In Homage to Professor Martin A. Kayman

Farewell words for Professor Martin A. Kayman

Fernando Galván and Hortensia Pârlog [1]

Professor Martin A. Kayman (Cardiff University) stepped down a few weeks ago, with the publication of issue 22.1 (April 2018), as Editor of the European Journal of English Studies, EJES, the official journal of ESSE. Our Society is not yet 30 years old, and Martin A. Kayman has been active serving it for more than 20 years, i.e. over two thirds of ESSE’s life. He has been working hard for more than two decades, initially editing The European English Messenger (or The Messenger, as all of us call it), and later, our journal EJES, which is certainly not a minor task, as anybody with an experience in editing academic journals knows very well.

Although the two of us, Aba and Fernando, served ESSE in different periods and for many years in the last decade of the 20th century and the first decades of the 21st century, neither of us has been so deeply involved in ESSE matters as long as Martin has been, but we have certainly known him ever since ESSE became into existence and have always followed and admired his activity on behalf of our Society. Because, even if he was elected as editor of The Messenger at the Board meeting held in Debrecen in August 1997, and took over its editing immediately afterwards, following Neil Forsyth and starting his job with volume VII.1 (January 1998), he had been very active in the Society in previous years as well. In fact, he had published in The Messenger, in 1994 (then edited by Helmut Bonheim), an article entitled “‘ESSE’ or ‘TELOS’: English Studies in Europe” (spring issue, III.1, pp. 35-54). The same year that he was elected editor of The Messenger, he also published the first article in the first issue of the first volume of EJES (April 1997), then edited by Catherine Belsey, Herbert Grabes and Jean-Jacques Lecercle – the very illuminating essay “On Difference and Difficulty: Theorizing English in Europe” (pp. 10-32): this was a sort of manifesto, personal of course, but also, to a certain extent, collective, about the situation of English in Europe in the mid-1990s and its future prospects.

Martin was well equipped to do that because he was already devising at the time an ambitious project to study the condition of English Studies in Europe, covering both the ‘old’ Western European countries and the then ‘new’ Eastern European perspectives, a few years after the Fall of the Wall. That project was formally launched at the 1997 Debrecen Board meeting and received support from the British Council. As a result, he produced a remarkably well-documented Survey of English Studies, presenting the methodology, the degree structure, the components of the degree and their contents, and the working conditions (size of classes, ratio male-female, number of contact hours, number of students per member of staff, forms of student evaluation) and personnel (load, salary, ratio senior-junior, male-female staff) in universities belonging to 29 European countries. It proved to be a very useful tool in the development of the Bologna Process in many of our countries across Europe, as well as in setting and clarifying standards in the discipline and the profession.

So when Martin took over the editorship of The Messenger from Neil Forsyth, he was very well aware what English Studies in Europe meant at the time and what the cultural wars about the concept of lingua franca and other ideas about the internationalisation of English implied for Europe and European culture as a whole. Martin is a Briton, but his long years in Portugal as Professor at the University of Coimbra and his Jewish ancestry in Eastern Europe made him probably sensitive to many of these aspects of English Studies. His concluding words in that essay published in the first pages of EJES in 1997 are a testament to his conviction about the paradoxical need to keep English as foreign and difficult –contradicting those who advocated the view of an easy and basic English as lingua franca—, because in doing so English would not occupy the ground of other national languages and cultures of Europe:

It is then in that sense that I would keep English as a foreign, rather than international, culture in Europe, precisely in order to foreground the ‘element of resistance’, the difficulty of inter-cultural translation, on both sides of the exchange –as opposed to the fluency of an idealized communication. This is emphatically not a resistance to barricade oneself behind, but to be analysed and studied, to be trans-lated across boundaries and borders, to be negotiated, like meaning itself, until both parties come to an understanding in which their relationship is mediated and consequently transformed. To invoke again the word pertinently introduced by Tom Healy into a discussion of this topic at the 1993 ESSE conference, it is in this sense that it is well that the study of English remains a ‘difficult’ subject.
(EJES, 1.1 (1997): 32)

Martin A. Kayman’s ideas about English and its role in Europe and in the European Higher Education have been his preoccupations for decades now. He has written on some of the key concepts, trying to clarify different issues in the debate with relevant data and first-hand information about the reality and the perspectives of English Studies across Europe. We think he is undoubtedly one of the best-informed scholars about the condition of our discipline and our profession and one of those who have done more for theorizing our subject from multiple angles. Some of his reflections can be read in short pieces published in The Messenger, such as “The Faces of English Studies” in spring 1998 (VII.1: 2-3), “The Foreignness of English” in autumn 2003 (XII.2: 52-3), “English Studies in Europe: Past, Present, and Future” in autumn 2004 (XIII.2: 8-10); or “A Survey of English Studies in Europe” in spring 2005 (XIV.1: 15-30).

His extreme sensitivity and understanding of the role of the English language and culture all over Europe and its significance for English Studies on the continent can be gauged, for instance, when he addresses the issue of English as a lingua franca and warns about its danger, as its use “may turn out to be, now in the name of universal communication, another way of annulling foreignness and effectively disavowing ownership. […] The more English claims the status of global lingua franca, the more it will drive out demand for other languages; and the more it claims the status of a tool of communication, the more it will make the paraphernalia of literary studies, linguistic theory and cultural critique seem redundant” (“The Foreignness of English”, p. 53).

His editorship of The Messenger for six years (1998-2003) was one of the best things that have happened to ESSE in its history. He gave cohesion and superbly expanded the previous work started by Helmut Bonheim and Neil Forsyth, who edited it between 1991-1993 and 1994-1997 respectively, after that fantastic Zero Issue (with a stunning cover featuring Kazuo Ishiguro), edited in June 1990 by Paul-Gabriel Boucé. As one of us wrote when he stepped down as editor of The Messenger in 2003, “we must all be extremely thankful to Martin Kayman for his extraordinary commitment to editing The Messenger; he has invested in it an enormous amount of time and work, maintaining a very high standard of the publication”.[2]

Indeed, those years covering the fin de siècle and the arrival of the 21st century saw the transformation of The Messenger from the initial stapled A5 booklet to the “distinguished-looking publication” produced by Gráfica de Coimbra press. Martin A. Kayman was for half of that period Professor at the University of Coimbra, before moving in 2000 to Cardiff University, and managed then to negotiate in Coimbra the best conditions ever for the publication of our newsletter, which extended until its last printed issue in the winter of 2015 (vol. XXIV.2).[3] But apart from the materiality itself, The Messenger edited by Martin A. Kayman also attracted the interest and participation of some of the most distinguished members of the profession all over Europe, as well as of a number of very interesting and acclaimed writers.

If Martin’s editorship of The Messenger was decisive in the evolution of this important publication of ESSE, no less so was his involvement with EJES. As already stated, Martin A. Kayman was the first author to publish in EJES that essay on the theorizing of English in Europe, from which we quoted before. He became one of its editors some years later, in 2005, after working during autumn 2004 with the two other editors, Angela Locatelli and Ansgar Nünning, on the new policy and vision of the journal for its relaunch. Both of us were Board members at the time, and took part in the ESSE Executive activities (Aba as Secretary between 2002 and 2008; and Fernando as President between 2007 and 2013), and so were privileged witnesses to the multiple negotiations and difficulties that Martin had to face with many people in order to shape the ‘new’ EJES, which had also changed publishers a year before, from Swets & Zeitlinger to the present Taylor & Francis.[4]

What Martin did then, with the cooperation, of course, of the other two general editors (initially Angela Locatelli and Ansgar Nünning, and later Greta Olson and Stephanos Stephanides), was to lead a transformation of the official journal of ESSE. He edited EJES for the longest period, twelve years (2005-2017), more than anybody else in the history of ESSE, covering the issues from 9.3 (December 2005) to 22.1 (April 2018). What he did during those years was certainly outstanding, as he succeeded in consolidating the prestige of our journal, to the extent that, in 2011, EJES was accepted for inclusion in the Thomson Reuters Citation Index. As is well known, that Index actually comprises several sub-indices, and EJES was accepted into both the Arts and Humanities Citation Index, and also the Social Sciences Citation Index, which meant that the journal (due to this latter inclusion) started to receive an Impact factor in 2012 (covering initially 2009-2011). Possibly nobody who has not edited an academic journal of the quality of EJES can really imagine the amount of energy, of concern, of generosity, and of perseverance that Martin A. Kayman has had to put in making possible the publication of the three annual issues which appeared punctually according to schedule.

In April 2018 Martin stepped down as general editor of EJES. Our Society owes indeed a great debt of gratitude to him, for that great job he did as editor of our two serial publications, The Messenger and EJES. What he did as editor of The Messenger, with his talent and hard effort, contributed decisively to consolidating ESSE all over Europe, and especially in Central and Eastern countries. For some of our colleagues, publication in The Messenger –and Martin helped dozens and dozens of scholars in this respect— was fundamental in the development of their academic careers. When he came to editing EJES, he had the advantage of previous knowledge, an excellent knowledge of the discipline, of the profession, and of the task of editing English Studies in Europe. He did it wonderfully, giving again the opportunity to many scholars (some of them excellent young researchers) to print their essays in a world-class academic journal, adding thus further evidence to those motives that justify our gratefulness and recognition for his dedicated and generous work. Well done, dear Martin! Many thanks for such a great job and for all those more than twenty years of dedication to ESSE and to English Studies in Europe. Many thanks for your professionalism, your commitment, and your critical position. You have completely fulfilled that initial motto of EJES: “The cause is Europe… the cause is also English… the cause is debate”.

(May 2018)


[1] Hortensia (aka Aba) Pârlog was a Board member, representing the Romanian association, in the period 1996-2002, then Secretary of ESSE (January 2002-January 2008), and Editor of The European English Messenger (2012-2015); and Fernando Galván was a Board member, representing the Spanish association (2001-2005), and President of ESSE (January 2007-January 2013).

[2] Hortensia Pârlog, “The Secretary’s Column: Oxford!”, The European English Messenger XII.2 (autumn 2003), p. 3.

[3] Martin A. Kayman has also written in some detail about that period and the importance for ESSE of Gráfica de Coimbra in a piece published in the penultimate printed issue of The Messenger: “Printing The Messenger: The End of an Era” (XXIV.1, summer 2015, pp. 6-9).

[4] The last issue published by Swets & Zeitlinger was 7.2 (August 2003), as Routledge Taylor & Francis Group took over with issue 7.3 (December 2003).