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 At this time he began his doctoral thesis on the novelist and playwright Romain Rolland; this remained unpublished, and it seems that while admiring Rolland's humanist pacifism, Cruickshank could not follow him into what he later described as "a distinctly individual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
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links