In memoriam: Alain Toumayan, Emeritus Professor of French and Francophone Studies

Author: Staff

It is with profound sadness that we communicate the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Alain Toumayan.

Alain faithfully served the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Notre Dame for over 34 years, arriving in 1989 and retiring in 2023. Alain was an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania and earned his Ph.D. from Yale University. Before coming to Notre Dame, Alain served at Princeton University for seven years and at Johns Hopkins University for one. Alain was a specialist in nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature, with a heavy interest in philosophy, even serving as the director of Notre Dame’s program in philosophy and literature. His first monograph, La littérature et la hantise du mal (French Forum, 1987), explored the problem of evil in Barbey D’Aurevilly, Huysmans, and Baudelaire, and his second, Encountering the Other: the Artwork and the Problem of Difference in Blanchot and Levinas (Duquesne, 2004), provided a sustained analysis of the intersections of structure and content in Blanchot and Levinas's most representative and complex works. This is of course not to mention his many articles and book reviews that made a substantive and meaningful contribution to the study of French literature and philosophy.

Alain was deeply committed to teaching, and taught a wide range of graduate and undergraduate courses at Notre Dame, both inside and outside the department of Romance Languages and Literatures. His students benefited from his wide knowledge which he eagerly imparted with humility and brilliance, a rare combination. His gentle manner and subtle passion for literature and music engendered great loyalty to him among his students, increasing their desire to study French language, literature, and culture. In his multiple terms as graduate liaison for French, he advocated tirelessly for the needs, both academic and personal, of our graduate students.

Beyond his teaching and research, Alain was an exemplary colleague, mentor, and friend. Absolutely selfless in his willingness to give of his time and talent, he served on numerous important committees throughout his career at Notre Dame. He constantly showed his care and concern for all of us, stopping by our office doors, ready to give us an encouraging word, or just to ask us about our day. Never a self-promoter, he instead generously sought to promote others. His boundless patience and wisdom made him an outstanding mentor to both faculty and students who continually sought his essential advice, whether in teaching and reading Balzac or in navigating the next faculty hire.

We express our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Vicki, and to his sons, Georges-Philippe and Nicolas, and to his entire family. We will miss his music; we will miss his kindness; we will miss his friendship.