Bruce Bennett, one of the most respected and admired scholars and teachers in Australian literary studies, has passed away after a long illness.
He began his influential career at UWA in the 1960’s and was the founding director, together with John Hay, of the Centre for Studies in Australian Literature (now the Westerly Centre.) He was co-editor of Westerly from 1975 until 1992, when he left UWA to take up a chair at the ADFA campus of UNSW, and continued to contribute to the magazine in an editorial capacity throughout his life.
Dennis Haskell has written in his obituary for The West Australian, “The study of Australian literature as a key element in understanding the culture and the nation has a few heroes in Western Australia, but none greater than Bruce Bennett.”
Bruce was a Rhodes scholar who wrote numerous books and articles, was a visiting professor at universities across the world, and was awarded many honours throughout his extraordinary career, but as Dennis Haskell points out, “The list of achievements gives only the outlines of a career, not the flesh and blood sense of the man. Perhaps more important than any list is the perception of him around the world as an enthusiastic, genial, gentle, humble and utterly humane man, with a wry smile. This will long be remembered.”
And Delys Bird, editor of Westerly, has said, “He is as much remembered for his always generous support of students and colleagues around the world as for his wide-ranging work. His passing leaves a huge gap in our field and in our lives.”
Paul Clifford (Westerly Centre) +61 8 6488 3403