Asselineau, Roger

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Asselineau, Roger

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Himself a poet and translator of World War I British poets' works, Roger Asselineau led the scholarly world for decades as a champion of scholarly work about the 19th-century American poet, Walt Whitman. Asselineau's interest in American poetry is reputed to have been inspired by his experiences with the French Resistance during World War I, aiding American airmen to escape from occupied France. Asselineau himself only escaped being executed by the Nazis for his work in the French Resistance forces by the American invasion of Paris. Asselineau's life-long appreciation and admiration of American poets' advocation of beliefs in liberty and individuality may have developed during this time.

Asselineau published his first book of poems, Traduit de Moi-Même under the name Robert Maurice in 1949, but other volumes of his mostly free-verse poetry were subsequently published under his own name. As a poet, he had a particularly sensitive ear for the difficulties and complexities, often not at first apparent, in translating Walt Whitman's poetry.

Asselineau was active in Whitman scholarship up until his death on July 8, 2002, in Paris, France. Asselineau's own major work about Whitman was a critical biography, begun as his dissertation at the Sorbonne, L'évolution de Walt Whitman aprés la premiére édition des Feuilles d'herbe, first published in Paris by Didier in 1954, then in a two-volume English translation, The Evolution of Walt Whitman (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1960-62), and finally in a slightly expanded edition, again titled The Evolution of Walt Whitman, with a foreword by Ed Folsom, by the University of Iowa Press in 1999.

Asselineau was an original member of the Advisory Editorial Board for The Collected Writings of Walt Whitman, which was organized in 1955 to oversee the publication of an authoritative edition of all of Whitman's writings. Long a professor at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, Asselineau attended many conferences and was active in bringing Leaves of Grass to world attention, particularly encouraging translators to send him new editions of the poem. Asselineau was also active on the editorial board of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review and wrote many reviews of scholarly works for several journals.

Asselineau was a close friend as well as fellow Whitman scholar to Gay Wilson Allen and became a friend and mentor to all of the major Whitman scholars, biographers, and translators of the twentieth century.

Asselineau was also a noted scholar of the American 19th-century poet Edgar Allan Poe and published many articles and books on other American literary figures including Washington Irving, Crèvecoeur, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Frost, Sherwood Anderson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Theodore Dreiser, Jack London, and Tennessee Williams. Many of Asselineau's reviews appeared in the journal Etudes Anglaises.

In 1987 Asselineau was made an Honorary Member of the Modern Language Association of America, an honor proposed by Whitman scholar, Jerome Loving, in association with Daniel Hoffman.

Asselineau's wife was named Paule, and he had a daughter named Claire.


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