- Alun and Sussex
Alun was appointed to Sussex in 1976 working first in the School of Cultural and Community Studies (CCS) and later in the School of English and American Studies (ENGAM). He served as a sub-dean in both schools and, following the formation of the School of Humanities in 2003, he was to serve as Director of the Graduate Centre. This is the basic story of Alun at Sussex University but there is so much more texture to his contribution to the institution than this.
My experience of Alun at Sussex was dominated by his intellectual generosity, his quite extraordinary range of knowledge, his everyday kindness and his willingness to subvert, ignore and otherwise humanize the administrative processes that have come to dominate higher education over the last twenty years. I want to spend just a couple of minutes talking to some of these.
Alun's intellectual generosity was quite extraordinary. He was always interested in other people and the work that they did. This might seem to be a prerequisite for working in academia, but of course we know that it is not always the dominant characteristic of the modern academic. Alun was ferociously interested in the scholarship of others, which made him a wonderfully supportive colleague and an inspirational teacher and supervisor. This intellectual generosity sat alongside an extraordinary bank of knowledge that he shared widely, and collegially, whether stepping in for absent colleagues at the drop of a hat and lecturing without notes, or having something to say about even the most specialist, or otherwise alienating, of Workin-Progress papers at our Thursday evening research seminar. It was a total delight to see this intellectual generosity and expansive knowledge in action – not least when co-supervising students or observing his teaching. As a colleague recently put it – Alun really could teach anything and he could do so with very little warning and virtually no preparation.
But when I think back to working with Alun the thing I remember most clearly, and value most highly – particularly in the current Higher Education climate – is his particular brand of everyday kindness, which was wedded to his idea of what the university should, and could, be. This wasn't just about personal style. It was about priorities and an understanding of what really mattered. It was a kindness rooted in a willingness to invest time in other people, no matter how busy he was himself. So when I think of Alun, I think of sitting out on the Arts B bench talking and smoking; or I think of him chatting to graduate students in the bar after research seminars never [End Page 325] allowing it to seem as if this was additional work at the end of a long day even though it was also this too. Alun had a sense of the university as a community of people and he understood the easy sociability and work of sociality that went into creating something bigger and better than the sum of its parts. He is much missed. [End Page 326]
Clare Langhamer (email@example.com) is Professor of Modern British History at the University of Sussex. She works on feelings, ordinariness and everyday life and makes particular use of the Mass Observation Archive, of which she is a Trustee. Her publications include articles on home, happiness, adultery, children's writing and women's work and the books Women's Leisure in England, 1920–1960 (Manchester University Press, 2000) and The English in Love: the Intimate Story of an Emotional Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2013). She is currently writing a history of Feelings at Work in Modern Britain.