Professor Jane Moody, Director of the Humanities Research Centre and Professor of English at the University of York, died peacefully at home surrounded by her family on 28 October 2011.
Jane was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, but she responded well to the initial treatment. When the illness returned in 2010, Jane decided to keep the news very quiet until the very end. This allowed her to focus on making the most of her time at work and at home, and we can only marvel at the courage, intensity and sense of pleasure she brought to life during her last year.
Jane was not only the Founding Director of the HRC but also its guiding force: much of what we most value about the distinctive building and the thriving community it houses we owe to Jane's vision, drive and attention to detail. She was rarely seen without a Moody Master Plan (sometimes stretching to many pages), and was always willing to do battle over the lighting in the lecture hall or the taps in the loos; but she was a gifted listener and patient advisor, with great warmth of character and a spontaneous, even mischievous, charm. From the first blueprints to an impressive footprint in the University and beyond, Jane has fostered the kind of environment that postgraduates want to work in and scholars love to visit. Jane was particularly proud of the famous purple HRC bags, with their slogan borrowed (with blessings) from Martha Nussbaum, 'Democracy needs the humanities.' The award-winning building Jane helped to design, along with her prize-winning scholarship, will serve as her abiding legacy and an ongoing reminder of why letters and learning matter.
Jane came to York in 1997 from a research fellowship at Girton College Cambridge, having earned her BA and PhD from Oxford. She had a great passion for 18th- and 19th-century theatre: her acclaimed study of Illegitimate Theatre in London, 1770-1830 was followed by The Cambridge Companion to British Theatre, 1730-1830 . She co-edited a collection on Theatre and Celebrity in Britain 1600-2000, and her general interest in the relationship between literature and the market led to her innovative undergraduate module, 'The Culture Business.' She was appointed to a personal chair in 2004 and served as the Research Chair in the Department of English & Related Literature, where she was in charge of the submission to the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). The Department's top ranking in the country was due in no small part to Jane's strategic intelligence, and her gift for helping other people to make the most of their research.
Jane's career at the University culminated in her role at the HRC, where she quickly earned the faith of the Vice-Chancellor and the gratitude of her students (for whom Thursday afternoons are now forever associated with cake). Both inside and outside the University, Jane used the HRC to demonstrate the public value of humanities research. She led several projects in this area, including York's inaugural Festival of Ideas in June 2011. Jane believed that a University can contribute to the place it is located, not just economically, but socially and culturally, and it took very little time for someone of Jane’s persuasive powers to bring the Museums Trust, York Theatre Royal and the National Centre for Early Music on board as partners for the inaugural festival . Jane’s long-term vision was to develop a festival that would rival Edinburgh and the team who worked with her to deliver the inaugural festival are determined to honour Jane’s ambition.
Jane also made regular appearances on radio and television, including Radio 3's culture programme Nightwaves, the TV series Who Do You Think You Are?, and the documentary Rude Britannia; and she served on a number of local and national boards (including the Peer Review College of the Arts and Humanities Research Council).
All of Jane's qualities--her wit, style, love of theatre, meticulous planning and delight in surprise--were on display in the first Merchant Adventurers' Arts Discovery Event. On 9 November 2010 Jane treated a large audience from both university and city to a memorable lecture on 'Pantomime Before Berwick Kaler,' (with a star turn by York's most famous pantomime dame).
Professor Bill ShermanDepartment of English & Related LiteratureCentre for Renaissance & Early Modern Studies