Redfern, W.D. 1936–

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Redfern, W.D. 1936–

(Walter David Redfern)

PERSONAL: Born February 22, 1936, in Liverpool, England; son of Walter Barton and Charlotte (Jones) Redfern; married Angela Kirkup (a schoolteacher), March 30, 1963; children: Kate, Sam. Ethnicity: "English." Education: Cambridge University, B.A., 1957, M.A., and Ph.D., 1960. Hobbies and other interests: Sports, cinema, music, reading.

ADDRESSES: Home—8 Northcourt Ave., Reading, Berkshire RG2 7HA, England. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: University of Reading, Reading, Berkshire, England, assistant lecturer, 1960–63, lecturer, 1963–72, reader, 1972–80, professor of French, 1980–2001, professor emeritus, 2001–. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, visiting professor, 1981–82.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright travel scholar, 1981–82.


The Private World of Jean Giono, Blackwell (New York, NY), 1967.

Paul Nizan: Committed Literature in a Conspiratorial World, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1972.

(Editor and author of introduction) Jules Vallès, Le Bachelier, University of London Press (London, England), 1972.

Queneau, Zazie dans le métro, Grant & Cutler (London, England), 1980.

Georges Darien: Robbery and Private Enterprise, Rodopi (Atlanta, GA), 1985.

Puns, Blackwell (New York, NY), 1985, revised edition, Penguin (New York, NY), 2000.

Clichés and Coinages, Blackwell (Cambridge, MA), 1989.

Feet First: Jules Vallès, Glasgow University Press (Glasgow, Scotland), 1994.

Michel Tournier, Le Coq de bruyère, Associated University Presses (Madison, NJ), 1996.

(Editor and contributor) Le Mur/Sartre, Bristol Classical Press (London, England), 1997.

Louis Guilloux: Ear-Witness, Rodopi (Atlanta, GA), 1998.

Jean-Pierre Brisset, Legenda (Oxford, England), 2001.

Writing on the Move: Albert Londres and Investigative Journalism, Peter Lang (New York, NY), 2004.

Also author of A Calm Estate, 1987. Contributor to books, including France Today, edited by J. Flower, Methuen (London, England), 1971, 2nd edition, 1973. Author of short stories and poetry.

WORK IN PROGRESS: "French literary humour."

SIDELIGHTS: Literary scholar W.D. Redfern specializes in studies of French writers. In his book The Private World of Jean Giono, he analyzes the novelist's use of a private, poetic symbol system, while Paul Nizan: Committed Literature in a Conspiratorial World places the novelist and political writer in the context of his times. In Puns and Feet First: Jules Vallès, Redfern first examines the use of puns in literature in many languages, and then writes the first study in English of a French writer whose use of the pun is renowned.

In The Private World of Jean Giono Redfern examines Giono's use of a host of private myths and unique linguistic constructions to shield himself from what he saw as an overly mechanized society. Stressing the writer's reactionary politics as crucial to an understanding of his opposition to the modern world, Redfern presents "an articulate synthesis of Giono's thought and style," according to a reviewer for Choice. A critic for the Times Literary Supplement found that Redfern "has rightly tried to strip off the 'regionalist' label which has often been pasted over this oddly sedentary novelist and to stress that he is above all a creative liar and an extreme reactionary."

Redfern's study of Paul Nizan examines both the writer's novels and his philosophical essays. Comparing Nizan's approach to both literature and philosophy to such contemporaries as Louis Aragon, André Malraux and Jean-Paul Sartre, Redfern seeks to determine the original contributions made by the author. Mark Poster, writing in the Library Journal, found Redfern's coverage of Nizan's philosophy to be lacking, but judged "the treatment of Nizan's novels … sympathetic and elegant, making for a very enjoyable book."

Redfern turned to a lighter subject in his book Puns, which examines the use of puns in several languages and traces them back to the earliest examples of human writing. "Punning seems to be common to all languages, Mr. Redfern tells us, its Janus-faced, forked-tongue nature reflecting the ambiguity of reality," according to Sherwin D. Smith in the New York Times Book Review.

In Feet First: Jules Vallès, Redfern examines the work of a writer who reveled in the use of puns. Redfern edited, prefaced, and annotated one of Vallès's novels, Le Bachelier, in 1972. With Feet First, he produced "the first comprehensive book in English on Vallès's oeuvre," Michael Pakenham wrote in the Journal of European Studies. Because Vallès was a prolific writer whose output was over 4,000 published pages, Redfern adopted a thematic approach for his study, an approach which Pakenham decided was "the right one to encompass so much material." Further, Vallès was a participant in some of the leading political and social events of his time, all of which Redfern covers in his book. Pakenham concluded: "Redfern does present the topics of provincial and Parisian poverty, class, education, dress, journalism, the struggle of a Republican against the Second Empire, the dashed hopes of a leading member of the Commune, the continued fight for what was right after the Amnesty, in a way that should stimulate the majority of readers."

Redfern told CA: "My primary motivation for writing literary criticism is revenge—revenge for all the umpteen thousands of pages I have had to or chosen to read. I also write short stories and poems and have published one novel. I make no distinction in my writing practices or my writing style between literary criticism and creative writing. Humor is a constant criterion and presence in all I write."



Choice, May, 1968, review of The Private World of Jean Giono; May, 1973.

Journal of European Studies, March, 1994, Michael Pakenham, review of Feet First: Jules Vallès, p. 72.

Library Journal, June 1, 1972, Mark Poster, review of Paul Nizan: Committed Literature in a Conspiratorial World.

New York Times Book Review, February 17, 1985, Sherwin D. Smith, review of Puns, p. 21.

Times Literary Supplement, June 1, 1967, review of The Private World of Jean Giono, p. 491.