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Peter T. Ricketts (1933-2013)

From: Tenso
Volume 29, Numbers 1-2, Spring-Fall 2014
pp. 231-244 | 10.1353/ten.2014.0011

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Just a day before medievalists from around the world were going to assemble in Kalamazoo came the news that Peter Ricketts had died. At his work table at five in the morning, working with a friend and collaborator. Word spread quickly, by email and by word of mouth. A great and celebrated Romance linguist, a great gentleman, a friend had left us. He was eighty.

After school and university studies in Birmingham, England, Peter spent some time in Canada, where he enticed a number of students into Occitan studies, a lasting legacy. He published in Toronto his edition of the poems of Guilhem de Montanhagol. Returning to England, he was on the staff at Birmingham, but soon left to occupy the James Barrow chair at Liverpool, where in 1980 he presided over a congress of the International Courtly Literature Society (ICLS). (Later he was a plenary speaker at the 8th Congress in Vancouver.) Moving on again, Peter joined Queen Mary and Westfield College of the University of London. For a while he was Dean of the college. As a result of what has been described as a clinical depression, he resigned from the college and sold his scholarly library. On a visit to France for the wedding of a friend’s daughter, Peter left his medications at home in Birmingham, and as a result made what seemed like a miraculous recovery. He went back to work tirelessly on his various projects, was named an honorary professor at Birmingham, and went from strength to strength.

Peter’s two lifelong projects were the edition of Matfre Ermengau’s Breviari d’Amor, and the Concordance de l’Occitan Médiéval (COM). He published Matfre’s 34, 597 line encyclopaedic work volume by volume, starting with volume V, lines 27,253-34,597, which contained the citations from the troubadours. Volumes II-IV then followed at intervals over a number of years, saving volume I, the Introduction and Bibliography for last. It is still unpublished at his death, but it is to be hoped that some other scholar will finish it and give it to the public.

The COM aimed to present in machine-readable form the complete corpus of medieval Occitan verse and prose, to appear on CD-ROM in three parts or tranches: 1). Lyric verse, as identified by Pillet and Carstens and then by Istvan Frank, some 2500 poems; 2. the non-lyric verse compositions, such as romances; finally 3. the prose. The first tranche COM1, the electronically recorded material for which was largely furnished by other contributors, appeared in 2001, and the second, in 2005 (the CD included the first tranche). This CD was called COM2, and has proved to be frequently cited by Occitan scholars all over the world. The third tranche, the prose, presented the most challenges, because the number of texts seemed endless: not just literary works but religious and legal texts, for example, some of them very hard to access; and more and more of them kept turning up. Peter very properly decided that he must make an end to the collection and entering of texts, and projected the issue of tranche 3 in 2012 or 2013. Its appearance is expected soon. Where texts were inadequately transcribed or existing only in manuscript form, Peter would undertake to edit them himself or ask volunteers to work on them. He never seemed to lack for volunteers, and this is in itself a tribute to his personality. He leaves behind a host of collaborators.

Peter received a good deal of support from his wife, Monica, and their children, Jane, David, and David’s wife, Vicky. Peter was the proud grandfather of Rebecca, Katherine, Lauren, and Edward.

Peter’s work won him great fame in the world of Occitan scholarship and among medievalists generally. His scholarly output was prodigious, and he participated in all of the activities such as workshops and conferences that bring together researchers and academics. His (incomplete) bibliography is available at www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/french/ricketts-peter.aspx. He was a founder-member of the Association Internationale d’Etudes Occitanes (AIEO), which was first discussed in 1974 at a meeting in B...



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