Reference Entry

Rutherford, Anna

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in Oxford Companion to Black British History

Published in print January 2005 | ISBN: 9780192804396
Rutherford, Anna

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Publisher and Professor of Commonwealth Literature. Ceaselessly energetic in her organizational and publishing activities, Australian‐born Anna Rutherford was revered in Commonwealth academic circles for her efforts to establish the study of post‐colonial literature in Europe.For 28 years, from 1968 to 1996 , Rutherford directed the Commonwealth Literature Centre at the University of Aarhus, organizing symposiums, seminars, and readings involving leading British‐based black scholars and writers such as Wilson Harris , Sam Selvon , Buchi Emecheta , and Shiva Naipaul . She introduced African and West Indian courses and, in 1971 , organized the first European conference on the Commonwealth novel, a project involving many future British professors including Louis James ( Kent ) and Paul Edwards ( Edinburgh ), who went on, in their own universities, to promote the research that gave the discipline of Commonwealth literature intellectual respectability.Rutherford was the first woman chair of the Association of Commonwealth Language and Literature Studies (which draws scholars from 300 universities) and, in the 1970s, founded the Association's European branch, which became a powerful lobby for the expansion of the English literature curriculum in European academies. Rutherford was editor of Kunapipi, then Europe's leading post‐colonial literary journal. Kunapipi regularly carried prose, poems, and interviews by black British writers like Caryl Phillips , Fred D'Aguiar , Grace Nichols , and John Agard . She also owned and managed a small publishing house, the Dangaroo Press. It was her love of the finely produced book, and her disdain for the slick commercialism of the publishing industry, that attracted writers to her small press. Every year, laden with a huge rucksack of new books, she would trudge along Charing Cross Road, calling in at various bookshops to sell a copy here and there. She loved books in all their stages—from the editing of manuscripts to the supervision of printing and placement with the bookseller.In later years the constant struggle to access small grants to subsidize her books or conferences wore Rutherford down. She began to suffer from physical ailments, and then severe depression. She resigned from Aarhus, ending up at the University of Warwick in 1998 as a visiting fellow. In 1999 she returned to the place of her birth, Newcastle, Australia, where she died in 2001 . Tributes from scholars and writers from all over the Commonwealth were read out at her funeral.

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Subjects: History

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