Peter Armour Essay Research Paper Peter ArmourPeter

Peter Armour Essay, Research Paper

Peter ArmourPeter Armour, who has died aged 61, was one of the leading Dante scholars of his generation. He was research professor of Italian at Royal Holloway, University of London, and his publications, although closely associated with the Divine Comedy, ranged over all of Dante’s work, addressing literary topics and also contemporary medieval culture, society and ideas. Peter made an internationally recognised contribution. He was never reluctant to challenge existing interpretations, re-examining them with an attention to detail which characterised every aspect of his academic life. He was born in Fleetwood, and his Lancashire origins remained the key to his character and interests. From those roots came a passion for cricket so strong that examiners’ meetings were frequently interrupted to allow Peter to withdraw – not for a cigarette, a habit he indulged too frequently – but to check Test scores. From those roots too came his commitment to Labour politics – he campaigned for the party in the 1970s – and his Catholic faith. The church was Peter’s first career choice. He was educated at English seminary schools, before going to the English College in Rome to study at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He completed the first three years of the six-year course, gaining his licentiate in philosophy, before deciding that it was in university Italian studies that he could most profitably use his talents. The training in philosophy and theology that he received in Rome proved invaluable in his work on Dante, and on the other two authors with whom he was most closely involved: Michelangelo and Galileo. To the study of each, and especially to the analysis of problems of interpretation of the Divine Comedy, Peter brought a supreme knowledge of the intellectual and cultural context within which that work was written; it was his concern, evidenced, for example, by his reassessment of the figure of Matelda in Purgatorio XXVIII, to use primarily contemporary traditions, ideas and knowledge, elements familiar and accessible to Dante and his readers, to establish new and definitive readings. On his return from Rome, Peter took a first in Italian at Manchester University, studying with Professor Gianni Aquilecchia (obituary, September 22 2001), whose colleague he later became. After graduation in 1966, he became assistant lecturer in Italian at Sheffield University, moving on to the newly established department at Leicester University in 1972, where he began his PhD, taking as the central theme the problematic ninth canto of Purgatorio. The thesis, completed in 1980, formed the basis of The Door of Purgatory: A Study Of Multiple Symbolism In Dante’s Purgatorio (1983), and established Peter as an increasingly highly regarded Dante scholar. In 1979, Peter moved to the University of London, first to Bedford College, then in 1984, when it merged with Royal Holloway, to University College London. There he then spent five years before moving to Royal Holloway as professor of Italian – and departmental head until 1996. His second major book, Dante’s Griffin And The History Of The World: A Study Of The Earthly Paradise, was published in 1989, and there were numerous other studies on Dante. His work on Michelangelo’s poetry and sculpture bore fruit in his inaugural lecture, and then in further studies, on which Peter was still working at the time of his death. He built up the Royal Holloway’s Italian department to be one of the largest and most prestigious in the country. In demand internationally as a visiting professor and speaker, and nationally as a reviewer, editor and examiner, he also played a full part in London University’s central research institutes. In 1999 Peter opted for early retirement and a research-only contract to press ahead with ideas for publication on Dante and Michelangelo. He had become fascinated especially by the popular reception and traditions of performance of Dante’s Comedy. All those of us, colleagues and students, whose work he read, annotated and corrected, whose careers he supported and guided, are in his debt. As scholar, teacher, colleague and friend he will be most deeply missed. He is survived by his brother and sister. · Peter James Armour, scholar, born November 19 1940; died June 18 2002

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