Laura Marcus

Laura Marcus
Photo: University of Oxford, Humanities Division

The death of Professor Laura Marcus FBA, Goldsmiths’ Professor of English Literature in the Faculty of English and Fellow of New College, Oxford, was announced on Wednesday 22 September 2021.

Claire Nicholson, Chair of the Virginia Woolf Society of GB, says:

We extend our sympathies on their sad loss to William and Daniel, Laura’s husband and son, and to her many colleagues and friends who have enjoyed her scholarship and teaching over such a distinguished career. It is a huge loss to Woolf studies, and Laura will be much missed.

Below is a short appreciation of Laura by Sheila Wilkinson, formerly Activities Secretary of the VWSGB.

It was with great sadness that I heard of the death, on 22 September 2021, of Laura Marcus, at the relatively young age of 65 years. Laura was one of the first academics to support the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain from its inception. We were fortunate that she gave the Virginia Woolf Birthday Lecture in 2010 but that was not the only time that she supported the Society. In September 2001 when we were fortunate to be able to hold the talks of the annual study holiday in the function room of the Abergavenny Arms in Rodmell Laura spoke on ‘Orlando and the New Biography’. Laura also suggested that I ask her PhD student, Ayako Yoshino, to talk about her research on English Pageantry. Both these subjects corresponded with our visits to Long Barn, Sissinghurst, Knole and Monks House.

Laura also joined us in Salisbury for the ‘Virginia in Wiltshire’ event in 2005 when the title of her talk was ‘Julia Margaret Cameron and Virginia Woolf: Vision, the Photograph and the Film’, an appropriate talk as we went to Freshwater the following day and had talks at Dimbola and also in Tennyson’s study at Farringford.

Not only was Laura a brilliant academic and speaker, she was also a lovely person. She was very unassuming and always so very pleasant. She was helpful in her suggestions to me as the organiser of Society events in my role as Activities Secretary. When Laura first spoke at our events she was an academic at Sussex University but at the time of her death she had progressed to be Goldsmiths’ Professor of English Literature at Oxford University and a Fellow of New College. Virginia Woolf stayed at New College when visiting her cousin, H.A.L. Fisher, Warden of the college.

An abiding recollection of Laura was at the Wiltshire study week when she and another academic spent the night before her talk at the Milford Hall Hotel in Salisbury where the event was based. At 5.30am the fire alarm rang and most of the hotel guests scrambled into a jumble of clothes to rush out to the assembly point in the car park. Laura came out wrapped in about three large bath towels and the other academic appeared fully dressed and wearing high-heeled shoes. We all laughed at the contrast. Ann Barber, one of the most supportive of members, woke up, heard laughter and thought to herself, ‘Why is Sheila outside – laughing?’ and promptly turned over and went to sleep, but the vision of the lovely, human Laura enclosed in white fluffy towels will never be forgotten by those of us who were so fond of her.