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David Meakin, 1943-2011

4 January 2012

David Meakin, Senior Lecturer in French until his retirement in 2000, died in December 2011. Emeritus Professor John Parkin offers a tribute.

David Meakin was without doubt one of the most brilliant scholars ever to teach in the Arts Faculty, establishing himself in particular as an inspirational teacher at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

His particular flair was to encourage and motivate students of all abilities, which talent resulted in his recruiting a cohort of doctoral students at times so large that candidates had to be referred on to other members of staff, he having no more room in his timetable for extra supervisions. In addition he was a modest, amiable and utterly reliable colleague whose parties, catered in the main by his devoted wife Andrée, were for many years key features in the social life of Bristol French. His somewhat early retirement in 2000 therefore created a gap in several areas of departmental life which was keenly felt by those who remained in post.

Born in 1943, Dave was to emerge from Manchester Grammar School to enter Brasenose College Oxford in 1961 as a scholar in French. He opted to spend his third year abroad, during which he taught in Toulon, one of his pupils being Andrée, to whom he was in due course to remain married for nearly 50 years. Awarded a first in French and German in 1965, he then chose the BPhil as his route into graduate study, writing his dissertation on the theme of work, hence his first major publication Man and Work (Methuen, 1976).

Armed with his higher degree, Dave was appointed in 1967 to a lectureship in Bristol where he was to spend his entire professional life, teaching widely within the field of French studies, but with a particular emphasis on narrative fiction and political theory. Students’ response to his teaching was the envy of all his colleagues who themselves benefited signally from attendance at his lectures and from the thoughtful advice he would give them on their own teaching commitments. In addition he worked for a full three years as admissions officer to the School of Modern Languages, a highly responsible and demanding administrative task to which he brought a number of lasting initiatives.

His second book, Hermetic Fictions (Keele University Press, 1995), took account of the vast amount of reading he had achieved over previous years and well deserved its good reviews. Meanwhile, he was ever-ready to share ideas among his graduate students, with some of whom he produced joint articles. However to limit one’s appreciation of Dave to intellectual matters would be to miss an enormous amount. An accomplished musician, a professional-standard carpenter and home improvements expert, a keen cyclist, a dedicated allotment gardener and a significant environmental campaigner, he pursued all these activities in a retirement which has now been cut tragically short.

A devoted husband, father and grandfather, Dave was in addition a dear friend and valued colleague for so many of his contemporaries in the university world of Bristol and elsewhere. Friends and pupils will share in his family’s grief, while acknowledging that he leaves a legacy of memories which will long endure.