Vale Professor James Lawler

Published 13 August 2013

Jim LawlerAn Australian scholar who influenced teaching and research in French at UNE and had a lasting influence on the discipline of French scholarship throughout the world, particularly in Australia, North America and France, where he held distinguished positions and received many academic honours, has recently died.

James R. Lawler, Officier des Palmes Académiques, MA, DU, FAHA, Professor of French Studies at UWA from 1963-1971 and an eminent specialist on nineteenth and twentieth-century French poetry, died in Paris on July 28th 2013. He was aged 83.

While Professor of French at the University of Western Australia Jim Lawler taught two students who subsequently became academics at UNE—Lee Brotherson and Jane Southwood—both of whom have drawn extensively on his inspiring teaching and benefited from his unfailing encouragement of their research and publication, an encouragement which has continued over the years until his illness and subsequent death.

Another staff member, Grahame Jones, later to become Professor of French at UNE in 1972 and Chair of the UNE Academic Board, received valuable mentoring from Jim Lawler as Chair of French when Grahame was first appointed as Lecturer in French at the University of Western Australia.

Educated at the University of Melbourne by the prestigious Professor Alan Rowland Chisholm, Jim went on to have a brilliant international career. His appointment to the Chair of French at the University of Western Australia at the very young age of thirty-three was followed by appointments to the Chairs of French at the Universities of California (Los Angeles), Dalhousie and Chicago. In 1999 the French Academy awarded him the Prix du rayonnement de la langue française.

At the University of Western Australia he founded the journal Essays in French Literature, a top-ranking journal which is still in existence (now Essays in French Literature and Culture) and Dalhousie French Studies, at the University of that name.  At the University of Western Australia, his French wife, Christiane worked alongside him, shaping the linguistic knowledge and cultural background of students, through her beautifully-modulated voice and wide cultural knowledge.

Jim was an outstanding mentor and scholar who communicated his passion for French poetry through his lectures and his large number of publications. As one of his former students so aptly put it, Jim’s legacy will live on through the many people around the world he inspired during his remarkable career.

 He is survived by his twin children, Jérôme and Ariane.