Lionel Gossman, specialist in French literature and history and “one of the great humanists and learned teachers of his generation”, dies at 91


Lionel Gossman, Professor Emeritus of Romance Languages ​​and Literatures Mr. Taylor Pyne, died at the University of Pennsylvania-Penn Medicine Hospital in Philadelphia on January 11. He was 91 years old.

Gossman joined Princeton Faculty in 1976 and earned emeritus status in 1999. His research and teaching focused on 17th and 18th century French literature; literature, literary criticism and history as social and cultural institutions; and writing history. He was Director of Graduate Studies from 1977 to 1983 in what was then called the Department of Romance Languages ​​and Literatures and was Chairman of the Department from 1991 to 1996.

“During his 23 years at Princeton, Lionel Gossman has been a mainstay of the Department of Romance Languages ​​and Literatures – a great scholar of European intellectual history as well as an excellent teacher and advisor and a wonderful colleague,” said Thomas Trezise, French and Italian teacher and department director. “He was also an exemplary citizen of the University as a whole and could be seen on campus throughout his retirement years, as he pursued his research with unwavering vigor. He was a man of exceptional integrity and kindness, whose passing leaves the vast community of his friends and admirers deeply in need. ”

I loved and admired Lionel Gossman,Said Victor Brombert, Professor Emeritus at Henry Putnam University of Romance Languages ​​and Literatures and Comparative Literature, whose friendship with his former colleague lasted nearly half a century. “I never ceased to marvel at his intellectual enthusiasm and curiosity. He was constantly discovering new books and new areas. It is very difficult for me to use the past tense to talk about Lionel.

“Lionel Gossman was one of the great humanists and university professors of his generation,” said François Rigolot, professor emeritus of French literature Meredith Howland. “A true ‘Renaissance man’ and a versatile teacher, he was loved by graduate and undergraduate students. He brought his love of books and ideas into the courts and, equally engaging, into the conversations over lunch downstairs in Prospect (where he had long been a regular) or down the halls of East Pyne and Firestone.

“Her subtlety and open-mindedness, her outburst and easy laughter, her innate fairness and decency created an atmosphere of collegiality that made our department an inspiring place to work,” said Suzanne Nash, professor of French and Italian, emeritus. “In his scientific work, he chose subjects whose accomplishments had been forgotten or overlooked, drawing from the archives to bring them out of obscurity into clarifying light, allowing the facts of their time or place to compose the narrative of a meaningful life … In fact, he often chose subjects whose opinions were contrary to his own. His car had a sticker on the bumper that said “Facts matter.” “

Nash’s friendship with Gossman continued after his retirement with a fortnightly lunch. “Lionel was always a pleasure to be with, never jaded or jaded, the happiest when he could work in the library, every day, on a new discovery project. He didn’t waste a minute of his life, and he saved so much that he could have been lost. Her beautiful deep Scottish voice will be missed, ”she said.

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, on May 31, 1929, Gossman received his MA in French and German from the University of Glasgow in 1951, and a Graduate Diploma at the University of Paris in 1952. After serving in the Royal Navy for two years, he obtained his D.Phil. at Oxford in 1957. He taught at the University of Lille and Glasgow, then came to the United States in 1958 and joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins University.

In 1976, at the request of his friend the medievalist Karl Uitti, professor of modern languages ​​John Woodhull and professor of French and Italian at Princeton (deceased in 2003), Gossman joined the faculty of Princeton. In 1990, he received the Howard T. Behrman Prize, Princeton’s highest honor for distinguished achievements in the humanities. In 2005, the University awarded him an honorary doctorate in the humanities.

During his long tenure at Princeton, he served as a mentor and advisor to generations of undergraduate and graduate students, staying in close contact with many throughout their careers.

“In his seminars, Lionel Gossman spoke about Diderot and Rousseau, but also taught us to think and showed us how to teach,” said William Paulson, 1981 graduate and EL Walter Collegiate professor of Romance Languages ​​and Literatures at the ‘University. from Michigan.

“Listening to Lionel and conversing with him was to receive a powerful lesson in what a deeply educated and lucid mind can accomplish when it is also fully present in the here and now of the everyday world,” continued Paulson. “He could talk without condescension to virtually anyone, and this trait also helped make him a clearer and more competent thinker and scholar, as well as a generous and loyal friend.”

Martin Ruehl, a former history graduate from 2010, said Gossman, although he is in another university department, “quickly took me under his wings and became my unofficial Doktorvater [Ph.D. adviser]. He had a wonderful ability to take an interest in and see the best in the work of others. I vividly remember our lively discussions on the C-Floor of Firestone Library.

Ruehl was at Princeton from 1995 to 2000, but did not complete his thesis until 2010. “After I left Princeton, [Lionel] stayed in touch with me, continued to read my work, gave me professional and personal advice, and strongly supported my career, ”said Ruehl, now full professor of German history and thought at the University from Cambridge. “I will never forget what he did for me and what we shared. All mein ‘Gedanken, die ich hab, die sind bei Dir [All of my thoughts that I have are with you].

Lisa Gasbarrone, 1984 graduate, wrote her thesis on Jean-Jacques Rousseau and botany – a journey that began its first semester at Princeton, at Gossman’s author’s seminar on Rousseau, which led her directly to take an interest in the Enlightenment and natural history.

“Princeton is an exhilarating place, and Lionel’s example kept me grounded,” said Gasbarrone, professor of French at Franklin & Marshall College. “I remember discussing a first draft of a thesis chapter with him and feeling overwhelmed by the work. “You know so much,” I said. And his response was so characteristically generous: “Think how long I read. So he was teaching, even in those times. In my own teaching, writing, and professional relationships, I have treasured these lessons and keep them with me.

Appointed Officer of the Palms Academic in 1991, Gossman was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1996. He has served on the editorial boards of Johns Hopkins University Press, Princeton University Press, and several scholarly journals, including Clio, Comparative Literature, Eighteenth Century Studies, and French Forum. He has published extensively in journals. He has also been a consultant to the Ford Foundation on doctoral programs for black students and to the Social Sciences Research Council.

He is the author, among others, of “Men and masks: study of Molière”, “Medievalism and ideologies of the Enlightenment: the world and the work of La Curne de Sainte-Palaye”, “French society and culture: an Introduction to 18th century France ”,“ Augustin Thierry and liberal historiography ”,“ The empire without possession: an essay on the decline and fall of Gibbon ”,“ Orpheus Philologus: Bachofen against Mommsen on the study of ‘antiquity ”,“ Towards a rational historiography ”,“ Between history and literature ”,“ Geneva-Zurich-Basel: history, culture and national identity ”(with N. Bouvier et al.), and“ Basel in the era of Burckhardt ”, which received the American Historical Association Award George L. Mosse.

After his retirement, Gossman continued to publish. He wrote on various aspects of 19th century German art and cultural policy, pursued translation projects and maintained his interest in historiography, publishing “Figuring History”, a study on book illustration. of history, in 2011; “The Passion of Max von Oppenheim: Archeology and Intrigue in the Middle East from William II to Hitler” in 2013; and “Thomas Annan of Glasgow: pioneer of documentary photography” in 2015.

Especially after his retirement he liked to publish to, and other online platforms, which have made his work free and accessible to everyone and provided him with a readership around the world. His latest article, Scottish publishers and English literature: a few small publishers,Was published on in December 2020.

Donations can be made to a charity of your choice or to the American Friends of Glasgow University.

Gossman is predeceased by his younger sister, Janice Gossman Brason. He is survived by his wife Eva, who worked at the university from 1977 as director of the advisory board, responsible for academic advice in the first and second year, then as associate dean of the college from 1987 to 1997 A Holocaust survivor, she recounted her experiences as a young girl hidden from the Nazis by a Slovak woman in the book “Good Beyond Evil: Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times.”The Dean Eva Gossman Seminar on Human Values was established in his name in 2004, and has been offered as a freshman seminar every year since.

Gossman is also survived by a daughter, Janice Gossman, her husband, Michael Coppola, and her son, Nicholas; two nieces and three nephews and their families; as well as many cousins ​​in Glasgow, London and Zurich.

View or share comments on a Blog intended to honor the life and legacy of Gossman.

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