Last week, the Cerae Editorial committee was greatly saddened to learn of the death of Professor Philippa Maddern. When Cerae was conceived just over a year ago, Philippa Maddern was one of the first people we contacted for advice, and she very quickly became a staunch and enthusiastic supporter of our endeavors. Over the past year, she assisted us to secure funding, to source and contact peer-reviewers, reviewed our early website and promotional materials, and offered invaluable guidance on numerous occasions in conversation. Cerae, quite simply, would not exist as it does today without her assistance. We were always amazed, and incredibly grateful, that despite having far more pressing and important matters to attend to as the Director of the Center for the History of Emotions she was willing to volunteer so much time and energy on a project such as ours, still in its embryonic stages and run by relatively inexperienced graduate students and young academics. She will be very sadly missed by all of us. Below, individual members of the Editorial committee have left personal reflections on their memories of her.
Imogen Forbes-Macphail, on behalf of the Cerae Editorial Committee
From my first moments at UWA, Philippa Maddern took me under her wing. As a young mum reentering university studies as a mature aged student, and having just sunk my teeth into the delights of medieval and Latin studies, Philippa’s gentle guidance and unfailing support was invaluable. I have fond memories of mead and bumbags, of having my intellectual world rocked by new ideas and insights during lectures and conversations with her, of my children playing on the floor in her office amidst stacks of articles and books while I had third-year supervision meetings, of incredible understanding and care when personal difficulties encroached on academic aspirations. Philippa saw me through the completion of my BA, taught me some amazing units as part of my Masters in Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and has been the most inspiring and supportive supervisor a PhD student could ask for. She is easily one of the most brilliant people I have had the privilege of knowing, yet it is her humble, kind and generous nature that has made her even more special. She was forever encouraging and enabling other people to succeed in their chosen paths, professionally and personally. Her capacity for not just intellectual but moral clarity, her ability to bring out the best in people, and her sparkling wit, made her the best of teachers and the perfect confidant. I will be forever grateful for all Philippa has done to expand my mind, guide my learning, further my journey into academia, and to help me negotiate difficult patches in both my home and work life. She will be sorely missed, but I am sure that she will continue to inspire and guide all of us who knew her long after her passing.
Philippa was an academic who never drew lines around a person, their interests or their position. I never had Philippa as a supervisor or a lecturer personally but I have had many meetings with her over the years as she was always so free with her time to give advice and encouragement. Each occasion made me feel that what I was doing was worthwhile and substantial. She was very passionate about urging me to apply, speak, engage and enjoy. A chance encounter while suffering a personal loss revealed the depths of kindness and gentleness that she had in unending quantities.
A very deep loss to so many but a lasting source of inspiration to us all. Her work and her presence will continue to guide the field of Humanities and lead the way for the passionate yet humane academic.
Philippa enjoyed sharing in the perspectives of others, and then politely and firmly steering them towards a better, sharper, more focused version of themselves. That was her talent: never to change a person, but to intuit their inner qualities and to foster them. This, I believe, is the greatest gift I have ever received. It is all the more marvelous that Philippa gave this priceless treasure to so many, shaping every personality type imaginable and responding to every effort with empathetic and well-considered responses. She knew what you were trying to do, even if you had no idea.
I once had the privilege of interviewing Philippa about her vocational and leadership philosophy. She told me that no matter what else you may do, always treat your peers with absolute equity, integrity, true respect, and appreciation. Furthermore, she added, it was essential to be calm and attentive in all of one’s dealings. Philippa was unfailingly fair, irrespective of experience, age, gender, personality, or vocation. We loved her for the respect she gave us and respected her in return. I will remember many things about her for the rest of my life, but this fundamental principle is etched into my memory the deepest.
It is incredibly difficult to even begin to express how great an impact Philippa has had on my confidence and outlook, even though we only worked together for little over a semester. She was the epitome of a great teacher and mentor. In the short time I was lucky enough to have her as my supervisor, I was struck by both her brilliance and her generosity. All of our meetings were immensely positive experiences: I would always leave her office with a sense of empowerment. This is the greatest gift that somebody who has always struggled with low self-confidence could receive. Philippa’s legacy, I believe, will be in every single one of the hundreds, if not thousands of students whose learning she shaped in one way or another. What a great way to be remembered!
Along with a recipe for revolting medieval honey cakes served with mead, Philippa Maddern taught me that fierce argument, like all things, should be conducted with humour, sensitivity, humility and an infectious enthusiasm for one’s subject. Philippa devoted hours each day to supporting students and fostering their minds, providing them with the very best role model: as academics, as women, as people. She also constantly advocated on behalf of colleagues, the humanities, and the wider advancement of medieval studies in Australia.Listening to an animated Philippa Maddern speak was, quite simply, enthralling, but her most lasting legacy was her encouragement and utter kindness, which came in such a variety of forms. As a result of Philippa’s ceaseless energy and passion, I know that she wouldn’t want anyone to mourn her loss without remembering that there is more to be done, more incisive, exciting ways to think about the world or approach new academic questions. I will never know the contents of Philippa’s mysterious bum bag, or what lurked at the bottom of her fire-hazardous garden, but I do know that Philippa has profoundly shaped my life in many ways, as she has done for so many others throughout her rich life.