Jean Starobinski

1984 Balzan Prize for History and Criticism of Literature

For his outstanding contribution to the knowledge of French and European culture through his research on literature, history, psychoanalysis and linguistics, which reveals a subtle intellect, and profound knowledge of numerous authors of different historical periods.

Born in Geneva in 1920 (†2019), he has been professor of History of ideas at the University of Geneva from 1958 and has held, since 1962, the chair of French Literature at the same university. In 1969 he became a Foreign fellow of the Accademia dei Lincei and in 1971 a Foreign feIIow of the British Academy and, in the course of these last years, of many other Iearned societies. He holds an honorary Doctorate from the universities of Lille and Lausanne as well as from the Free University of Brussels. Some of the Prizes that have been awarded to him are the Grand Prix de Littérature Française hors de France, the Prix Européen de l’Essai and the Prix de l’Institut de France.
His wide-ranging scientific work shows both amazing variety and profundity where a rigorous methodological style is maintained. Brillant spiritual freedom is evident. Furthermore, professor Starobinski embraces in a natural way and with an apparently natural case different fields of European culture, linking them together to arrive at a precise and minute result. Jean Starobinski has also devoted himself to the study of psychoanalysis and linguistics and is thus not exclusively a historian of French Literature. All these researches form within Jean Starobinski’s publications an integrating totality.
Whether the topic is Montesquieu, Rousseau or Montaigne, there is immediate evidence of his delicate understanding and of his wide-ranging knowledge which seems to have no limits. His analyses on melancholy, on the rôle of the artist and on cultural life in France during the 18th century are an additional proof of his great work, because they show the advantage of a total vision based on significant and well chosen details.

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