It is with great sadness that we announce that Professor Alain Viala, Emeritus Fellow, has died suddenly but peacefully in Paris on 30 June.
Alain, who was born in 1947, held a Chair in French Literature and was a former Fellow of LMH. He first came to the College in October 2002. In addition to being an Early Modern scholar of truly remarkable distinction and range — producing important works on theatre, literary theory, and a monumental history of French galanterie from the Middle Ages onwards, for which he was awarded the R.H. Gapper Book Prize —, Alain was a gifted and immensely supportive teacher and directeur de thèse who trained and inspired generations of academics both here in Oxford and in Paris.
A leading light in French studies, his publications included: La France galante, collection ‘Les Littéraires’ (Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 2008); Lettre à Rousseau sur l’intérêt littéraire (Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 2006); Histoire du théâtre (Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 2006 ) ; and the field-changing Naissance de l’écrivain : sociologie de la littérature à l’âge classique (Paris, Minuit, 1985). He also wrote more than 100 articles.
He was also emeritus professor at Paris III-Sorbonne nouvelle; previously he had taught at Liège, and he held Visiting Professorships at many places including Université Laval, Emory University, University of Chicago, University of Tel Aviv.
Alain was a stalwart member of Governing Body and cheerfully served on various college committees, including Wine Committee as well as Garden Committee; he loved the college gardens, and the gardeners, and was instrumental in the creation of our wildflower meadow. A proud native of Aveyron in southwestern France, he was always happy to serve as informal French translator/interpreter in college. It is thanks to him that LMH has built such close ties with the Maison française d'Oxford, and that so many talented doctoral researchers from Paris III have spent a term or two with us.
The Chair of the French Sub-faculty, Professor Patrick McGuinness, described him as “a warm, kind, endlessly curious and always brilliant friend and colleague."
He will be deeply missed.