Giant of French culture who taught at Flinders

FrenchPhillippe Beaussant, an early staff member of the French discipline at Flinders, has died at the age of 86 as a member of the Académie Française.

Appointed Lecturer in late 1965, Mr Beaussant was the second appointment in French (after Ian Laurie, the Foundation Professor) in the School of Language and Literature.

“His major responsibility was in the teaching of modern French literature, a role which he pursued with enthusiasm,” Professor Laurie said.

“As our resident native speaker, he kept secret his limited, but adequate command of English and had no small influence on the oral skills of our earliest cohort of students.”

Beyond his teaching, a consuming passion for early French music led him to create an early French opera group (Les Armidiens), which gave local performances and also toured around Australia to considerable acclaim.

Early architecture was another passion, and he used his time in Australia to explore the architectural treasures of South-East Asia.

Following his return to France he published significantly on early French church architecture, and from 1974 went on to present musicological programs on Radio France.

Mr Beaussant’s novels, written as a vehicle for shedding light on the spirit of earlier ages, eventually earned him the extraordinary accolade of being made a member of the Académie Française, one of the forty ‘immortels’ – France’s highest literary honour – in 2007.

“To the best of our knowledge, Flinders is the only Australian university to have nurtured such a future luminary, even if for a relatively brief period, from 1966 to 1969,” said Professor Laurie.

“As Flinders continues to rejoice in the academic edifice which it has created, and continues to create, we remember a very distinguished colleague who helped to lay and solidify its foundations. We are the richer for his contribution and the poorer for his passing.”

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