Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dr. David Lavery, co-founder of Whedon Studies

Some very sad news to report. My dissertation director, Dr. David Lavery, passed away yesterday morning. The whole English department is in shock. I saw him last just last Thursday, and he seemed in good humor, high energy, and the best of health. He had dozens of projects in the works -- including maybe organizing an academic sub-conference forthe upcoming "Con of Thrones" being held in Nashville next year. The reality of his passing has yet to set in. He was a great colleague and friend, and, while I always knew he had something of a cult following among the graduate students, even I have been surprised by how devastated so many people have been. For my part, I always intensely admired him. He genuinely enjoyed the life of the mind, and he loved popular culture, and he was relentless in helping not only his graduate students but all graduate students succeed.

I remember, about a year before I ever took a class with him, watching him and Dr. Hixon give a publications workshop . . . and he quite literally bragged about his three recent graduate students who just had their dissertations published. Far from putting me off, I loved that. And he always loved to talk about his own work -- again, that never put me off at all. He had a justified pride in all his accomplishments. He'd done over 20 books (written or edited or co-edited), organized tons of conferences, published tons of papers, co-founded the journal Slayage, everything you could imagine. Just a few weeks ago, NPR invited him to talk about Joss Whedon  . .  and, somehow, got Joss Whedon himself to come on the show at the last minute, meaning that Dr. Lavery got the chance to meet his favorite artistic figure. How can you beat that?

And he had so many projects in the works. He's been threatening retirement for years, and then he was going to finish his Wallace Stevens book, his novel, and who knows what else. Even as much as his presence, all that is a great loss for the intellectual world.

He will be missed.

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