The Committee of the Raymond Williams Society and the Editorial Committee of Key Words are deeply saddened to hear of the recent death of Alan Sinfield, and would like to offer their condolences to his partner, Vincent Quinn.
Alan was a gay socialist critic strongly committed to the principles of cultural materialism first elaborated by Raymond Williams. He spent the majority of his academic career at the University of Sussex, where he co-founded the MA programme in Sexual Dissidence and Social Change, the first of its kind in Britain. His writing has been profoundly influential in the fields of Shakespeare and Early Modern Studies, Tennyson and Victorian Poetry, and Queer Studies. The magisterial study, Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain (1989), provided a distinctive analysis of welfare capitalism and the politics of the New Left, as well as a positive evaluation of the potential role of subcultures in response to the hegemony of the Thatcherite Right. It also exemplified his more general commitment to the not incompatible principles of rigour and generosity in scholarship, as well as to the democratic priority of communication through a style that conveys even complex arguments with clarity and urgency.
Alan’s loss to us all is considerable, but his personality was everywhere present in his work, and we are fortunate indeed still to have that. His range was remarkable: other major works include The Language of Tennyson’s In Memoriam (1971), Literature in Protestant England, 1560-1660 (1983), the co-edited collection (with Jonathan Dollimore) Political Shakespeare: Essays in Cultural Materialism (1989), Faultlines: Cultural Materialism and the Politics of Dissident Reading (1992), Cultural Politics – Queer Reading (1994), The Wilde Century: Oscar Wilde, Effeminacy and the Queer Moment (1994), Gay and After: Gender, Culture and Consumption (1998), Out on Stage: Lesbian and Gay Theatre in the Twentieth Century (1999), On Sexuality and Power (2004), and his final collection of essays before illness made writing impossible, Shakespeare, Authority and Sexuality: Unfinished Business in Cultural Materialism (2006). A recent issue of the journal, Textual Practice – of which he was a former editor – marked the scope and importance of his output. A full obituary will appear in Key Words in 2018.