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In Memoriam: Simon Edwards

Freitag, 01.05.2020

Simon Edwards (May 6, 1946-April 24, 2020)

With a sad heart and deep appreciation for the support, collaboration, and friendship that Professor Simon Edwards provided us all with at the Center for Inter-American Studies, we want to acknowledge Simon as a scholar and teacher, a mentor and supporter, a friend and a colleague, but foremost as a wonderful human being who has enriched all our lives.

Simon was principal lecturer in English Literature at the Department of English and Creative Writing at the University of Roehampton, London. His main research interests were in eighteenth and nineteenth-century fiction: the historical novel (Scott and Cooper) and Romantic nationalism in Europe; Charles Dickens; representations of the city in English, American and European writing in relation to sexuality and ethnic identity; Dryden in relation to baroque art and architecture. He also was interested in English poetry of the late 17c as a manifestation of European baroque culture; the literature of the ‘fin-de-siecle’; and mid-20c British poetry.

In the course of his career, Simon developed and taught undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century English, American and European Literature including some of the following topics: Literature and the City; Romanticism and the Novel; the Historical Novel; Travel Writing; Literature and Politics 1776-1832; Charles Dickens. Since his formal retirement, he continued to supervise PhD students, and the last official act was providing an examiner’s report on a doctoral thesis for the University of Graz, which had become his academic home in the past decade of his life.

My first meeting with Simon Edwards took place in the Aula of the University of Graz probably in 2002, where a colleague from the English Department introduced us. At the time, I was recruiting professors in English and American Studies to teach at the University of Shkoder, Albania, within a staff development and institution building project I had initiated funded by the Soros Foundation and the Republic of Austria. As some of my colleagues at the University of Graz were hesitant to accept that invitation, the professor who introduced me to Simon suggested him, as he had extensive experience with international programs and exchanges. This was the beginning of our very close academic friendship and his involvement with the University of Shkoder, as from 2004 on he taught on a regular basis there and was involved in the curriculum development of the English and American Studies Department from 2004-2008. 

It sometime seemed as if Simon had lectured everywhere in the world. He knew European universities very well, and spent time in Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Sweden, but also in the USA, for example at San Francisco State University, Stanford University, University of Hawaii. He had also established special relationships at following universities: Hokkaido University (Japan); University of the Sacred Heart (Seoul, Korea); University of Cluj-Napoca and University of Tirgu Mures (Romania) and University of Sofia (Bulgaria).    

When I started developing Joint Degrees at the University of Graz in my function as a Vice Rector (1999-2011), Simon was instrumental in establishing the Joint Degree in English and American Studies, and there will be many additional stories to tell about the lives he touched through his presence in this context.

I personally will carry wonderful memories of Simon in my heart. We taught and mentored students together, went on trips to visit baroque churches, watched women’s football games whenever possible, enjoyed conversations, meals, and wine together, had philosophical and personal conversations and simply shared a certain view of the world: Recognizing absurdities in institutional settings, but believing in the power of literature and art in terms of expressing all the ambivalences of our human existence. Simon will be missed, but never forgotten. Rest in Peace, dear friend!

Roberta Maierhofer (C.IAS, University of Graz)

>> Full obituary as pdf (inclusive of photos and a list of selected publications)

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We are so saddened to learn of Simon's death. We are grateful to have known him. A great great reader, lover of texts, ideas, people, cigarettes, wine, food, fellowship, solitude. He was as spirited a talker as a listener. He was as prickly as he was soft. A deep thinker with a big heart. 

I am grateful that, as he told us when we enjoyed a meal together in London, he was cared for by his family, companion, and beloved son. He felt loved. He was loved. There was a bit of time for love to come to the fore.

Cheryl Lester and Philip Barnard (University of Kansas, Lawrence, US)

>> Full obituary as pdf (inclusive of photos and a list of selected publications)

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I wanted to share a memory about Simon with you. I will never forget it because it was my very first day at Uni and I was super nervous about my first class with Roberta and Simon ( Introduction to English Literary Studies 1). When I entered the room, you guys welcomed us students kindly and I calmed down. I loved that my very first class had two professors and I always appreciated Simon's contributions and thoughts on our literary analysis. He valued every observation we had on our texts and I am really grateful for his presence in this course. I liked that you and Simon sometimes agreed to diasgree on a specific matter and you guys were always able to fill the room with laughter. I just wanted to share my experience with you.

Klara Kollegger

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Professor Edwards was a kind person, a great scholar and such an inspiring lecturer. I am grateful for having known him.

Natalia Gencheva

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I am deeply saddened by the news of passing of Professor Edwards. He was a remarkable professor and mentor and a wonderful human being. He’ll be cherished in our memories forever.

Besmir Shishko

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I was so sad when I heard the bad news about our beloved friend and colleague, Simon Edwards. I will always remember him for his positivity, understanding, friendliness and good sense of humor. He was always there, if you needed him, a friend indeed. Springs won't be the same without his visits to our department. He loved springs in Shkoder and always planned his visits during that time. After teaching our students, he would wait in the department to talk with colleagues about literature or other issues and often told true funny stories which everyone enjoyed. Simon also would talk about how he loved living a simple life, dreamt of buying a simple house in Shkoder, with some chickens in the back yard possibly, enjoyed simple food and was fond of talking to simple people. He was a simple man with a rich soul and mind, which he never hesitated to share with friends, colleagues and students. His memory will always be alive in my heart and in heart of everyone who had the chance to know him.

Albana Caushi Hadri (University of Shkodra, Albania)

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I am deeply saddened by this loss! I remember first meeting Professor Edwards in Graz. He was a guest lecturer in Prof. Bernhart's English Literature course. Months later, we met in Shkoder, Albania, when he first came as a visiting professor at our university. This visit laid the foundation for a long and fruitful cooperation with the Department of English and American Studies of the University of Shkoder, where from then on he returned to teach almost every year.

Professor Edwards was a great scholar and inspiring professor, a remarkable person, a good and loving friend with a great sense of humor and always willing to help. Rest in peace dear Simon, you will be missed but not forgotten!

Irma Pashkja

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I was lucky to have met him, he gave us such positive energy, I did like his jokes, his sense of humor. A great man. my deepest condolence goes to his family! R.I.P Prof. Simon.

Valdet Shpori Bishanaku

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I am terribly sorry to hear the news of Simon's passing. My last memory of him is when he kindly invited me and Hamed for coffee to discuss our research projects. Time passed so quickly in our Simon's company. I always remember him as an extraordinary human being and great professor. 

May his soul rest in peace!

Laura Kromják

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We didn’t get to talk much, but when we did, we lit our cigarettes and chainsmoked through the university alleys and the words just flew around any kind of topic incontrollably. He always looked like a Beat poet. He was a good man.

Emre Kahramanlar

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Professor Simon Edwards was a not just a teacher, he was a friend, a muse, a person of great intellect.

Mahbub Alam

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I am so sorry to hear that another friend has passed away. Simon was a special person, full of energy and humour. Unfortunately we only met a few times, mainly for the meetings in Graz, while we were shaping the Joint Degree in English and America Literature, which Roberta had first imagined and started. Simon was the one within the group of the English colleagues involved in the JD program, who believed in the importance of overcoming bureaucracy and thinking of a European or international initiative. Besides it was a pleasure to have him with us, and we all enjoyed his sense of humour but also his huge culture. I remember that wherever we met for academic reasons he had already planned to go to the theatre as he was immensely fond of Italian opera. Just a few days ago, unexpectedly, I thought of a place in London, a small restaurant in Putney, where Simon had invited me for lunch when I was visiting Roehampton University probably on an Erasmus exchange. It was many years ago, but the image of that place in the open air, in a garden, so much like an Italian restaurant, came to my mind and was still very vivid. We shall all miss him, and his lovely nature.

Loretta Innocenti (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia)

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>> Obituary of Christoph Houswitschka (University of Bamberg)

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My summer school 201 would never have been such a fruitful and special experience without his courses and  all the conversations with Simon. So grateful  to have known him, so sorrowed for the loss.

Alexandra Miroshevskaya

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A Teacher, a Mentor, and a Cricket Enthusiast

The tragic news of Professor Simon Edwards’s passing has come as a shock to me, along with the current events of the pandemic we are facing. I was informed of his deteriorating health conditions, but never thought he would leave us so quickly. He will always be remembered as a teacher, a mentor, and a good-hearted human being. I will mostly miss our conversations about Bangladeshi and English cricket among many other things that we discussed every time we met one another, be it in a classroom or in a café; he will be dearly missed.

I met him for the first time in the summer of 2014 in a seminar entitled “Eastern European Writers in English” at the University of Bamberg, Germany, where he was holding a guest lecture. However, I did not get to know him well until I met him again the following winter semester at the University of Graz, Austria, during my exchange year. He was a visiting professor at the Center for Inter-American Studies at that time. During that year, I had the privilege of knowing him personally and intellectually as a great advocate for freedom of thoughts, beliefs, and new ideas. Apart from being an experienced academic, he was also a great lover of cricket, like most of the British. I still remember the day we had an hour-long discussion on why England lost against Bangladesh in the Cricket World Cup 2015 and his appreciation of the development of Bangladeshi cricket. Every time I saw him, he provided me with new thoughts, ideas, and inspiration, whether it was for my endeavour in academia or simply life in general.

Even though I only knew him for five years, it seems that I have known him for ages. I know that I will not have a chance to talk to him again, he will not be there to debate on who has the best cricket team, and I will not have the opportunity to ask him of his thoughts on literature as a tool for expressing inequalities in the world. Nevertheless, one thing I know for sure is that he will always be there in my thoughts, both conscious and unconscious. I will cherish all the advice, knowledge, and intellect he has shared with me for the rest of my life.

Professor Simon Edwards, you are a great teacher, a great mentor, and a great mind which will be remembered for years to come.  

Touhid Ahmed Chowdhury (University of Bamberg)

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It is difficult to believe we will never share a laugh or sardonic comment about the world, literature, and everything in between. I will miss that terribly. Simon was a teacher, a friend, a fellow reader, and for me, he will also always be one of those people who supported me when I came to Austria. You did many things for me, opened so many doors, but I feel one of the most memorable and precious was the opportunity to know Simon, if only for a couple of years.

Oana Hergenröther (Graz / Novi Sad)

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For about 15 years, Professor Simon had been present in our department through teaching or offering his expertise on certain issues that concerned us. He was always present in the special events of the English Department, the only time he could not make it was in November 2019, in our last conference where he had to make a presentation as key note speaker. Even then, we found a way to have him among us. To acknowledge his academic contribution, his devotion to teaching and involvement in the department development, with the proposal of the staff of the English Department, the senate of the University of Shkodra “Luigj Gurakuqi” conferred him the title “Honor of the University”. His name will be among all those who made a special contribution to our university.
Thank you professor Edwards for the academic expertise and the friendship you provided us!
May your soul Rest in Peace dear professor!

Rajmonda Kecira (University of Shkodra, Albania)

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It was with deep sorrow that I heard the news of the passing of Professor Simon Edwards. I will always remember him for his positivism, understanding, friendliness and good sense of humor. I am grateful to have known him, whereas his ideas and advises will forever live in my heart and mind. Rest in peace dear Simon, you will be missed but not forgotten!

Fatmir Ramadani

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I hoped so much to meet the professor  somewhere (probably in Scutari), since he had already mentioned this possibility to me. Even though never having the possibility to meet him personally, from our electronic conversation, he sent me all his goodness as a person. I am very grateful to him for all his support. I like to believe that we will meet each other in another dimension where I can say to him: " Thank you!"

Irena Bakalli (Albania)

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Simon Edwards lived and breathed international cooperation and friendship. I first met him in 2005, I think, at a planning meeting held in Graz of the Joint Degree in English and American Studies. As departmental coordinator of the programme in Graz from 2007-2018, I had many reasons to be grateful to Simon: he was a key figure in the inception of this programme, he worked tirelessly for the exchange between Graz University and his home institution, Roehampton, and he always made a point of coming to any JD parties which happened to be taking place when he was in Graz. One year, he turned up at a Christmas party in the English Department and spoke passionately about the importance of bringing students from many different countries together to study, debate and have fun together. We counted the number of countries of origin represented by the students present that afternoon: most were from EU countries but there were also students from places further afield such as Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the USA. Simon was delighted. He was in his element. He will be greatly missed.

Nancy Campbell (University of Graz) 

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In memory of Prof. Simon Edwards

Professor Edwards was a great scholar, a wonderful teacher, and above all, a very friendly and lively person. I have had the privilege of knowing him for the last seven years as a professor, but also as a colleague and a mentor. His classes were always dynamic and interesting because the passion he felt for the subject of his academic research was wonderfully translated to the classroom and the students. It was always a joy to take one of his classes.

He was also a very down-to-earth, approachable and friendly with all of the students. He had a passion for knowledge and conversations with him never had a dull moment. We would discuss literature, politics and sharing our struggles with German language and a deep love we had for Graz and the Austrian people.

I would like to give my condolences to his friends and family, a truly great man has been lost.

Dear professor, you will be very missed. Rest in peace.

Mirna Maric Cindric

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It is very sad news indeed. It is a heavy loss for his family, his friends, his students and his colleagues (I being one of them). He was an excellent man, gentle, kind, friendly, with a keen sense of humor,  and a great scholar of English literature. I was lucky to have known Prof. Simon, thanks to you. He will live forever in my memory. May his soul rest in peace. Please, if you can, extend my deepest condolences to his family.

Refik Kadija

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>> Obituary on the Website of the European Joint Master’s Programme in English and American Studies

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I am deeply saddened by the news of Simon's passing.  It seems inconceivable that there will not be another autumn walk through Graz after a lecture, no coffee with a poppy seed pastry ever again. We have lost an inspiring and remarkable person with a fierce fighting spirit, a sharp wit, and a kind heart. I am so grateful to to have known Simon as a wonderful teacher and a great friend. "Every trail has its end," and I am glad we walked some few steps together.

Julia (Julie) Prochinig (C.IAS, University of Graz)

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It was so sad to hear the news of the passing away of Simon. He was a remarkable professor and mentor and a wonderful human being, most of all he was an everlasting source of humor, warmhearted discussions, philosophical ponderings about policymaking in university settings and literature.

It is only in a wonderful person as him that witty humor and the vein of literature can be traced to be miraculously intertwined. I still remember his commitment in providing us with mentoring and kind advice regarding our doctoral projects, the vivid lunches and dinners with the faculty members next to a glass of wine, and his remarks about the beautiful springs of Shkodra and how he intended to spend his retirement there. Persons like him do not pass away they just give us the opportunity to keep remembering and bringing back the best moments spent with him, his presence will always remain in our minds and never be forgotten. Rest in peace dear professor. 

Tidita Ahemetaga

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I am very saddened by the loss of the Professor Simon Edwards. I still remember that sunny day when I met him in Graz. We shared a crammed tram trip from the Graz University to the city centre, and it was one of the funniest and most remarkable tram trips ever! I would never forget his sense of humor and ironic twists, his critical spirit, and thought-provoking emails we have exchanged since then. He is very missed and will be truly cherished in my memories.

Ieva Stončikaitė

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Please share with us any memories and pictures you might have, we will then also post it on our website.

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