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SUMMER

14th June


expected it but because he has something to say and communicate. He writes because he has something he is trying work out. He has written on an astonishing range of topics including social theory, emotions, masculinity, fatherhood, philosophy, sexual politics, anti-Semitism, the Shoah, terrorism, multiculturalism, faith, ecology, youth, Latin American culture, narrative and memory, history and mourning.

It is an indication of the lasting relevance of his work that Routledge has re-published six of his books within their ‘Routledge Revival’ series. For once they got something right. There is a shift in Vic’s writing from the univeralism of his poster boys – Marx and Freud - and a dogmatic version of Left politics, to an engagement with difference. A characteristic of his recent work is openness and a measure of humility in what we can claim to know while at the same time a commitment to social critique.

Finally, being around him - at a conference or in an intellectual conversation - Vic always conveys a sense of intellectual excitement, a kind of enchantment in ideas. You can always rely on him to support an event and to ask a question. Sometimes we almost have to restrain his enthusiasm and excitement. Aeschylus wrote that to “learn is to be young, however old.” For Vic’s this has always been learning with students, through what they are interested in and what they bring with them into the seminar room. One thing is for sure it has kept him young and maybe this is why he does not seem to

 


have aged in the thirty years I have known him.

Vic is interested in new ideas but not in the performance of intelligence, or what he referred to recently as “the self-important talking to the self-important.” There are some aspects of the new academic environment that he’s less at home in. He never quite took to email, for example. There is a kind of gentle stubbornness in Vic. However, on the other hand, it makes total sense to me that he is an avid user of SMS and text messaging – an authored person to person communication both intimate and social. That’s why Vic has his mobile phone always to hand.

In many ways Vic’s life and work offer us a lesson in how to practice our vocation in these troubled times. There are many thiungs that I have learned from Vic but three stand out:
1. Convey to students a sense of profound interest in them and their interests
2. Write about things that matter
3. Retain a sense of enchantment and excitement in ideas.

There are many other things I have learned from Vic, but I think these three are the most precious.

Writers like Vic Seidler and Zygmunt Bauman have escaped the trappings of ‘flexible retirement’ in order to do their work more vigorously. It is perhaps ironic that giving up their professional responsibilities has made them more focused and committed to the craft of thinking and the true value of scholarship.

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20 June