In December 2021, Richard Dean Taylor passed away in Bayreuth. There is no doubt that anyone involved in English and American Studies will remember him with great respect and affection, as he has decisively shaped the first major phase in the development of the discipline at the new University of Bayreuth. At home in several key areas of literary culture, Taylor published major studies on Ezra Pound (1991 and 1993), on the forms and cultural conventions of literature (1982), on the drama of W. B. Yeats (1977 and 1984), and on Frank Pearce Sturm (1969). In the creative field, Taylor produced two plays in the Japanese Nō tradition (1980 and 1981). At the time of his death, he was working on successive stages of a magisterial Variorum edition of Ezra Pound’s Cantos.
Just as remarkable as his considerable scholarly achievement is Taylor’s biographical background with its many stations. He was born in Cambridge (New York) in 1935, and was educated at Brown University, at the University of Manchester (M.A., supervised by Frank Kermode), and Durham University (Ph.D.). He was a CIC Officer at Pearl Harbor for several years, then Education Advisor at the Naval Academy in Nha Trang (Vietnam), before becoming a teacher at the American School in Tokyo. From there he went to Africa, becoming a lecturer at Fourah Bay College in Freetown (Sierra Leone). His next position was that of lecturer at the University of Reading (U.K.), before moving on to become Assistant Professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Taylor returned to Africa to become Reader and then Professor of Literature in English at the University of Ife in Nigeria. It was there that the offer of a chair at the newly founded University of Bayreuth reached him, which he accepted, so that he filled this position (as Professor of English and Comparative Literature) from 1979 until he achieved emeritus status. He became Dean of the Faculty of Language and Literature, and University Senate member.
Taylor enjoyed several fellowships to support his large-scale projects, including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship, the Everett Helm Research Fellowship, the Overseas Research Fellowship of Churchill College (Cambridge), and the Donald Gallup Research Fellowship, as well as repeated grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. Taylor enjoyed great popularity with the Faculty’s students throughout his active teaching period, and found numerous opportunities to draw on his rich and global professional experience in his teaching and his social communication. Indeed, we can still learn much from this. Taylor centered a major lecture at Ife-Ife upon a poem composed during the Chinese Sung dynasty:
Art produces something beyond the form of things,
Though its importance lies in preserving the form of things;
Poetry gives us thoughts beyond the domain of art,
But is valued in that it exhibits the characteristics of art.
As Taylor explicates this: “Literature presents us with thoughts which go far beyond the structural inter-relationship of parts within the work. It offers a whole universe of ideas which have a direct relationship to our actual experience of life.” Taylor’s own richly diverse range of experience has enabled him to open such a universe to his students, his colleagues, and his many friends.
Prof. Eckhard Breitinger (1940-2013)
Eckhard Breitinger, professor emeritus of English and Anglophone Literature, theatre photographer and publisher, died on August 15, 2013, after a serious illness in Bayreuth, Germany. From 1981 until his retirement in 2005 he taught at the University of Bayreuth and helped establish it as one of the major African Studies centres in Germany. Breitinger mentored three generations of students, researchers and artists from and of Africa, the Caribbean and Africa-America; and he can be considered a ‘2nd generation pioneer’ of African and African-diasporic literature, after Ulli Beier and Janheinz Jahn, who helped institute the study of postcolonial literatures at German universities.
Breitinger studied English, History, Archaeology and Philosophy at Tübingen, Bangor and Geneva before completing a PhD on ‘the Gothic Novel’ at Tübingen in 1971. This was followed by a Habilitation on ‘Radio Literature and Drama in the US’ at Bayreuth in 1987. In-between these two book-length studies he taught and researched at universities and colleges around the world, starting with a two-year lectureship at the University of the West Indies (Kingston, Jamaica) in 1966-68, a Senior lectureship at UST Kumasi (today Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana) and visiting professorships in countries such as Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Cameroon, France and the US. Kingston was indeed decisive for his career; the personal encounters with writers such as Derek Walcott sparked a life-long interest in postcolonial cultural production. Even after retirement, Breitinger remained an active teacher and researcher, his last visits taking him to Krakow in 2006 and Maputo in 2008 respectively. His was an enduring engagement with both North and South, theory and practice, research and teaching. His writings on anglophone Cameroonian literature and the cultural landscape in Uganda remain scholarly milestones to this day. All in all, Breitinger published over a hundred articles in books and journals, excluding countless reviews, journalistic pieces and editorial work. One of his passions was theatre in Africa. An internationally acknowledged expert in the field, he also worked as a theatre photographer and translator of plays. His photographic exhibitions on theatre-for-development and theatre in Uganda and South Africa toured world-wide, from Grahamstown to Texas, from Accra to Barcelona. He translated radio plays of writers from Somalia, South Africa and Cameroon for German radio stations, and he also worked as an author and broadcaster, among others for Deutsche Welle, North German, Bavarian and Hessian broadcasting services, and Radio Free Berlin.
One of his most important achievements was the foundation in 1983 of an academic publishing house-cum-book series, the Bayreuth African Studies Series (BASS). The company was his second professional passion. BASS enabled the publication of numerous studies on cultural production, religion and language in Africa and her Diaspora; languages of publication were English, German and French. This was particularly important for many scholars from Africa with little access to international distribution. 91 numbered and 15 unnumbered volumes were published in BASS. In 2003, Breitinger’s wife, the literary critic and African, Caribbean and American Studies scholar Pia Thielman, had joined the company. When Breitinger was diagnosed with cancer in May 2013, she completed the editing of the final volume.
Even during his illness, Breitinger remained an active member of the academic community. Mentoring graduate students from the African continent had always been his heart-felt concern, so in June 2013 he was adamant to attend the viva of his last PhD mentee, Samuel Ndogo (Moi University, Kenya), despite his rapidly deteriorating health. We have lost a colleague of profound expertise, experience and scholarly stamina; we will miss Eckhard Breitinger as an exceptional mentor, human being and friend.
(Christine Matzke, 2013)
Moving tributes from Breitinger's former students and mentees can be found here.