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University Professor Emeritus Roger Shattuck dies at 82

Proust expert “cannot be replaced”

Roger Shattuck, a professor emeritus in the University Professors Program, died at age 82 on December 8. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Roger Shattuck, 82, a professor emeritus in the University Professors Program, died on Thursday, December 8, at his home in Lincoln, Vt.

The author of several books, including a seminal work on early French modernism, Shattuck taught at BU from 1988 to 1997 and served as a mentor to both his students and his colleagues.

“Roger really had a fund of erudition and a mode of intelligence which I think cannot be replaced,” says Rosanna Warren, a UNI professor and BU’s Emma Ann MacLachlan Metcalf Professor of the Humanities. “He had a serious mind, at a time when our culture moves so fast it favors more glib kinds of thinking.”

Born in New York, Shattuck attended Yale University and served as a pilot in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He taught at Harvard, the University of Texas, and the University of Virginia before coming to BU.

His 1958 work The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant-Garde in France, 1885 to World War I is considered a pivotal exploration of French modernism, and his 1975 Marcel Proust won the National Book Award for Arts and Letters. He wrote several other books on Proust, and edited a re-issue of Helen Keller’s The Story of My Life.

Shattuck possessed an encyclopedic mind, Warren says, and applied his passion for knowledge to literature, art, and science, but also to nature and civic involvement. After retiring to his home in Vermont, he became an enthusiastic landscaper, winning prizes for hand-mowing and using a scythe. He was also a member of the local school board. “He was very idealistic,” Warren says. “He had an understanding that to be a citizen, you have to participate in your various communities and take them seriously. He took that kind of intellectual citizenship more seriously than anyone I’ve ever met.”

Shattuck is survived by his wife, Nora, three children, and six grandchildren. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, December 17, in Lincoln United Church in Vermont.