Summer 2017 Special Newsletter in Honor of Richard T. Gray

Dear Friends of Germanics and Alums:

In this special edition of our newsletter we honor our esteemed colleague Rick Gray upon the occasion of his retirement. Colleagues, friends, and former Doktorkinder  share fond memories and help us celebrate Rick’s distinguished career.

A token of our gratitude and a gift to you, Rick, with the warmest wishes for life after Denny from all of us here at the department. Bittersüβ. And we will need lots of chocolate to cope.



Brigitte Prutti
Professor and Chair


I first met Rick in, I think, 1977 when he was my student at the University of Virginia. "My student" is self-aggrandizing: I was a new associate professor and he did an independent study on Goethe's poetry with me. We had wonderful discussions from the first, but the most characteristic moment was when he said, after a few sessions, "I can see you are writing an article about Goethe's moon poetry." Actually I was doing no such thing, but it was the kind of supportive, encouraging response that… Read more
I’ve known Rick since his arrival at UW and in varied ways—as colleague, collaborator and friend.  Over the thirty years that followed, he was one of the humanities faculty members who did the most to make UW for me a continually invigorating place to have an academic career. Rick is, as we all know, an imposing presence; he fills space with body and words alike.  A substantial presence, a voice worth listening to with the greatest care.  A brilliant reader, a synthetic thinker, a wonderfully… Read more
I first met Rick Gray in 1991 when I began my M.A. studies in the Germanics Department. I attended his Spring quarter “Nineteenth-Century Survey” course in 1992. I remember vividly certain discussions about works by authors I had never read – Storm, Stifter and others. I was new to German Studies, and all of these works came alive for me. The next year, I had the privilege of taking Rick’s course on aesthetics and autonomous art. Readings and discussions from that course have stayed with me… Read more
I felt honored to be asked to write an homage for the occasion of Rick Gray’s retirement. Rick has deeply impacted my academic life over the last ten years and I feel fortunate and grateful to have him as a friend and colleague. I first met Rick in the fall of 2007 when he researched and lectured at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Münster, Germany. I sent him an e-mail stating regretfully that I wasn’t able to attend his lecture and asked if it was possible to meet him outside of the… Read more
As one of his doctoral students, Rick helped make me the kind of professional who could land an academic job and successfully achieve tenure—that sounds like a pretty basic definition of a Doktorvater, but from my experiences over the last 15 years, it requires a lot of work and a lot of time. Rick facilitated my first conference presentation at the MLA, found Max Kade funding for me to have a writing year for my dissertation, connected me to other mentors who aided my development, and made… Read more
Münster, im Juni 2017 Lieber Rick, Brigitte hat mich gebeten, aus Anlass Deines Eintritts in den Ruhestand etwas für den Newsletter des Germanics Department zu schreiben. Das ist natürlich keine einfache Aufgabe. Irgendwie fällt es mir leichter, zu Dir als über Dich zu sprechen. Also schreibe ich Dir einen Brief. Als wir uns kennenlernten, warst Du nicht da, aber ich durfte als Max Kade Visiting Professor in Deinem Büro residieren. Das war 2004. Wenn man jemandes Büro nutzt, lernt man diese… Read more
I recently went to Vienna for vacation and was instantly reminded of Rick’s Vienna 1900 course, when I got fascinated with Vienna’s rich and complex cultural history. Years later the insights I gained through his careful teaching still resonated deeply within me and made the visit to many cultural sights and places in Vienna so much more engaging.  Rick’s teaching and careful guidance has not only taught me how to become a more perceptive researcher, but an inventive and effective instructor, a… Read more
“You are not a percolator, you are a Butterfly,” Professor Rick, my dissertation advisor, told me shortly after my defense. In the past, I’ve considered myself more like a moth or a percolator, but in the course of time I must have metamorphosed into a creature with colorful wings. My academic journey was long, but I was never alone, for my advisor was always there with me. When I was opening a paragraph, or never ending it, when I was figuring out what my thesis is, or when I had to pick… Read more
“Das Reich der Freiheit beginnt da, wo die Arbeit aufhört.“   —Karl Marx   As Prof. Richard T. Gray enters his well-deserved retirement, I am wont to think that he is rather unlikely to join that noble club of professional idlers. Rick always seems to be working on three projects at once, and I sincerely doubt that retirement will slow him down one bit! Nevertheless, hopefully he will find it in him to give the writing desk a break every once and a while, to take the newfound time to put some… Read more
"There is no question that Rick Gray’s retirement is a big loss for intellectual life in the humanities at UW. Rick’s spirited insights and generous collegiality will be much missed. Nonetheless, we are happy on his behalf, and glad to learn that he will continue to be around on campus as Professor Emeritus. Anyone who has bicycled to campus for many years through the winter rains is likely to be unstoppable past retirement."
“They say Seattle is a bit like a European city,” Rick said when we first met at the airport. We never met before. I knew his name, his projects, and his writings – enough to fuel my admiration and curiosity, before arriving in the US as a Humboldt fellow. Seconds later I saw the breathtaking skyline of Seattle and the background with the sound to the left and the Cascade Mountain range to the right. There is nothing quite like this in Europe. I soon learned that understatement is but one of… Read more
(Dis)covering your bases Apparently tireless (or at least always in motion), Rick Gray always seemed to shift effortlessly between multiple responsibilities: to his students (both undergrad and graduate), the department, teaching, and his own (staggeringly prolific) research. Rick inspired me as a thinker, a teacher, a writer and (above all) as a reader. His Kafka seminar may have been my favorite class in my graduate career, and I happily transposed what we learned in the very first session,… Read more
Rick – Retired? Ich kann nicht glauben, dass Rick in den so genannten „Ruhestand“ geht. Als ich vor wenigen Jahren Max-Kade-Professor in Seattle sein durfte, war er – höchst unruhig – gerade in Neuseeland unterwegs, wo er forschte und arbeitete, aber mit Sabine zwischendurch wohl auch als Naturforscher und Abenteurer aktiv war. Das erste, was ich von ihm in Seattle später in der germanistischen Abteilung sah, war: sein Fahrrad. Es regnete – aber Rick war draußen und drinnen bereits wieder… Read more
Word has it that Rick will retire To follow and fuel his desire To focus on cycling, On travel and hiking, Abandon his “Denny Empire”. His departure just days now away I bid farewell to Richard Gray, My long-time advisor, My brain “exerciser”. In verse will my memories replay. His bike was my first deep impression Of Rick and his cool sense of fashion. Bike, helmet, and pants A peer, at first glance. A star, though, in our profession. Relaxed as he was in the hallway At picnics and parties, for… Read more
  Lieber Rick, ich widme Dir ein Kernstück eines Beitrags zur Ethik der Scham bei Adalbert Stifter, den ich schon vor längerer Zeit geschrieben habe. Stifter, Kafka, Sebald sind Autoren, die, wie ich weiß, uns beiden gleichermaßen am Herzen liegen. Sie lassen das Zögern zu, wo scheinbar Handlungsnotwendigkeit besteht, sie eröffnen Räume der Distanz, wo sich das Detail buchstäblich aufdrängt, sie bewahren eine Fremdheit in der Sprache dort, wo das Subjekt ganz sicher über diese zu verfügen… Read more
For many years now the department has made a concerted effort to offer a diverse selection of English-language courses for students across the Humanities (and beyond). One of our most popular--and long-standing--has been Rick's Freud and the Literary Imagination. As he now sets off for new adventures, he takes with him civilization and its discontents...Thank you for your years of service to the department, to our students, and even to Freud himself! You (and your courses) will be… Read more
Friends and colleagues gathered on a sunny June afternoon at the home of Jane and Marshall Brown to fête Rick Gray on the occasion of his retirement. After more than 25 successful years at the University of Washington, Rick's career was celebrated with long-time friends, amusing (and touching) toasts, and plenty of good food. Congratulations, Rick! We'll miss your regular presence around the department, but we also wish you many fabulous adventures in the next chapter of your life. Enjoy!
Richard T. Gray, Ghostwriting: W. G. Sebald’s Poetics of History. New Directions in German Studies. London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2017.   Book Abstract:   Ghostwriting provides a comprehensive picture of W. G. Sebald’s prose fictional narratives and the poetic practices that define their literary artistry. It examines his four major works of narrative fiction, Schwindel. Gefühle (Vertigo), Die Ausgewanderten (The Emigrants), Die Ringe… Read more

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