The Department of French and Italian

In Memoriam: Professor Michel Dassonville

Mon, December 10, 2012

Michel Dassonville, our French Literature colleague for nearly three decades, passed away November 29th, 2012, at the age of 84.  Those of us who knew Michel remember him for his kindness, for his deep love of the French language, for his dedication to students, and for his flair as a teacher. Michel was also an internationally recognized scholar, having produced influential works on Ronsard and Montaigne.  In the years leading up to his passing, Michel was cheered by the faithful visits of François Lagarde. Those paying respects at the memorial service for Michel included dear friends and anciens combattants from the department: Elisabeth (Babette) Barret, Donald Sellstrom, and Hal Wylie. 

Michel Auguste Renẻ Dassonville was born on December 27, 1927 in Lille, France, the oldest of three children. After marrying Thérèse Ennaert, he immigrated  to Canada in 1949 where he taught at the College Saint-Jean Eudes in Bathurst (New Brunswyck). He then taught at Université Laval (Quebec), where he received his doctorate. In 1958, he and his family moved back to Paris for two years during which he was a Professor at the Lycée Massillon and at the Institut Catholique.

He first came to UT-Austin in 1960, returned briefly to Laval University for one year, and in 1963 became Professor of French in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Texas at Austin. His primary specializations were French 16th Century Literature, French Civilization and Literary Analysis. 

Professor Dassonville directed numerous M.A. theses and Ph.D. dissertations. He was highly respected by his students and his peers, and he will be remembered also for his numerous publications, including his Ronsard: étude historique et littéraire in 5 volumes, his Théâtre français de la Renaissance, his critical edition of Pierre de La Ramée’s Dialectique, his studies on Octave Cremazie and Louis Fréchette, and his Initiation à la recherche littéraire. The French Government awarded him the Palmes Académiques in 1976. In 1981, he married Josette Maillet Bigelow, an Associate Professor of French at UT-Austin.

Professor Dassonville retired from the University of Texas in 1993. He is survived by his three children, Marie-France, Jean-Louis, and Pierre-Olivier, by his step-son, François Bigelow, and by his eight grandchildren and nine great-grand-children.


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  • Department of French and Italian

    University of Texas at Austin
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