Tasmanian born and educated, Dr Harrex joined the newly established Department of English at Flinders as a foundation lecturer in 1966. In 1977, he founded the Centre for Research in New Literatures in English (CRNLE) to promote research into the English language literatures of India, Africa, the Caribbean, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore and Australasia.
The first centre of its kind in the world, CRNLE ran a writer-in-residence program that attracted prominent authors and academics and also hosted numerous international conferences. Among CRNLE’s associate members were Nobel Prize-winning Jamaican poet Derek Walcott and eminent Indian novelist RK Narayan.
Over its 30 years of existence, the Centre was a prolific publisher of literary criticism, including the CRNLE Reviews Journal, establishing a network of international scholars and creating a legacy that continues in the form of Flinders-based online journal Transnational Literature.
In addition to his extensive research output, Dr Harrex published seven volumes of poems, including the critically acclaimed Atlantis and other poems. His poetry has appeared in national and overseas periodicals and anthologies, including the Oxford Book of Modern Australian Verse.
Syd, as he was universally known, will be fondly remembered as a charismatic, generous and influential teacher; many of his numerous postgraduate students went on become academics in Australia and overseas.
Emeritus Professor Graham Tulloch said that Dr Harrex was a man with a huge capacity for warm and lasting friendship with people of different cultures from around the world.
“He put Flinders in the map as a centre for study in the new literatures, and brought a number of very distinguished visitors to the University, among them Jack Unterecker, P Lal, Eddie Baugh and CD Narasimhaiah,” Professor Tulloch said.
“Syd also gave enormous encouragement to many young academics and to his postgraduate students.”
Dr Harrex retired from Flinders in 2008, and despite failing eyesight continued to write poetry at his homes in the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island.