatened department of Russian, secured the future of the Italian department and started the process of incorporating Arabic into the school. Once retired, she travelled widely, particularly along the Silk Road, pursuing a long-term interest in encounters between the Christian and Islamic worlds.

Professor Moss died of leukaemia on 13 August and is survived by her daughters, Imogen and Abigail, and seven grandchildren.

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