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To thine own self be true: Professor of English Literature bows out just short of his half century

1 October 2020

School bids fond farewell to Professor whose infectious passion for literature inspired four decades of students

Professor of English Literature Martin Coyle has retired following 47 years of service.

The distinguished academic’s untiring commitment to students of English Literature has been a hallmark of his career.

He joined University College Cardiff and its Department of English as a new lecturer in 1973 following postgraduate studies at Nottingham and a year at what is now Cardiff Met.

In that first decade, the department would relocate from the Law Building to Humanities, now known as the John Percival Building. In 1988 the Department of English became the very much larger School of English Studies, Journalism and Philosophy as the University College Cardiff and the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology became Cardiff University.

In this period of prodigious productivity, Martin edited the influential Macmillan New Casebooks Series – driving the dissemination of new modes of literary practice with long-term collaborator and colleague John Peck. His contribution to the series, on Hamlet, remains a powerful study of the play. Their guides to Practical Criticism, to Literary Terms, and to Shakespeare – Martin’s great love – were familiar in every University library and on reading lists internationally. Most influential was their Student’s Guide to Writing, written in the later 1990s.

Their impact, however, reached far beyond the University lecture theatre. Martin would periodically receive letters from prisoners expressing their deep appreciation for his guide to writing – speaking movingly of how improvements in their writing had opened up new opportunities they never believed they would have.

By 1997 - and his halfway point at Cardiff - Martin made significant contribution to the wider University as a member of Academic Standards and Quality Committee (ASQC), and as Chair of the Humanities and Social Sciences Board, which did so much for joint honours provision among many other initiatives.

From the millennium to the present Martin continued to serve as the Chair of English Literature, Deputy Head of School, Director of Learning and Teaching and Student Experience Project Lead for the School of English, Communication and Philosophy.

Today, Head of School Professor Martin Willis expresses thanks on behalf of the School and its wider community, past and present:

“We have been extraordinarily lucky to have had Martin’s passion for education – and the enrichment of all our teaching that has flowed from that – for nearly half a century.

He taught inspirationally, unforgettably, and brilliantly.

One former student exemplifies the whole: “I never just enjoyed Martin’s classes. I loved them. He made me come to Cardiff. At an Open Day he spoke about Shakespeare and that was it for me. I never looked at another University.”

Professor Willis adds: “It has been our luck that Martin never looked at another University. With his retirement we lose irreplaceable knowledge, tireless enthusiasm and a collegial spirit that we recognise now more than ever as a vital part of our working lives.”

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