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Till minne av Marcus Nordlund

Nyhet: 2018-03-28

Professor Marcus Nordlund, a man for all seasons, has passed away at age 48.

Marcus Nordlund, professor of English Literature at the Department of Languages and Literatures, University of Gothenburg, passed away due to complications arising from a combination of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neuromuscular wasting disease) and pneumonia at Varberg Hospital on March 3, 2018. Marcus was 48 years old. He is survived by his partner, Anna Hellén, his two children Sam and Irma, as well as his siblings, Malin and Magnus, and his father Hans.

Professor Nordlund was a true polymath, achieving not only the high standards he set for himself in his academic career, but also excelling in music, activism, sports, fine arts, among others. Marcus explored and pushed the limits — not only in his intellectual life, but also in his professional and personal lives.

Marcus Nordlund’s academic trajectory began as a student at the prestigious Schillerska Upper Secondary School, where he, among other things, made good use of his burgeoning writing talents in producing the school paper Schillingtrycket (a play on words meaning roughly penny-press). He worked on the paper together with two classmates, one of which was Pontus Bäckström, the priest and long-time friend who would eventually preside over Marcus’s funeral service.

In 1989, Nordlund started his studies at the University of Gothenburg and received his bachelor’s degree in English in 1993. In 1998, he earned his PhD in English Literature with his doctoral thesis The Dark Lantern, a highly original study which combined historical developments in science, religion and philosophy to examine the concept of visuality in the works of Shakespeare, Webster and Middleton. Following this milestone, Marcus was recruited by Uppsala University, working there as a well-respected and much-liked senior lecturer from 1999 to 2002. Partly overlapping with this employment period, Marcus also worked as a research assistant at Uppsala from 2000 to 2004, during which time he also managed to return to his alma mater, the University of Gothenburg, as a senior lecturer in 2002. In 2007, Marcus advanced to the position of associate professor at GU, and was promoted to full professor, the ultimate accomplishment in any academic’s career, in 2017. His illness, however, robbed him of the opportunity of fully enjoying the hard-earned fruits of this professorship.

Professor Nordlund authored three well-received books, primarily on Shakespeare and Renaissance literature, and seventeen articles in peer-reviewed or editor-reviewed journals. Despite his clear aptitude for top-notch research, Marcus did not shelter himself in the so-called Ivory Tower but rather believed in the importance of public outreach activities; he wrote numerous accessible, popular science articles for magazines and newspapers, gave public lectures and also participated in several radio and press interviews.

He will undoubtedly be best remembered for his extraordinary scholarship on William Shakespeare. Marcus was undaunted by the fact that Shakespeare is one of the most researched authors in English, perhaps in any language. Instead he expressly enjoyed the great challenge of finding new insights into the work of one the greatest authors who ever lived. In his own words, Nordlund said of Shakespeare: ‘[his] dramatic and poetic life can easily be summed up in the word imagination. The word captures his linguistic creativity, his understanding of the world, his ability to take a tired story and revitalize it. The contemporary dramatists of his time were good at some things, but Shakespeare was that weird guy who was good at everything’. This, with hindsight, was surely a fitting research subject for a scholar who excelled at everything he set his mind to.

Although Marcus was indeed a highly successful and redoubtable Shakespeare scholar, his research output was by no means limited to Shakespeare alone. Nordlund also wrote about Dryden, Montaigne, Hawthorne and Defoe, among others, as well as contemporary authors such as Virginia Woolf and Toni Morrison. He was also extraordinarily versatile in his ability to apply a diverse range of theories and methodologies to his subject matters, incorporating not only traditional and well-established approaches in literary scholarship, but also insights from the emerging fields of bioculturalism , ecocriticism and digital humanities.

The quality of Marcus’s academic production was recognized in the many positive reviews and assessments he received, generally appraising his work as being solid, innovative, and transcending the received boundaries of what constitutes the traditional domain of literary scholarship. For example, he ignored dogmatic distinctions between literature and linguistics, he embraced digital methodologies on literary scholarship, incorporated evolutionary psychology into his work, and investigated the relationship between literature and the environment.

In recognition of his substantial qualifications, proven research skills and forward thinking, he received several grants and stipends, often ahead of heavy competition, the most significant of these being a grant from the Swedish Research Council to work on the manuscript of Shakespeare’s Insides, which became his last book-length publication.

Nordlund was also a keen collaborator, participating in several projects and international networks. He contributed to the research project Histories: Staging the Past, Reflecting the Present with colleagues from the University of Southern Denmark and was a part of the international network Configurations of Desire, a group of scholars investigating how desire was expressed in literature in pre-modern Europe, from Classical Antiquity to the seventeenth century. It is worth noting that the project was sponsored by the Swedish Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, an independent foundation with the goal of promoting and supporting research in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

As regards teaching, course development, and administrative duties, Marcus’s contributions and his influence on the pedagogical strategies of both the department and the faculty cannot be overstated.

First and foremost, Marcus’s natural teaching talent was, for all intents and purposes, unparalleled. Student evaluations consistently highlighted his ability to inspire and enthuse, stating, for example ‘[t]he fact that Marcus Nordlund is so passionate about his work and has such deep knowledge of his subject makes the course worth taking’ and ‘Marcus is a very dedicated teacher and has the ability to inspire and make most things interesting’. On the department webpage whose purpose it is to help students choose topics and possible supervisors for BA essay projects, Nordlund himself emphasized his expertise in Renaissance literature, but goes on to state ‘I will also consider project proposals on novels, poems, or plays from other periods (including very recent stuff). What I find most important is that you pick something that concerns you, that challenges you, that fills your mind with questions, that makes you want to know more.’ This statement epitomized Nordlund’s pedagogical philosophy – he was not invested in dogma or forcing his views on others but rather saw himself as an authority who could facilitate the learning process in collaboration with students to help them find their own voice in a research context.

In December, 2017, Marcus Nordlund won the prestigious Pedagogical Prize from GU’s Faculty of the Arts, a significant feat in itself but made more notable by the fact that he was the sole recipient of an award which is typically shared among several nominees. In support of the nomination for Marcus’s pedagogical prize, colleagues wrote that ‘Marcus is a creative and forward thinking individual; he is passionate about teaching and his love of the discipline is contagious’ and ‘[Marcus] is masterful at integrating an accessible and engaging style with consistent, direct and purposeful exposure to the material.’ Fellow teachers and administrators also noted that ‘through his talent, [he] helps students to develop analytical skills, critical thinking and communicative proficiency […] [a]s a result, many of his students have gone on to be successful doctoral candidates.’

Marcus developed and co-developed many new and highly relevant courses to add to the curriculum at GU, such as, among others, The English Renaissance, The Middle Ages and the Renaissance and English Literary Criticism, 1800-1960. In many of the courses Nordlund designed, he introduced new trends and methods in literary studies, which is evident in the courses Literary Scholarship on the Influence of Darwinian Evolution, Evolutionary Literary Studies, NVivo for Literary Scholars and Digital Perspectives on Language and Literature.

Marcus was an inveterate football enthusiast and a lifelong fan of his beloved local team GAIS, a team of dubious talent and fluctuating quality – harsh realities which never affected his loyalty and fandom. He was a superb athlete in his own right and played in a number of different football clubs, often assuming the role of captain because of his natural abilities, good football sense and leadership skills. In recognition of his talent, Marcus received the coveted Golden Shoe award (Guldskon) from the local broadsheet newspaper, GöteborgsPosten, for best goal scorer in all divisions with an impressive 36 goals in one season. In a typical show of generosity, good-heartedness, and a desire to give back to the community, he would later share his knowledge and love of the sport by volunteering to coach a local youth team, Tölö P 03, a club for young football enthusiasts in their early teens.

Marcus was also an accomplished musician; in 2015 he released his first album ‘Soundings’ and in 2016 a second album followed, entitled ‘Ash and Fire’. Together the two albums contain 22 songs covering a wide range of topics from Icelandic volcanoes, the beauty and fragility of life, workplace frustration, and, of course, love and family. Nordlund said that some of his songs ‘hew very closely to my own experience while others are attempts to understand other people or explorations of a larger human predicament.’ On the diverse musical styles and themes in his music, he noted that some songs ‘are tongue in cheek, others are deadly serious, and most have at least a tinge of irony because I've always been partial to art that makes you feel several things at once.’

As a side note to this stellar example of Professor Nordlund’s multi-faceted nature, It should be mentioned that he plays all the instruments on his albums as well as singing all the songs and authoring the lyrics. To all those who knew and loved Marcus, these albums offer invaluable insights into his thoughts and personality and are gifts to be treasured.

Marcus’s passion for knowledge and self-actualization through education also feathered into an interest in activism, in particular environmental activism. Marcus organized and participated in political rallies, emphasizing the need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. His protest song, Wake up to what you know, along with a short and compelling speech to the political leaders of Sweden and the world (given at the same time as the international C0P21 conference in Paris in December 2015), are still available on YouTube. Additionally, though not surprisingly, Marcus also worked to make GU a more environmentally friendly workplace, contributing to policy decisions as well as spreading the message of environmental responsibility in relevant courses framed by the larger subjects of ecocriticism and cultural studies.

Marcus Nordlund was laid to rest on March 23 after a funeral service in Tölö Church, a peaceful and beautiful spot only a short walk from his home in Kungsbacka. A week previously, on March 15, a memorial gathering was organized in Professor Nordlund’s honor and the event was well-attended by his many friends and colleagues at the Faculty of the Arts along with members of Marcus’s family. With speeches, poetry recitations and music, we expressed our collective sorrow over the premature and terrible loss of an affable colleague and brilliant scholar, but also celebrated his time with us, his engagement, his humor, his loyalty, his personality, his continuing legacy and most of all, his friendship.

Joe Trotta, Associate Professor of English Linguistics, University of Gothenburg

AV: Joe Trotta

Artikeln publicerades först på: hum.gu.se

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