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laurence keates

Laurence W Keates, MA

Mr Laurence Keates, former Senior Lecturer in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literature, died on 27 May 2012.

Laurence Keates, who was born in 1929, read Spanish at the University of Birmingham, from where he graduated in 1952, having obtained a Distinction for the spoken language element of his degree programme.  Whilst at Birmingham, he also took an optional course in Portuguese and, after graduation, left for Portugal where, for two years, he immersed himself in intensive study of the language and literature of that country.  Awarded a Portuguese government scholarship at the University of Lisbon during his second year, he also began work on an MA thesis on the major 16th-century Portuguese playwright and poet, Gil Vicente.  In 1955, he took up a post at Queen’s College, Guyana (at that time still known as British Guiana), where he taught French, Spanish and Portuguese to ‘A’ and ‘S’ level.  He remained at the College until 1958, becoming head of the Modern Languages Faculty in his final year.  During this period he also appeared regularly on Radio Demerara, the country’s oldest radio station, presenting talks and book reviews and chairing discussion groups for the British Council.

Returning to Lisbon, Laurence Keates spent two years as an English Assistant at the University.  He was awarded his MA by Birmingham in 1959.  He came to Leeds as Assistant Lecturer in 1961. He was promoted to Lecturer in the following year and to Senior Lecturer in 1972.   From the outset, Laurence Keates was prominently involved in enlarging the scope and reach of Portuguese studies within the University; one significant fruit of this was the introduction at the end of the 1960s of new two-subject degree schemes, combining Portuguese with one other subject (hitherto, Portuguese had been offered as part of the BA in General Studies and as an ancillary subject).  The increasing popularity of Portuguese owed much to his character, temperament and enthusiasm.  Teaching in a very friendly and human way, he enthused his students – his Head of Department once wrote that students of Portuguese at Leeds radiated a real excitement about their subject.  He also regularly taught Spanish within the department.  The annual Portuguese Weeks which he organised throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and which included films, exhibitions and lectures, gave a wider audience an insight into the riches of Portuguese culture.  In very large measure as a result of his endeavours and achievements, Leeds became the largest and most active centre for Luso-Brazilian studies outside King’s College, London.  This status was borne out in the decision to make Leeds the venue for the second Congress of the International Association of Lusitanists in 1987.  Reflecting his international standing, Laurence Keates was a vice-president of the Association.

Laurence Keates published a number of articles on Portuguese literary figures and texts.  With financial support from the Portuguese Instituto de Alta Cultura, his MA thesis was published as The Court Theatre of Gil Vicente in 1962; later, he produced a Portuguese translation of this work: O teatro de Gil Vicente na Corte (1988).  He also wrote several articles, including the main article on ‘Portugal’, in the Cambridge Guide to World Theatre (1988).  His textbooks include a very well-received limited edition First Course in Portuguese

Laurence Keates was a remarkable educator who encouraged his students to think beyond set questions and investigate in detail the many different aspects of global Portuguese language and culture.  He was possessed of a dry, gentle wit and delivered anecdotes with a distinct twinkle in his eye and a quiet chuckle.  He was always available for consultation and willingly shared with his students his extraordinarily wide range of knowledge.

Although he retired from his University post in 1989, Laurence Keates continued regularly to attend and support departmental events in both Portuguese and Spanish for many years afterwards.

The funeral service took place on Friday 8 June when the flag was flown at half-mast on the Parkinson Building.