We are greatly saddened by the recent death of Emeritus Professor Nicholas Hewitt, who passed away on 1 March 2019. Nick Hewitt was a great teacher and a meticulous, clear-headed, and witty researcher. He was a founding editor of French Cultural Studies and was for many years editor of Nottingham French Studies. He was a tireless and passionate advocate of the importance of French studies and his research ranged over the widest span of the subject. I first come across his work as I naively started out to write a thesis on Louis-Ferdinand Céline. I quickly found that Hewitt was already way ahead of the great French Céliniens – Henri Godard, Frédéric Vitoux, and Philippe Alméras, to name but a few. In his groundbreaking work The Golden Age of Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1987), he showed how Céline was a product of his era and that this was essential to understanding the great contradiction at the centre of his work: how Céline could be the leading Modernist writer of the 1930s and an anti-Semite at the same time. He takes this contradiction head-on in his biography of Céline, and indeed Hewitt’s analysis of Céline’s polemics against the Jews is probably the best, most nuanced, and accurate that you can read. He quite rightly caustically took me to task in my own thesis for misreading these texts; I still somehow stumbled through.
Hewitt began his career at Hull, before moving to Southampton, Warwick, and then to Nottingham, where he held a series of senior managerial posts whilst still ever extending our knowledge of French culture. I was always particularly struck by his knowledge of the rhythms and registers of French (refined of course in his readings of Céline). I saw him ‘perform’ last at a 2016 conference at Senate House, London, as vital, witty, and learned as ever. He is survived by his partner Helen Meller, whom he married in 2018, his children Rachel and Sarah, and his stepdaughter Meeshe Nehru.