Fleischman, UC Berkeley French professor who also explored the
language of illness, dies at age 51
Kathleen Maclay, Public Affairs
Suzanne Fleischman, an internationally recognized professor
of French and Romance Philology at the University of California,
Berkeley, has died after a long illness that spurred her to
study and lecture extensively about the language of illness
in Western medicine.
51, died Wednesday at Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley.
She had taught at UC Berkeley since 1975, developing a reputation
that drew graduate students from around the world who were eager
for the opportunity to work with her.
Hult, chair of UC Berkeley's French Department, said the Chicago
native earned worldwide renown as a foremost linguist in French
and Romance languages. She was also well known for work focusing
on the medieval period and the history of French and other Romance
wrote and edited five books and dozens of articles on topics
ranging from the technical analysis of linguistic structures,
to the evolution of the Romance languages and applications of
linguistic theory, to the study of fiction.
and friends recalled Fleischman as an athletic, joyful, witty
friend and a dedicated professor. She had in the past several
years devoted her energies to studying and understanding and
clarifying the relationships between language and disease, after
being diagnosed in 1993 with myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood
disorder known as MDS. She recently learned she had developed
innate curiosity and intellectual drive led her to become an
expert on medical literature devoted to the disease (MDS), and
more importantly, on the language of illness that prevails in
the medical community and its impact on the patient," Hult
dealt with the disease by making it another focus of research,"
said longtime friend and French Department colleague Françoise
was working on a book examining the pervasiveness of the military
metaphor in the language of medicine and illness. In describing
the project, she wrote of the significance to physicians and
patients the way "doctors are described as the fighters,
technologies are weapons, action is a virtue, and disease is
with illnesses are no longer the focus of medicine, Fleischman
wrote, "but merely the clinical stage on which the main
protagonists of the drama - the doctors and the disease - battle
offered a course last spring on language and medicine, collaborating
with UC Berkeley's Townsend Center for the Humanities and with
colleagues in the UC Berkeley Linguistics Department.
December, she gave a lecture on language and medicine at a hematology
conference at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. She was hospitalized
soon after returning from the trip.
her career, Fleischman earned numerous honors. They included
Fulbright, Guggenheim, American Council of Learned Societies
and French government fellowships, as well as a 1995 medal of
honor for research from the University of Helsinki. She was
invited to deliver the Zaharoff lectures in French studies at
Oxford University last year.
earned her PhD in Romance Philology, which is the history of
the Romance languages, at UC Berkeley in 1975. She had received
her master's degree in Spanish from UC Berkeley in 1971 and
a bachelor's degree in Spanish from the University of Michigan
is survived by her father, Edward Fleischman of San Diego. Graveside
services were held at a Richmond cemetery on Friday. Memorial
plans are pending.