Obituary: Professor John Goode
Tuesday 01 February 1994
JOHN GOODE was one of the most admired literary critics of his generation. He achieved this position through his strengths as an inspirational teacher and colleague as well as by his writings.
After King Edward's School, Birmingham, Goode was an undergraduate at Reading University, where he studied in the remarkable English department then presided over by the late Donald Gordon. He graduated with a First in 1960. It was at Reading that Goode began lifelong friendships with those who shared his belief in the political importance of literary study and where he developed his interest in Marxist approaches, learning in particular from the examples of Arnold Kettle and Raymond Williams.
From the outside he appeared as a young man to be a tense, rather haunted figure, though a keen football fan, and a sharp dresser. In later years, probably as he became more confident of his abilities as a teacher, he was more relaxed and forthcoming. He remained at Reading as a graduate student and lecturer. The scholarly atmosphere there ensured that in Goode's mind there was never any real conflict between historical inquiry and moral commitment. He always maintained that if criticism were to be of any use there was no room for repetition of previously stated views.
In the mid-1960s Goode began to produce a series of essays on George Gissing, on Henry James, on William Morris and on DH Lawrence, which marked him out as a critic of unusual power. One essay in particular, on 'Character and the Novel', which appeared in the New Left Review in 1966, excited attention, and he achieved further influence with articles that contributed to the then developing discipline of feminist criticism. These and other essays are to be published in a collected volume by Keele University Press later this year.
In 1974 Goode moved to Warwick University, where he was first Senior Lecturer and later Reader. Warwick's broad syllabus required that he expand his teaching interests into the fields of American literature and comparative literature, and he gave informed and innovative lectures on a wide range of subjects. In 1978 he published George Gissing: ideology and fiction, and he began to plan an important study of Thomas Hardy. This characteristic pattern of relentless work was interrupted in the early 1980s when he was found to be suffering from the severe heart condition which finally resulted in a heart-transplant operation at Harefield Hopsital in February 1983.
Goode's remaining years were to be filled with activity. He was more than ever concerned that his health should not prevent him from making his contribution, and more. He was a much-respected Chairman of the Warwick English Department and a forceful member of university committees. In 1988 he completed the Hardy book to which he gave the combative title Thomas Hardy: the offensive truth, an indication of his determination to reveal the passion, the lasting relevance of Hardy's radicalism. This was Goode at his most brilliant: tenacious and subtle in argument, but also deeply learned in the details of late-Victorian culture.
In 1989 Goode was appointed to a Chair of English at Keele University, where he was immediately recognised as a uniquely valuable colleague. Once again he became a successful academic leader and he went on writing, despite continuing health problems that culminated in an operation for cancer in the autumn of 1993. When this failed to halt the disease and Goode was at last forced to acknowledge his condition, he did so with exemplary courage, welcoming recent and long-standing friends with great warmth, openness and humour. He died at home, content to be in the company of his four children, and of Candida Elton, with whom he had shared his final years.
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