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Retirement of Professor Thorlac Turville-Petre and Professor Richard Marsden

Professor Thorlac Turville-Petre and Professor Richard Marsden

On Wednesday, 15 September 2010 staff in the School of English Studies came together to celebrate the academic careers of Professor Thorlac Turville-Petre and Professor Richard Marsden who retired from The University of Nottingham on 31 August 2010.  

At the request of both, the celebrations were low-key and retirement gifts of £500 from staff were kindly donated by Thorlac and Richard to the Upendo Junior School (set up by an alumnus from the School) to support primary school education in Kenya.  The School held a lunch event to celebrate their academic achievements and give everyone the opportunity to thank them for their contributions to the School over many years and congratulate them on their appointment by Senate as Emeritus Professors in the School.  

Professor Julie Sanders promised to give no speeches as Head of School and handed proceedings over to Professor Ron Carter and Professor Judith Jesch who marked the occasion with the following words:

Short speech by Professor Judith Jesch to mark the retirement of Professor Richard Marsden

Richard Marsden was appointed as a Lecturer in the School of English Studies in 1999 and retired as Professor of Old English Studies in 2010. Richard was an unusual applicant in having been a mature student, but this gave him the excellent combination of life experience and (relative) academic youth. Richard was educated at the Universities of York and Cambridge and had also worked at the University of Leeds before coming here. He had built up an impressive list of publications, with a strong focus on the Bible in Anglo-Saxon England, on which he continues to be an acknowledged international authority.

Richard was appointed to contribute to research and teaching in the medieval section, with a particular focus on Old English. He also fulfilled the role of Admissions Tutor for mature students for many years, followed by some time as Senior Tutor. His care for, and understanding of the needs of, students were evident in both of these roles, as in his teaching and supervisory practice. Many former undergraduates and postgraduates will remember the care with which he read, responded to and annotated their written work, and the deep learning that went on in his seminars. Richard’s care for others is also reflected in his refusal to accept a leaving present, encouraging colleagues to contribute instead to a fund supporting the Upendo School in Kenya.

Richard also played an important role in the wider University as Treasurer for many years of the Institute for Medieval Research, in which his careful and cautious budgeting ensured the success of many of the Institute’s ventures. During his time at Nottingham, Richard also contributed to the teaching of the History of English and introduced an MA in Old English Studies, which will now continue under the leadership of Dr Paul Cavill, who has been appointed to succeed him as Lecturer in Old English Studies from January 2011. Richard also supervised several excellent PhD students, notably Martin Blake and Victoria Bristow.

Richard Marsden’s publications are too numerous to list in full here, but these are some of the highlights:

The Text of the Old Testament in Anglo-Saxon England (Cambridge UP, 1995) appeared in paperback in 2006. This was Richard’s first major work, based on his doctoral thesis.

Cambridge Old English Reader (Cambridge UP, 2004). This book is still in use in the teaching of Old English in the School of English Studies. One reviewer commented as follows:  "Every page of this book reveals the intelligence and attention to detail that characterize Marsden's scholarly work … Marsden's Reader offers much to admire: the scholarly precision of its texts, the generosity of its apparatus, the insights of its annotations and introductions, and the obvious talent and care with which it was assembled. "

Why is English Like That? Historical Answers to Hard ELT Questions (with Norbert Schmitt, 2006). This book was co-written with Professor Schmitt, a colleague in the School of English Studies, to provide a historical dimension to English language teaching to non-native speakers.

The Old English Heptateuch and Ælfric's Libellus de veteri testamento et novo: Volume I: v. 1 (Early English Text Society Original Series), 2008. This is now the standard scholarly edition of the first seven books of the Old Testament in Old English. Richard is still working on the second volume which will contain notes and commentary.

• ‘Wrestling with the Bible: textual problems for the scholar and student’. In: CAVILL, P., ed. The Christian tradition in Anglo-Saxon England: approaches to current scholarship and teaching (Cambridge, 2004), pp. 69-90. A wonderful introduction to the medieval Bible for all who need to know. Only one of Richard’s many scholarly articles.

As well as finishing his edition of the Heptateuch, Richard will continue to work on another major project, The New Cambridge History of the Bible. We wish Richard well in his retirement and look forward to bumping into him in the Library, or at medieval lunch, or at seminars, at least when he is not in the bracing far north of Scotland.

Short speech by Professor Ron Carter to mark the retirement of Professor Thorlac Turville-Petre

I am pleased to have an opportunity to say a few words on behalf of the School about Thorlac. I’ll keep it brief. Thorlac is not someone who likes a fuss so I won’t detain you all with a long list of achievements, though I would, if you would like to acquaint or re-acquaint yourselves with those achievements, direct you to the festschrift volume presented to Thorlac a few weeks ago.  The festschrift is revealing in a number of ways. First, it was presented quietly and in keeping with his own modesty by a few friends in a remote corner of the university (no fanfares there) but it contains a lovely introduction by Nicola and Judy outlining Thorlac’s many achievements, including his rich contribution to and leadership of the Medieval section, and setting out his remarkably distinguished list of publications. Third, the volume contains contributions by some of the world’s leading medieval scholars and is a testimony to the genuinely international esteem in which his scholarship is held.

On a personal level, I have mixed feelings about Thorlac leaving. I’m actually quite glad he’s going. I’m fed up of getting out my car (and I live a lot closer than Thorlac) and seeing him cycling barely out of breath up the hill from Beeston towards the Trent Building. It makes me feel very old. On the other hand I’m not glad he’s leaving as I will be the oldest standing member of the School. So it came as very good news recently that his departure is not really going to happen as Thorlac has generously agreed to continue to teach in the School and will be around to support all kinds of developments, including many particularly exciting stages to his own current research on the Wollaton Manuscripts

It’s impossible to select highlights from many (38 years) of contribution to the School. Thorlac started as a lecturer here in 1973 and was a very very good head of School for four years from 1997-2001. During that time he displayed the vision to see that the School had to expand to keep up with our competitors.   At the time English in Nottingham had 15-16 full-time staff and Thorlac did what all good HsOS have to do which is to work exceptionally hard, listen a lot, to be fair and even-handed to everyone and remain politically astute. He did that impeccably.

I think the most appropriate way then of marking Thorlac’s semi retirement is to thank him. I’d like to thank him on behalf of us all: For his exemplary scholarship and teaching. For his contribution on so many levels to the School, the Faculty and the university. For being an outstanding head of school and head of the medieval section. For being ahead of his time. We are talking quite a bit about digital humanities at the moment but for many years Thorlac’s work on numerous electronic editions of Piers Plowman have been leading the way. For being a model academic over several decades but especially during this decade and the next. Thorlac writes prize-winning journal papers, he writes major monographs, he gets major grants from Research Councils, he discharges major admin roles and he makes significant contributions to KT and Impact, most recently in his very public work on the Wollaton manuscripts.

Thank you for being a genuine model for the school for so long but especially so for the contemporary age and the world of REF. A very very very big thank you on so many levels from all of us.

For information about the festschrift publication see:

Medieval Alliterative Poetry, Essays in honour of Thorlac Turville-Petre, ed. John A. BURROW and Hoyt N DUGGAN (Four Courts Press), 2010.

Posted on Wednesday 20th October 2010

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