Obituary note for
Jim (James George) Tulip,
15/02/1934 – 05/04/2018
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Jim (James George) Tulip died in April after a two-year struggle with mesothelioma.
For more than thirty years as a Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of Sydney, Jim was one of the most influential teachers of his generation, a scholar of Renaissance Drama and American Literature, and as writer and critic a powerful voice in the changes that shaped Australian poetry in the late 1960s.
Born within a month of each other in 1934, Jim and I shared a wide range of interests and influences and a friendship of more than sixty years.
As fellow-Queenslanders, we had enjoyed a wartime childhood, Jim in South Kolan, Townsville, Charters Towers and other country towns where his father John served as Methodist minister, I in Brisbane, in a world under daily threat of air-raids or invasions (Jim’s father, like mine, was a senior Air-Raid Warden, and the households of his childhood, like ours, must have been an organised mess of gas-masks, gas-rattles, mouthguards, blackout tape, medi-kits and stirrup pumps, and fire drills and other emergency rehearsals).
All of which, along with the universal presence of Americans, who in many places outnumbered the locals, were no doubt an exciting stimulus to an adventurous child, as Jim certainly was, and an early glimpse into what, with the end of the war, would be a new and ‘modern’, that is Americanised, Australia.
I first sighted Jim in my third year at Queensland University as a college ‘fresher’, in a Commem Week procession, being wheeled down Elizabeth Street in a barrow, from which he leapt as from a bathtub, every twenty yards or so, shouting ‘Eureka’, an image that has always seemed to me to be wonderfully evocative of the ‘real’ Jim, and which has stayed with me for more than sixty years.
Our paths crossed often over the next couple of years but we became friends in 1957, when we were both Junior Lecturers in the University of Queensland English Department. Soon after I left for Europe and Jim took a Fulbright Scholarship to Chicago, where he got a PhD and married Marie Grant, a fellow-student from Mackay (who studied the love poetry of Paul Claudel at Northwestern University in Chicago).
When we met again, early in 1969, in the English Department at Sydney, Jim was an established Lecturer, newly returned from sabbatical year at Oxford and with four children. I, after ten years in the UK, was a newly appointed Senior Tutor. We shared seminars on Jacobean Drama and American Literature and became close friends and colleagues in a department that was unusually friendly and collegiate and was also central to the political and literary moment.
Once again Australia was undergoing radical change. Socially in the various sexual liberations, the student protests and demonstrations, politically under the pressures of the Vietnam War and of what we would later call the Whitlam Era.
Writing, and especially poetry, would play a large part in all this and the English Department at Sydney had a strong contingent of short-story writers, poets, critics and reviewers, in Michael Wilding, Peter Shrubb, Canadian poet and editor of Island Press Phil Roberts, Vivian Smith, Don Anderson, and among its students John Tranter, Carl Harrison-Ford and later, John Forbes.
Jim was chief reviewer at Poetry Australia, (see his piece from that magazine reprinted here) and brought to his influential essays and reviews his strong interest in the American poetry of the day: Lowell, Berryman, James Dickey, Denise Levertov, Robert Bly, and the possibility of a new and more self-reflexive voice in local poetry.
In 1969 to 1971, together with Phil Roberts, we ran a weekly workshop at the University that produced, in J.S. Harry, Vicki Viidikas, Kerry Leves and others, some of the most important poets of the emerging generation.
Jim’s studies on the relationship between literature and spirituality enabled him to connect the secular world of the university with cultural traditions of religion. At the University of Sydney he chaired the Board of Studies in Divinity and headed the School of Religious Studies for five years. He chaired the Council of the United Theological College for eighteen years until 1992, continuing as a member of UTC Council until 2004.
Jim led Australian efforts in religious education at both secondary and tertiary levels. He initiated work to establish Religious Studies as a Higher School Certificate subject in NSW, now taken each year by about 15,000 students, and convened a series of public conferences on Religion, Literature and the Arts.
Jim’s consuming interest in the nature of the sacred and how to make a place for it in daily living was always a topic on our evening rambles along the creek at Epping below the Tulips’ house, or round Ku-ring-gai Chase, and afterwards at the family table, where the younger Tulips–Peter, Robbie, Bill and Libby–were used to breaking in with their own views, in a family where speculation, sometimes wild, and disputation and dissent were the accepted rule. Jim, in the middle 1970s and early 1980s, was a stalwart supporter of Marie’s advocacy for women, both nationally and internationally, and they remained close after their later separation.
Jim is survived by his second wife of nineteen years, Peggy Goldsmith and her family, his sister Betty and youngest brother David, four children, five grandchildren, and the many students and fellow-writers and friends for whom his presence, and influence, like his various essays and reviews, now available at nanojim.com, will long outlive him.
– David Malouf