MAX NÄNNY’S OBITUARY
We are immensely sad to have to announce that Max Nänny, one of the founding fathers of our symposium (as Wolfgang Müller so aptly called him), very unexpectedly died on February 4, 2006. We remember him with great fondness for the work he did for the symposia, the charm and energy that he put into them, the interesting papers that he delivered, and his care and concern about the publications. We will sorely miss him.We will dedicate the forthcoming iconicity volume to him.
Olga Fischer and Christina Ljungberg
OBITUARY MAX NÄNNY
Max Nänny (Zurich), the co-founder of the International ‘Iconicity in Language and Literature’ Symposia died unexpectedly on February 4, 2006 at the age of 73. An eminent Pound and Hemingway scholar, Nänny became known mainly for his work on iconicity in literature. In a seminal article in the second Word & Image issue (1986), he was one of the first to call attention to the use of imagic and diagrammatic iconic features by authors as diverse as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Charles Dickens, Emily Dickenson, G. M. Hopkins, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Philip Larkin, Ernest Hemingway and e.e.cummings, among others. In particular, his analyses of chiasmus, the sequence ab(c)ba which reverses its order in the second half, opened up new discussions of how reversals, symmetry and centralized lines create a spatial architecture in both poetry and prose in which it is put to various strategic uses.
In the series of Iconicity Symposia, which started in Zurich in 1997 as a research project between the universities of Zurich and Amsterdam, Max Nänny was the great inspirator. Followed by Amsterdam (1999), Jena (2001), Louvain-la-Neuve (2003) and Cracow (2005), these symposia have gathered together distinguished linguists, such as Ivan Fónagy, John Haiman, Dan Slobin and Wolfgang Dressler, as well as literary scholars, e.g. Ralph Normann, Wilhelm Pötters, Sylvia Adamson, and semioticians, e.g., Winfried Nöth, John White, Jørgen Dines Johansen, Eero Tarasti, and Paul Bouissac, thus becoming fruitful and dynamic meeting places between international scholars and disciplines, covering a multitude of approaches and subject areas. Indeed one of the initial motives behind the symposia was to be interdisciplinary, and to bridge the gap that had developed at the end of the twentieth century between linguists and literary scholars in many language departments.
The thorough, scholarly exemplary but yet imaginative and creative approach in his own research earned Max Nänny a solid international reputation. Whether investigating the function of visual form in poetry, such as e.g., alphabetic letters or line length, the performative function of rhymes or the diagrammatic dimensions in prose, his concise and astute analyses were always clear and illuminating. Together with Olga Fischer he also co-edited and wrote the introductions of the first two volumes in the Iconicity series (Benjamins), Form Miming Meaning (1999), and The Motivated Sign (2001), as well as the special issue of the European Journal of English Studies on ‘Iconicity’ (EJES 5.i, 2001), and remained in an advisory function for the subsequent From Sign to Signing (2003) and Outside-In – Inside-Out (2005). Despite the impatience he sometimes showed with Peircean notions and his less than keen interest in purely theoretical issues, Max Nänny’s wide knowledge, acute powers of observation and quick mind made him a stimulating speaker and a wonderful critic who focused on essential and crucial issues. Eternally inquisitive, he was always curious about new approaches and novel phenomena in literature and culture, and he eagerly took on board the new opportunities offered by computer corpora and the world wide web. Max Nänny remained a passionate scholar after his retirement as chair of English and American literature at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. But more than anything else, it is for his warmth and friendliness and for his humorous, slightly mischievous twinkle that he will remain in fond memory as not only an outstanding scholar but also as an attentive and affectionate friend. We hope to be able to continue the tradition initiated by Max Nänny, and feel inspired by his example.
Olga Fischer, Amsterdam
Christina Ljungberg, Zurich