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Shattuck, Roger

    Full Name: Shattuck, Roger

    Other Names:

    • Roger Whitney Shattuck

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1923

    Date Died: 2005

    Place Born: New York, NY, USA

    Place Died: Lincoln, Addison, VT, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): French (culture or style), languages (established systems of communication), and Romance (languages)

    Career(s): art critics


    Literary critic and Romance Languages professor interested in French avant-garde artists. Shattuck’s parents were Howard F. Shattuck, a prosperous medical doctor, and Elizabeth Colt (Shattuck). He was raised on the East Side of Manhattan graduating from St. Paul’s School, in Concord, NH, in 1941. Shortly before World War II he entered Yale University, but his attempts at pre-medicine classes failed. Shattuck enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1942, qualifying as a pilot in a combat cargo squadron in the Pacific Theater. His B-25 flew over Hiroshima shortly the atomic bomb drop. After the war, he returned to Yale, becoming editor of Yale Review, and graduating with a B.A. in 1947, the highest academic degree he ever achieved. He took a job at UNESCO in Paris as an information officer in film section and then as the Paris reporter for the Chicago Daily News in Paris, 1948-1949. In Paris he met Alice B. Toklas (1877-1967), the partner of Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) and literary salon sponsor. Toklas introduced Shattuck to the authors Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) and Jean Cocteau (1889-1963), and the painters Francis Bacon, Georges Braque and, important for Shattuck’s later book, Picasso’s first mistress, Fernande Olivier (1880/81-1966). He married Nora Ewing White, a dancer with Les Ballets Russes des Monte Carlo and Les Ballet de Paris, in 1949. One year as an assistant trade editor for Harcourt, Brace & Co. in New York, 1949-1950 was followed by an academic career. He joined Harvard University, initially as a junior member of Society of Fellows in 1950, where he could research without pursuing a degree. He joined the French Department as an instructor in 1953. In 1956 he moved to the University of Texas at Austin as an assistant professor. He was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship for the 1958-1959 year. That year, too, 1958, Shattuck published his Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant-Garde in France, 1885 to World War One, a readable and well-researched account of the development of the avant-garde in France. Shattuck was promoted to associate professor of romance languages at Austin in 1959 and professor of French and English in 1962. His poetry, Half Tame, was published by the University of Texas Press in 1964. He chaired the department of French and Italian between 1968 and 1971. Shattuck became a free-lance writer in 1971 before moving to the University of Virginia, Charlottesville in 1974. A biography Marcel Proust (1871-1922) won the National Book Award in 1975. In 1984 his collected essays appeared as The Innocent Eye writings on on modern literature and the arts appearing between 1960 and 1983. Shattuck wrote the essays on Henri Rousseau for the 1985 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. He taught at Boston University as a professor of modern languages from 1988 through 1997. A final art compilation, Apollinaire on Art: Essays and Reviews, 1902-1918 was published in 2001. He died at his Lincoln, Vermont home after contracting prostate cancer. The Banquet Years was one of the first works in English to consider the literature and music of that period in conjunction with its painting, looking at it as a single cultural phenomenon. It remains a highly regarded work. Shattuck opposed postmodern trends in arts analysis such as deconstructionism and semiotics, contending that it ignored the intellectual, moral and human aspects of the work. In his final years, he adopted a stance that not all knowledge is worth knowing or exploiting. This controversial theory, appearing in his book Forbidden Knowledge, espoused a “wise agnosticism” warning of pornography’s and genetic engineering’s detriment. In his lifetime, he was called “One of the foremost interpreters of modern intellectual history.”

    Selected Bibliography

    The Banquet Years: the Arts in France, 1885-1918: Alfred Jarry, Henri Rousseau, Erik Satie, Guillaume Apollinaire. New York, Harcourt, Brace, 1958; Henri Rousseau: Essays. New York: Museum of Modern Art/New York Graphic Society Books, 1985.


    [obituaries:] Martin, Douglas. “Roger Shattuck, Scholar, Is Dead at 82.” New York Times December 10, 2005 p. 8; “Professor Roger Shattuck.” Times (London), December 20, 2005, p. 53;


    "Shattuck, Roger." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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