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Riffaterre, Michael 1924-2006

Riffaterre, Michael 1924-2006
(Michel Camille Riffaterre)

OBITUARY NOTICE— See index for CA sketch: Born November 20, 1924, in Bourganeuf, France; died of complications from Alzheimer's disease, May 27, 2006, in New York, NY. Critic, educator, and author. Riffaterre was a leading authority on semiotics, as well as an expert on French structuralist theory in literature. As a young man in France during World War II, he fought with the French Resistance and the French Army. With the war over, he studied at the Universities of Lyons and Paris, and earned a master's degree at the Sorbonne. He next moved to the United States, where he changed his first name from Michel to Michael, to study at Columbia University. After completing his doctorate in 1955, he joined the faculty there and would remain a professor at Columbia until retiring as professor emeritus in 2004. As a scholar, Riffaterre was fascinated by the meaning and interpretation of symbols in literature, and he believed that what mattered more than understanding the background of the author or the context in which a work was written was how the audience interpreted the writing independently of extraneous concerns. The general editor of the journal Romantic Review from 1971 to 2000, Riffaterre was the author of several texts on criticism and semiotics, including Semiotics of Poetry (1978) and Fictional Truth (1990).

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New York Times, June 5, 2006, p. A21.

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