It is with great sadness that we write of the unexpected death of our dear colleague Geoff Davis, who was such a crucial member and leader of EACLALS during the past decades, and indeed throughout its history. Geoff became Chair of EACLALS in 2002, a position he renewed in 2005 and held until 2008; he was elected once again from 2011 to 2014. In the years in-between (2008-2011), he presided over ACLALS. All who attended academic gatherings during these periods, or in the previous decades, when he was a loyal and enthusiastic participant, will have had the chance to benefit from his knowledge in a number of areas, notably African literatures, but also from his cheerful generosity, his keen welcoming of young members into the field and his endless energy and creativity. Geoff’s vast contribution to our field is also found in his own publications and through his editing, of journals such as Matatu, and of the critical series Cross/Cultures. Readings in the Post/Colonial Literatures and Cultures in English, which he co-edited with Gordon Collier from 1990 and which holds such significant work for postcolonial studies.
As members of the present EACLALS Board, we have shared many conferences, happy moments and worries with Geoff, and we are in shock at the news that this will not continue to be so. At this sad moment, we can only thank him publicly and most sincerely for his work and feel grateful that we shared interests and some part of his life with him. We will be dedicating a place in the EACLALS webpage to tributes to Geoff, as a much-deserved homage to an essential member. If you have a message you would like to include, please email Melissa Kennedy, email@example.com. We include, after this message, the first of these, by Helga Ramsey-Kurz, Former Chair of EACLALS and member of the present Board, who worked closely with him as conference organizer and Board member 2011-2017.
In grief, and in fond memory of Geoff and his multiple achievements,
Isabel Carrera Suárez
on behalf of the EACLALS Board
Message from Helga Ramsey-Kurz
In one of our many conversations leading up to the 2014 EACLALS Triennial Conference in Innsbruck Geoff and I found ourselves musing melancholically about how difficult it would be in the not too distant future to find someone suited to give the Anna Rutherford Memorial Lecture by dint of having known Anna personally. I suggested that we should have something like a Geoff Davis Address, not instead, but as well. “Don’t you dare!” he exclaimed in absolute horror when he realised that I was serious. I guess he would be just as horrified to learn of anyone even thinking about having a Geoff Davis Memorial Lecture at one of our future conferences. Such was his modesty – memorable in itself and perhaps most appropriately remembered in silent affection along with his warmth and enthusiasm, his energy and unbending optimism. Here I want to make a point of these endearing qualities of his though, because they shaped the spirit of EACLALS and made the association a home for so many scholars like myself seeking more in the academy than fulfilment of professional ambitions. Many found what they were missing in the generosity with which Geoff would share his vast knowledge of literature, his passion for learning, his commitment to the Commonwealth Foundation and the countries it stands for. “It changed my life,” he used to say about his role as chair of EACLALS and ACLALS and he would go on, his blue eyes sparkling, to tell the stories he had gathered on his many travels of encounters with crooks and academics, rattlesnakes and writers. Brilliant raconteur that he was there was no way one could not be affected by his positive outlook on life and his generous way of seeing others. “Marvellous!” he would say and sigh with pleasure at a colleague’s achievements. “Marvellous,” he would judge a conference that had gone well. “Marvellous,” he would remark, always in genuine wonder and admiration, after a good talk or reading or performance. Marvellous one might duly call the massive enjoyment he himself managed to derive from his work and the incredibly diverse research he accomplished. In due course others will honour it in their obituaries that, naturally, will take time to write. At this point it is Geoff Davis, the friend, colleague, mentor, supporter, teacher, and companion, I would like us to recall with the fondness he used to give so generously to our association.