Professor Margaret Atack

It is with great sadness that we inform colleagues of the death of Margaret Atack, distinguished scholar, brilliant teacher, and a warm, wise and generous friend and colleague. Since her retirement on grounds of ill health in July 2022, Margaret had been undergoing long and arduous rounds of treatment for cancer, which she managed with characteristic courage and good humour, when she suffered a stroke, from which we hoped she would recover. She leaves a huge gap in the lives of her children and her many close friends and colleagues.

Margaret was and is internationally known as a leading scholar of French fiction about the Occupation of France in World War II, and also for her publications on crime fiction and 20th century French literature more broadly, including her most recent monograph Jean Vilar, Theatres of Crime (Legenda, 2020). An early member of Women in French UK, she also contributed three co-edited books and a number of articles and chapters to the study of French feminism. All of her work is informed by an encyclopaedic knowledge of theory across many disciplines – including literature, cultural studies, history and politics – and by rigorously thorough research. Margaret read everything, and wore her exceptional level of erudition very lightly.

But she also found time to be an inspiring and imaginative teacher, and her 2015 University of Leeds award for inspirational teaching was richly deserved. She was an equally tireless and inspiring academic leader: as Head of the School of Humanities at Sunderland Polytechnic (as it then was) for three years, then once she had returned to Leeds, where she had held her first permanent post, as Professor of French, then successively Head of Department, Dean for Research in the Faculty of Arts, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research from 2006 to 2009. She served twice on RAE/REF panels, once as Chair, and accepted many invitations to serve on and chair panels for senior academic appointments and grant awards (including with the Leverhulme Trust), as well as acting as external examiner in a number of institutions.

Margaret Atack was, all in all, one of the most highly respected and warmly regarded members of the French Studies community, as well as a very dear friend and colleague. We will miss her acutely, and for a long time to come.

Diana Holmes and Max Silverman, University of Leeds