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In Memoriam: Judy Rawson

The University is deeply saddened by the news of the death of Judy Rawson, who retired in 2000 after serving most of her career at Warwick as Chair of Italian.

Her husband, Claude Rawson, has provided the following information about Judy's time at Warwick.

Judy came to Warwick in 1965, the first year the University opened, for teaching as a Lecturer in Italian in the School of Literature (there were no departments then). She had previously been a Lecturer at the Universities of Reading and Leeds. She was appointed at Warwick to teach Italian as an integral part of degrees in English and History. She taught the Italian stream of English and European Studies, and introduced Italian to first year students of English and Comparative Literary Studies. Italian was in those days compulsory for students who did not have an A-level in a modern or classical language. The assumption was that one could not properly study English literature in a comparative way without a firsthand knowledge of another literature in the original language, supplemented by other courses (European Epic, Novel, Drama) in which foreign texts were read in translation. She also taught students of History, with a focus on the Venice programme.

The requirement of a compulsory foreign language was eventually abandoned, as well as the idea that Warwick was to have no departments. Judy had to promote Italian studies into what became a small but growing department of Italian. She worked very selflessly, often against the classic managerial resistance to small language departments, and at first singlehandedly, to keep the subject alive in the University, and eventually to develop it into a dedicated and lively element in the Faculty of Arts. She did this while bringing up five children without a single day of maternity leave.

Her research was mainly divided between the Renaissance, in a broad sense that included Dante and Alberti, Pulci and Ariosto, and some modern novelists, notably Buzzati, Calvino and especially Silone, whom she got to know personally, and whose widow became a close friend. Their correspondence is now in the Modern Records Centre. Judy nominated Silone for an Honorary Degree at Warwick. The first attempt at a nomination was blocked by a member of Council who objected on the grounds that Silone was a convicted criminal. When it was clarified that Silone had served time in a Mussolini prison, the objection was removed and Silone got his degree, in absentia, the following year.

In due course Judy was promoted to Senior Lecturer, and after retirement, to Honorary Associate Professor. By then, she was too ill to know. She was very active on a variety of University committees and the Board of Arts, as well as the Senate and I think Council. I believe she was instrumentally active in Renaissance Studies and in Literature and Philosophy. I cannot speak directly of her service after 1985, when I ceased to teach at Warwick, but I have a sense that she continued to work hard to foster the growth of Italian in the University towards its present strength.

Claude Rawson

Judy’s funeral takes place at 2pm on Friday 29 January 2016 and will be held at Busbridge Church, Brighton Road, Godalming, Surrey, GU7 1XA.