It is with sadness that the UCLA Department of French and Francophone Studies notes the passing of Emerita Professor Shuhsi Kao on August 9th 2013, in Madison (Wisconsin), from complications of diabetes, heart, and lung disease.
Having received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Yale under the direction of Paul de Man, Professor Kao first taught at the University of Texas, San Antonio. In 1978 she joined the UCLA Department of French, where she served as Chair and Acting Chair for several years. She took early retirement in 1999 and joined her husband, Marc Silberman, in Madison.
A specialist of poetry and poetics, Professor Kao was recognized for her work on Paul Valéry. Her book, Lire Valéry (Paris, 1987), received international critical acclaim, with the Revue belge de philologie et d'histoire (1988) calling it a "masterful work of theoretical reflection and textual analysis" and "a must for all those interested in poetics as well as for specialists of Valéry." Professor Kao's scholarship focused on writers such as Apollinaire, Segalen, Saint-John Perse, Cendrars, Philippe Sollers, René Char, but also on Pound, as well as German writers including Goethe, Brecht, Paul Celan, and Heiner Müller. Her work spanned the fields of comparative studies, gender and women's studies, and translation studies; her interdisciplinary research involved philosophy, history, and humanities at large, exploring concepts such as modernity, alterity, poetic obscurity, or even China in the European imagination. She was active and recognized in the profession, serving as Editor of Feuille de routes, The Bulletin of the Blaise Cendrars International Society; maintaining membership of the advisory board of Discourses (1980-1985); and receiving a number of awards and research fellowships, including three Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Fellowships.
While fully mastering contemporary theoretical trends, Professor Kao followed an original critical path, which reflected her multivalent and international education, the multiplicity of her intellectual interests and linguistic skills, and a cultural and social awareness that permeated all of her professional and personal activities. The latter was reflected as well in her teaching and mentoring. A generous and innovative teacher, as rigorous towards herself as she was towards her students, Professor Kao was successful both at the graduate and undergraduate levels. She served as director of many doctoral dissertations within and outside the Department of French and her impact on graduate students was crucial for their professional and intellectual awareness. Every aspect of her professional life was marked the highest ethics and a continuous drive for excellence. She will be remembered as an outstanding colleague and scholar.
Prof. Shuhsi Kao is survived by her husband, Marc Silberman.
Donations in her honor can be made to the UCLA Faculty Women's Club Scholarship Fund: http://uclafwc.bol.ucla.edu/scholarship/scholarship.html, in memory of Professor Shuhsi Kao.