Search site

 

Secretariat

Obituary: Inga-Stina Ewbank

It is very sad to report the death, on 7 June 2004, of Emeritus Professor Inga-Stina Ewbank, former Professor of English Literature.

Professor Ewbanks longstanding friends and colleagues in the School of English have contributed the following obituary:

"Inga-Stina Ewbank was a remarkable woman, a distinguished international scholar in at least three fields, and an inspirational teacher and lecturer. She was also direct, unassuming, and unfailingly generous with her time. All these qualities, together with her formidable administrative abilities, were of immense importance to the School of English, in which she was appointed Professor of English Literature in 1985, and to the University in general.

Inga-Stina was an international figure in more ways than one. She was born and received her secondary education in Sweden. In 1950 she went to Carleton College, Minnesota, to take her first undergraduate degree in English where she was elected Phi Beta Kappa. She completed her Gothenburg Fil.kand. in English and Comparative Literature. This was awarded in absentia since she was in England taking an MA at Sheffield. At the age of twenty-three, she was appointed William Noble Research Fellow at Liverpool (1955-57), going on to a three-year Fellowship at the Shakespeare Institute. In 1960, she was appointed Assistant Lecturer (later becoming Lecturer and Senior Lecturer) at Liverpool.

She was to stay there for twelve years, where she became a legendary role model, who not only wrote books and brought up three children, but directed plays, gave brilliant lectures at short notice, and who needed hardly any sleep. At the early age of forty, she was appointed to the prestigious Hildred Carlisle Chair of English Literature at her beloved Bedford College, University of London, where she served as Dean of Arts and Vice-Principal before the merger with Royal Holloway, where, for one difficult year, she was Chairman of the combined English departments before leaving for Leeds.

International recognition of Inga-Stinas scholarly achievements took many forms, including Research Fellowships at the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Norwegian Academy's Centre for Advanced Study. She was a visiting professor at Munich, Northwestern, Harvard, Maryland, Georgetown, Columbia and Gothenburg. Invitations to lecture abroad took her to the USA, Canada (where she gave the Alexander Lectures in 1987), India, Japan, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Norway, Poland and Sweden.

Her notable academic honours included her election to the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and her honorary doctorates from Oslo (1997) and Lingnan University in Hong Kong (1999). She also served on the Hong Kong UGC from 1982 until the handover to China, and in 1999 was awarded the Silver Bauhina Star by the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Inga-Stina served in an advisory capacity on the committees of a number of bodies, including the British Academy, the British Library and the Commonwealth Scholarships Commission.

Her research was divided into three main areas. One was the nineteenth-century novel and feminist approaches, beginning with her pioneering book, Their Proper Sphere: A Study of the Bront Sisters as Early-Victorian Female Novelists (1966). This interest was equally evident in her work on Isak Dinesen. Scandinavian drama was another abiding concern, and from the middle 1970s she translated several of Ibsen's and Strindberg's plays for the English stage, collaborating with Sir Peter Hall.

Inga-Stina also worked with Geoffrey Hill on his verse translation of Ibsen's 'Brand' for the National Theatre. As a translator she caught better than anyone the intelligence, spirit and verbal nuance of Ibsens language, and at her death she was looking forward to translating his plays for a Penguin edition. This represents a major loss to both Ibsen studies and the British theatre.

Elizabethan and Jacobean drama interested her from the beginnings of her career, and she published a remarkable variety of original articles and chapters in this field (on Shakespeare, Webster, Middleton and others), many of them subsequently reprinted. She was a frequent plenary speaker at international Shakespeare conferences (from the USA to Japan). Among other works, she co-edited the Festschrift for Kenneth Muir, Shakespeare's Styles (1980), whose title points to one of her recurrent scholarly concerns, the workings of language in drama.

Drawing all these fields together was an interest in cultural exchange between Scandinavian and English literatures. The links she built between the School of English and the University of Oslo are a continuing reminder of her multi-lingual interests. In 1999, along with Olav Lausund and Bjrn Tysdahl, she edited a joint collection of essays, Anglo-Scandinavian Cross-Currents, 1850-1914.

Inga-Stina gave generously of her time to University committees, and to the School of English as administrator, teacher and facilitator. She served as the School's Chair at a demanding time between 1988-91 and cheerfully and with amazing facility despatched the ever-growing chores of day-to-day administration. She taught and lectured with an lan and enthusiasm which will be remembered by generations of undergraduate and graduate students.

Everyone who met her, particularly students in her Tragedy seminars - in which they not only saw videos but were made coffee - immediately realised that she was special. She had a kind heart and a wonderfully quick and fertile mind. A unique combination of a genuinely modest woman and a true intellectual, she was vitally committed to the literature of her second language and adopted home, but equally to literatures European dimensions.

Inga-Stina retired from the Chair in September 1997, when the title of Emeritus Professor was conferred upon her. Shortly before she left the University, she commented that she was looking forward to retirement as a kind of permanent study leave. That expectation was amply fulfilled, and at her death she had just completed an edition of Catiline for the forthcoming Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson.

Inga-Stina was deeply attached to her family and is survived by her husband, Roger, and their three children, Jane, Kit and Emily, and two grandchildren, Grace and John."

The funeral will be held on Thursday, 17 June 2004, at 11.30am, at St Barnabas Church, Pitshanger Lane (on the corner with Denison Road), Ealing. The family have requested that no flowers be sent, but donations may be made to the Macmillan Nurses (01904 651700).

It is hoped that there will also be a memorial event at a later date.

Published: 8 June 2004