One of my most treasured teachers passed away on Sunday. ”Uncle Jay” was a constant source of humor, wisdom, insight and knowledge. I will always be grateful for the time I spent working with him.
Valerie Sayers, Chair of the English Department at Notre Dame wrote beautifully about Jay:
Jay’s contributions to this department are legendary, but the chief one was, and remains, his friendship, offered always with the delights of witty literary conversation that, if we were lucky, was spiced up with a good measure of politics. Officially an Eighteenth Century man, Jay ranged effortlessly across centuries: many of us spent profitable hours hearing him out on Felix Holt and Finnegans Wake, The Golden Bowl and The Golden Notebook. He was an astute reader and editor of poetry, too, who put together a wonderful collection of Notre Dame poets, The Space Between, and made unsung contributions to the Notre Dame Review. In addition to his erudite scholarly writing, which includes The King’s Business, a collection of Anglo-Irish political correspondence, and Vision and Vacancy: The Fictions of J.S. Le Fanu, Jay wrote a novel, Margaret’s Book, which remains a marvel of concision and invention, a beautiful balancing act that holds idea and emotion in fearful and delightful tension. Our best students, undergraduate and graduate, revered him as much for his acerbic bons mots as for his personal generosity. Toward the end of his career at Notre Dame, Jay made lasting contributions to the Creative Writing Program, which amused and bemused him in equal measure, and to the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies, which–I think it is safe to say–just delighted him. The rest of his career did not end, however: after he retired from teaching, Jay was still writing and reading fiction and criticism. His writing and his spirit live on, but for the moment, many of us are bereft and a little bewildered. Life without Jay? Unthinkable.
The family tentatively plans a wake today from 3 to 7 pm at Welsheimer Funeral Home; with ceremonies led by members of the English Department at 6 p.m.
Notre Dame story here
South Bend Tribune story here