Fallaize, Elizabeth Anne (19502009), French scholar, was born on 3 June 1950 at 106 Maidstone Road, Rochester, Kent, the elder daughter of John Sidney Fallaize (b. 1920), civil servant, and his wife, Hilda Elizabeth (Jill), née Smith. She was educated at Dame Allan's School in Newcastle, Wallington grammar school in Surrey, and the University of Exeter, where she graduated in 1972 with the highest first in the arts faculty. She stayed at Exeter to undertake postgraduate research and on 18 August 1973 married Richard John (Dick) Ellis, a fellow student, later a literary scholar and professor of American studies. Her MA on André Malraux was followed by a PhD on the Second Empire photographer and arts journalist Étienne Carjat. Both dissertations were subsequently published: the former in 1975 (under the name Elizabeth Ellis) as André Malraux et le monde de la nature; the latter in 1987 as Étienne Carjat and Le Boulevard (18611863), by which time (her first marriage having ended in divorce) her personal and professional identity had become firmly re-established as Elizabeth Fallaize.
Fallaize was appointed to her first lectureship at Wolverhampton Polytechnic in 1975; in 1977 she moved to the University of Birmingham where she taught for thirteen years. It was at Birmingham that she met Michael John Driscoll (b. 1950), economist, and later vice-chancellor of Middlesex University, whom she married on 24 October 1980; they had two children, Alice and Jack. A study of Malraux's La Voie royale was published in 1984, but Fallaize was already moving away from the male-focused worlds of Carjat and Malraux, and was starting to establish herself as a specialist on Simone de Beauvoir. Her increasingly urgent awareness of gender issues, whether in personal, literary, or institutional contexts, underpinned her timely analysis of the emergence of a female narrative voice within Beauvoir's fiction. The Novels of Simone de Beauvoir (1988), the writing of which straddled Beauvoir's death in 1986, was in the vanguard of the Beauvoir scholarship that flourished in the 1990s. It changed the terms of critical discussion by establishing the literary importance of works often reduced to their existentialist or political content, and laid the foundation of Fallaize's reputation as a leading figure within Beauvoir studies. Many lectures, international conference papers, articles, and editorial projects would follow, including Simone de Beauvoir: a Critical Reader (1998), and collaboration with a US-based team of international scholars preparing publication of all of Beauvoir's work previously unavailable in English.
While continuing to work on Beauvoir, in 1988 Fallaize began to investigate a range of more contemporary French women's writing, conducting interviews with Annie Ernaux, Claire Etcherelli, Jeanne Hyvrard, Annie Leclerc, and Marie Redonnet, and selecting extracts to translate and contextualize for an Anglophone women's studies readership. The modestly framed French Women Writers: Recent Fiction (1993) opened up an important field of teaching and research. This pioneering study was one of Fallaize's proudest achievements, along with her co-founding in 1987 of the national academic network Women in French, a feminist collaboration that helped change the shape and ethos of the discipline of French studies.
In 1990 Fallaize became the first ever female official fellow of St John's College, Oxford. She was a fine college tutor, deeply committed to undergraduate teaching and pastoral care, and was much in demand as a supervisor of Oxford postgraduates wanting to work on French women's writing. In 1993 the college nominated her for the demanding university position of junior proctor; this allowed her to acquire a thorough understanding of how Oxford functioned, and she would go on to serve with great effectiveness on numerous committees at college, faculty, divisional, and university levels. Always very sociable, as well as professional and meticulously prepared, she enjoyed working with others in all sorts of contexts. In 1993, with colleagues from four of the Oxford humanities faculties, she initiated a masters course in women's studies; she co-authored, with Colin Davis, French Fiction in the Mitterrand Years (2000); and from 1997 to 2002 she served as co-editor of the journal French Studies. In 2002 she published The Oxford Book of French Short Stories, launched into a substantial new research project, The French short story in dialogue, and was awarded the title of professor of French. After two years as chair of the modern languages faculty board the experience she brought to Oxford of different ways of doing things, her keen awareness of equal opportunities issues, and her exceptional administrative and managerial abilities, came to the attention of John Hood, the new vice-chancellor; she served as pro-vice-chancellor for education from 2005 until her early retirement through illness in 2008. From 2006 to 2009 she was also a deeply committed Rhodes trustee, working especially closely with the women Rhodes scholars and founding Rhodes Women, a seminar and mentoring network. In 2009 she was promoted from officier to commandeur of the Ordre des Palmes Académiques.
Fallaize's professional fulfilment at Oxford was matched by personal happiness with Alan Grafen (b. 1956), professor of theoretical biology at Oxford and a colleague at St John's; her second marriage having ended in divorce in 1996, they were married on 3 January 1998. They were a close partnership throughout their thirteen years together, spending much time in the corner of Paris in which they had bought a small flat, the rue Saint-Maur where it straddles the tenth and eleventh arrondissements. When Fallaize was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2007 they met the practical challenges of her gradual paralysis with extraordinary resourcefulness and resolve. She completed a further year as pro-vice-chancellor and in 2008, the centenary of Beauvoir's birth, was able to fulfil all the prestigious Beauvoir engagements, in both the UK and France, to which she had looked forward. She died on 6 December 2009 in Sobell House, Oxford; she was survived by her parents, her husband Alan Grafen, her children Alice and Jack Driscoll, and her stepchildren Rosie and Tessa Grafen. Her funeral took place in St John's College chapel. Her academic and personal life were celebrated at a memorial event in London on 2 October 2010, and in the same year a scholarship bearing her name was endowed at St John's College, for research towards a DPhil in French studies. A volume of essays by leading feminist scholars, Women, Genre and Circumstance, was published in her memory in 2012. Her portrait by Bryan Organ, commissioned by St John's College and first shown in January 2009, hangs in the college hall; it conveys the warmth, courage, and commitment of a remarkable feminist scholar.
The Independent (30 Dec 2009) · The Guardian (4 Jan 2010); (1 March 2010) · The Times (6 Jan 2010) · Oxford Mail (6 Jan 2010) · Times Higher Education Supplement (14 Jan 2010) · French Studies, 64/2 (2010), 2447 · WW (2009) · personal knowledge (2013) · private information (2013) · b. cert. · m. certs. · d. cert.
B. Organ, acrylic on canvas, 2009, St John's College, Oxford · obituary photographs
Wealth at death
£0: probate, 4 Nov 2010, CGPLA Eng. & Wales