Remembering Val Vallis
Much has been written on the sad passing in January of the Queensland poet, loved teacher, philosopher and opera critic Val Vallis.
An omission in the many accolades is the important gift that Val had in delivering inspiring lectures that captured the enthusiasm of many UQ students – so much so that science or commerce scholars would swap over to English and continue on to become English professors themselves.
Part of the dynamic nature of his lectures at UQ during the 1960s and 1970s was sure to be the frequent arrival of fellow academic in the class, the late Cecil Hadgraft. Both Val and Cecil would come into each other’s lectures and create mini-debates, and sometimes quite heated fights, over the power of the imagination versus sceptical pragmatism.
Val had a diversity of passions beyond poetry, one of them opera. When his junior colleagues and students were travelling to London he would press an English five pound note on them, saying “You can still get a seat at the English National Opera, so go and see something there when you get to London.”
Dr Chris Tiffin, an Honorary UQ Research Consultant and former student and colleague of VaI’s, credits him with being the reason for his switch from an interest in French to English. Chris warmly recalls the rapport that Val had with his colleagues when his house in Indooroopilly was thoroughly inundated in the 1974 floods. It took a large number of helpers two days of cleaning to reclaim the furniture.
Another former student who originally studied science, Associate Professor Anne Collett, talks about when she came under the influence of Val: “Val was the most inspiring of teachers because his love of his subject was infectious. I remember animated discussions of Shelley’s Defence of Poetry, of Wordsworth’s original and revised Prelude, and of Coleridge’s distinction between fancy and imagination. It was imagination, an idea central to Romantic philosophy, that inspired Val’s teaching and that became central to my own work.”
If Val believed in you, he was untiring in his support, and for that belief we say with Shelley, “Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!”
By Tara Young
Written with assistance from Dr Chris Tiffen and Associate Professor Anne Collett. A Memorial Service was held on April 5 at UQ’s St John’s Chapel.
In This Section
IN THIS EDITION
- marie hayes: loved her loved the discussion and considering she was in her mid eighties her intelligence was still...
- Thomas Anderson: RIP Chris.
- John Brannock: I recently wrote the following email which is self explanatory: “Dear Professor Høj, I would...
- Dr Mary Tan: Hi Prof Peter Hoj I’m Mary from S’pore, graduated from UniSA. Was glad to read updates...
- Dane: Hello. magnificent job. I did not expect this. This is a excellent story. Thanks!