Vale: Professor Rob Jordan

Type of post: Association news item
Status: Current
Date Posted: Tue, 10 Sep 2019
The ADSA executive, on behalf of the membership at large, recognises the recent passing of Emeritus Professor Robert Jordan, and offers these few words in acknowledgement of the profound impact Professor Jordan had on the study of drama in Australia.

After taking his BA and MA at the University of Queensland, Professor Jordan was awarded his PhD at King's College London in 1964-65, with a thesis entitled “The Libertine Gentlemen in Restoration Comedy”. Much of Professor Jordan's early scholarly and practical work is dedicated to the Restoration period, especially the work of George Farquhar and Thomas Southerne, and has been recognised as recently as 2018 as “meticulous” (David Roberts, George Farquhar: A Migrant Life Reversed).
Returning to Australia, Professor Jordan was appointed to the English staff of the University of Queensland in the mid-1960s at a time when dramatic literature was becoming the backbone of the program, joining Eunice Hangar and Alrene Sykes in advancing the cause of practical drama. Some forty years after being taught by Professor Jordan, Geoffrey Rush described him as having “a great passion for the history of drama... He looked and sounded like George Martin. We felt we were being mentored by somebody who ran The Beatles”. He was held in such high regard by his students that shortly after his arrival, Professor Jordan was recognised as a Patron of the student drama society.

Across the early 1970s, Professor Jordan was instrumental in promoting a redesigned Drama program at UQ, and in 1974 his efforts resulted in the formal recognition and founding of a distinct Drama major with the BA. As it happened, it was a department of which Professor Jordan would not be a part, having that year been appointed to the role of foundation Professor of Creative Arts, specialising in Drama, at the University of Newcastle.

After laying the foundations for the distinctive department at Newcastle, Professor Jordan took up a position in the Theatre Studies program at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in 1981. It was there he completed his outstanding scholarly achievement, The Convict Theatres of Early Australia, 1788–1840, published by Currency House in 2002. The book was praised by reviewers as “truly path-breaking”: Jordan's “minute and authoritative exploration of the unique social relations and geographical spaces of convict Australia, as figured in the contested 'spaces' of its early theatres, makes this landmark account of the Australian experience of major significance to international studies of the translocation of cultural forms” (Veronica Kelly, Australian Literary Studies, 2005).

Professor Jordan's extraordinary contribution to the study of drama in Australia, in both his scholarly and service achievements, is recognised by ADSA's biennial award of the Rob Jordan Prize for Best Book. In this small way, Professor Jordan's legacy continues in the work of the outstanding scholars who his named prize recognises. Along with the academic community of drama, theatre and performance studies in Australia, ADSA extends our condolences to Professor Jordan's family and gratefully acknowledges the extraordinary contributions he made to shaping our field.