Shattuck, Roger 1923–2005

views updated

Shattuck, Roger 1923–2005

(Roger Whitney Shattuck)

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born August 20, 1923, in New York, NY; died of prostate cancer, December 8, 2005, in Lincoln, VT. Educator and author. Shattuck was a respected scholar and retired Boston University professor who wrote on topics ranging from the works of Marcel Proust to philosophical commentaries on literature and human knowledge. Though he would hold several university positions over the years, Shattuck never earned a graduate degree. He initially was a pre-med student at Yale University, but left before earning a degree to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Forces. Here he became a combat pilot, saw action in the Pacific theater, and memorably piloted a plane over Hiroshima not long after the atomic bomb was dropped. Returning to America, he went back to Yale, studied literature and was editor of the Yale Review. Graduating with a B.A. in 1947, he moved to Paris, where he worked for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's film section. While in France, he met many of the expatriate literary community and other luminaries, such as Francis Bacon and Thornton Wilder. Back in New York City in 1949, he worked briefly as an assistant trade editor for Harcourt, Brace & Co. before becoming a member of the Society of Fellows at Harvard in 1950. From 1953 to 1956, he taught French at Harvard, then moved on to the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a professor of Romance languages through the 1960s and chaired that department from 1968 to 1971. A three-year period as a freelance writer was followed by fourteen years with the University of Virginia as Commonwealth professor of French. Finally, in 1988, Shattuck joined the Boston University faculty, where he was a professor until his 1997 retirement. Over the years, Shattuck developed a reputation for his thoughtful studies of Proust and Rousseau, as well as for works on literature, art, and society in general. In 1975 he won the prestigious National Book Award for his Marcel Proust (1974), and he also gained considerable attention for Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography (1996) in which he posits whether some types of knowledge, such as nuclear weaponry, is best left unknown to human beings. Some critics misinterpreted his ideas, however, as supporting the possibility for government censorship. His The Forbidden Experiment: The Story of the Wild Boy of Aveyron (1980) is also notable for the author's insights into how intelligence develops in humans. As a critic, Shattuck gained attention for his criticism of such schools as deconstructionism, which he claimed stole the heart out of literature, and his deep concern that students were no longer being taught the classics. Among Shattuck's other books are The Innocent Eye: On Literature and the Arts (1984), Candor and Perversion: Literature, Education, and the Arts (1999), and Proust's Way: A Field Guide to In Search of Lost Time (2000). He also edited and coedited several books, most recently Helen Keller's The Story of My Life and the World I Live In (2003).



New York Times, December 10, 2005, p. A16.

Times (London, England), December 20, 3005, p. 53.

Washington Post, December 14, 2005, p. B6.