In memoriam: Ian Michael
Ian Michael was King Alfonso XIII Professor of Spanish Studies from 1982 to 2003 and Professorial Fellow of Exeter College. Hailing from South Wales (in common with several other notable Hispanists) Professor Michael began his studies of Spanish at Neath Grammar School, progressing to an undergraduate degree at King’s College, London, and then a PhD at the University of Manchester. His doctoral thesis, which dealt with the treatment of classical material in the medieval Spanish poem, the Libro de Alexandre, was later published as a monograph, heralding a brilliant academic career which focussed primarily on some of the canonical texts of medieval Spain including the Poema de mio Cid, El libro de buen amor, and La Celestina. He taught at the Universities of Manchester and Southampton, where he was Chair of Spanish, before his appointment at Oxford. He was particularly respected in Spain for his regularly-reprinted edition of the Poema de mio Cid in the Clásicos Castalia series. He became a Corresponding Member of the Royal Spanish Academy and a Commander of the Order of Isabella the Catholic.
Professor Michael’s interests in fact extended far beyond medieval Spanish literature. He wrote on the history of the book, notably on early editions of Miguel de Cervantes’s masterpiece, Don Quijote, as well as the history of the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid. Other interests included the popular ballad, fantasy literature, bilingual cultures, European cinema, and the detective story. Indeed, he was an award-winning author of detective stories set during Spain’s transition to democracy, written under the pseudonym, David Serafín.
After his retirement in 2003, Professor Michael moved to Madrid, where he lived close to the national library and spent time in the company of his many friends and acquaintances. He remained in contact with his friends and former colleagues in Oxford and well beyond and will be remembered by them with great affection not only for his exceptional scholarly gifts but also for his kindness and generosity and his entertaining wit and companionship.
For those interested in learning more about Professor Michael’s career and personal qualities, see the appreciation of him written after his retirement by his predecessor as King Alfonso XIII Professor, Sir Peter Russell: ‘Ian Michael: A personal appreciation’, Bulletin of Spanish Studies (2004), 81:7-8, vii-x, DOI: 10.1080/1475382042000297718.