Professor John Cruickshank

John Cruickshank was associated above all with Sussex University, where he was Professor of French from 1962 until his retirement in 1989. Beyond Sussex, he played an important part in the development of French studies in Britain, Ireland and further afield. A graduate in both modern languages and philosophy, he was a man of broad interests, focusing principally upon the interaction between literature and religious or philosophical inquiry.

He was born in Belfast, the son of a parliamentary reporter. After a very successful career at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, he won a Sizarship (a scholarship peculiar to Cambridge University and Trinity College Dublin) to study at Trinity College Dublin. His studies having been interrupted by service as a cryptographer in military intelligence from 1943 to 1945, he graduated in 1948 in French, German and Philosophy. The year 1948-49 was spent at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris as a Lecteur. At this time he began his doctoral thesis on the novelist and playwright Romain Rolland; this remained unpublished, and it seems that while admiring Rolland's humanist pacifism, Cruickshank could not follow him into what he later described as "a distinctly individual mixture of Marxism and oriental mysticism".

From 1951 to 1962 Cruickshank taught French and German at Southampton Uni- versity; then, at the youthful age of 38, became the first Professor of French in the School of European Studies at the very young Sussex University. In the heady days of the creation of new universities, he was one of those who worked out new approaches to the teaching of the arts, making the most of Sussex's non-departmental organisation to pioneer inter- disciplinary courses. Although he did not have a formal department to manage, he guided his colleagues in the French subject group, persuading them notably to collaborate with colleagues from other subjects in his six-volume French Literature and its Background (1968-70). These broadly conceived volumes were (and still are) popular with students throughout Britain; they also served as a forum for excited, sometimes vehement, debate over which John Cruickshank presided serenely.

When the new post-1968 radicalism hit Sussex, Cruickshank found himself out of sympathy with the demands and desires of some colleagues and students. But he remained a benign presence, tolerantly smiling and puffing on his pipe, and it is noteworthy that none of his permanent staff left Sussex in the decade and a half following his arrival. In particular, he was loved and admired by students, who appreciated his sense of humour and the friendly, patient guidance they found in his tutorials. His gifts of diplomacy and his thoughtful advice were sought far afield; he served on the University Grants Committee from 1970 to 1977, was external examiner in many places, and was repeatedly invited to help other universities fill their chairs of French. In 1972 he was awarded the honorary degree of LittD by Trinity College Dublin.

Over his career Cruickshank wrote books on many different subjects, beginning with the influential study Albert Camus and the Literature of Revolt, published in 1959, just before Camus's death. A Camus man rather than a Sartre man, a man of peace who was very aware of nuance, he later chose to write on authors who were ambiguous and contradictory rather than dogmatic: Henri Millon de Montherlant, Benjamin Constant, Blaise Pascal.

Always his interest was less in the play of words than in the probing of existential worries, the relation of literature to doubt and belief. His early work on Romain Rolland found an echo in his detailed study of French responses to the First World War, Variations on Catastrophe (1982). But increasingly, impelled by his own Christian upbringing and convictions, he turned to the study of the turbulent religious life of 17th-century France, and before his death he was able to complete a large, as yet unpublished, study of religious renewal in the early decades of that century. His writing, like his life, bears the mark of the qualities mentioned in a volume of essays dedicated to him on his retirement: unfailing commitment, scrupulousness, courage.

A country-lover at heart, a cricket enthusiast and a bird watcher, John Cruickshank had moved out of Brighton in the 1970s to live in the Sussex village of East Hoathly. Here, in beautiful surroundings, he faced his imminent death with admirable tranquillity, enjoying to the end the chance to talk and joke with the many friends and former colleagues who came to share a few last hours with him.

Peter France

John Cruickshank, French scholar: born Belfast 18 July 1924; Assistant Lecturer in French and German, Southampton University 1951-61, Senior Lecturer 1961-62; Professor of French, Sussex University 1962-89; married 1949 Kathleen Mary Gutteridge (one son), 1972 Marguerite (Rita) Penny; died 11 July 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue