The GMS is very sorry to learn of the death of Professor Simon Gaunt, who passed away on the 4th December 2021, at the age of 62. Simon was a world-leading scholar of medieval French and Occitan. An alumnus of Warwick University (BA, 1982; PhD, 1986), he went on to hold positions at Cambridge University (1986–1998) and at King’s College London (1998–2021). He co-organized one of the first Gender and Medieval Studies conferences in living memory, held at Cambridge in 1989.
Simon’s early work in the 80s and 90s pioneered feminist and queer approaches that subsequently became more widely accepted among medievalists. Key publications such as Troubadours and Irony (1989), Gender and Genre in Medieval French Literature (1995), and Martyrs to Love: Love and Death in Medieval French and Occitan Courtly Literature (2006) continue to be important touchpoints for literary historians working on gender. His later work further examined how medieval literature could be brought into conversation with current philosophy and critical theory, by exploring themes such as sacrifice, death, ethics, and poetic voice. Most recently he led the collaborative projects Medieval Francophone Literary Culture outside France (2011–2015) and The Values of French (2015–2020), two major undertakings that ambitiously reconsider what French and Frenchness meant in the European Middle Ages, while countering the nationalist and colonialist legacies of traditional philology and literary history. Though gender was addressed more obliquely in his later work, Simon’s commitment to the insights of feminism and queer theory informed his scholarship and his teaching throughout his career. Those of us working on medieval gender today have much to thank him for.
Simon will be remembered as an energetic and inspirational scholar, teacher, mentor, and colleague. Our thoughts are with all those whose lives he touched.