92 Rue Pasteur, 69007 Lyon, France
In 1941, Riffaterre attended the University of Lyons in France.
University of Paris, Paris, France
From 1945 to 1950, Riffaterre studied at the University of Paris.
116th St & Broadway, New York, NY 10027, United States
In 1955, Riffaterre received Ph.D. from Columbia University.
(In Semiotics of Poetry, Michael Riffaterre proposes a sta...)
In Semiotics of Poetry, Michael Riffaterre proposes a startling, if simple, alternative to mimesis in poetry. Poetic discourse, he argues, represents nothing but itself. The meaning of a poem depends not on the semantic grid of language but on a semiotic system determined by the text's own structures. Using the key concepts of intertextuality and the overdetermination of poetic discourse, Riffaterre dazzlingly demonstrates the application of his theories to the interpretation of a wide range of nineteenth- and twentieth-century French poetry.
In 1941, Riffaterre attended the University of Lyons in France, and from 1945 to 1950 he studied at the University of Paris. In 1947, Riffaterre studied in Sorbonne where he received a license in literature and certificate in 1952. In 1955, he received Ph.D. from Columbia University.
He started teaching at Columbia as an instructor in 1953, became an assistant professor of French in 1955, full professor in 1964, Blanche W. Knopf professor in 1975, university professor (the highest faculty rank at Columbia) in 1982, and university professor emeritus in 2004. Riffaterre literally devoted his life to the study of literature, but not in the usual sense of a scholar analyzing verbal works of art in light of the history of their reception, or in terms of their aesthetics, or their role in the development of ideologies.
His study of the limits of interpretation has led him to define difficulty in reading as a key to understanding (for instance, the automatic writing of the Surrealists), and, in his Fictional Truth (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), to develop the notion of a grammar of literature. In addition to these books, Riffaterre is the author of more than 130 articles. He was chairman of the Columbia French Department from 1974-1983, director of the School of Criticism and Theory from 1987-1997, general editor of The Romanic Review from 1971-2000, and held visiting positions at Johns Hopkins, the Collège de France, Yale, Harvard, CUNY and Penn. He was an officer in the French order of the Palmes académiques, and held honorary doctorates from the Université Blaise-Pascal and from the Sorbonne.
Riffaterre had chosen not to study literature as it constitutes a corpus, or a distinctive period, but rather to analyze the literariness of literature and to replace the history of literature with its theory. That is to say, describing the processes through which a text becomes a work of art. His teaching and scholarly publications bear upon explaining the impact of the text, the durability of the literary work despite the evolution of taste, and the role of the reader, particularly in so far as that role appears governed by mechanisms which control the reader’s interpretation to a degree where the writer’s opinion of his or her work tends to become irrelevant. Relevancy is maintained in the forms of the work of art and through linguistic and semiotic processes impervious to the accidents of the work’s reception.
Riffaterre was twice a Guggenheim fellow, was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a senior fellow of the University of Oxford.
Quotes from others about the person
““Few modem American critics have made contributions as important to the formal study of literature in general, and the understanding of French literature in particular, as Michael Riffaterre,” praised Stamos Metzidakis in the Dictionary of Literary Biography”
On May 15, 1965, Riffaterre married Hermine Bilfeld. They had two children: Lee and Jason.