James Ronald Lawler (1929–2013) was the foundation professor of French studies at the University of Western Australia (1963-1971) and later the Edward Carson Waller Distinguished Service Professor in Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Chicago.[1][2]

James Lawler
BornJames Ronald Lawler
15 August 1929
Melbourne, Australia
Died28 July 2013(2013-07-28) (aged 83)
Paris, France
Notable worksLecture de Valéry: une étude de Charmes
The Language of French Symbolism
Rene Char: The Myth and the Poem
Rimbaud’s Theatre of the Self
Poetry and Moral Dialectic: Baudelaire’s ‘Secret Architecture’

Early life and educationEdit

James Lawler was born on 15 August 1929 in Melbourne.

He studied French at the University of Melbourne in the period that Professor A. R. Chisholm was the head of the Department of French. In 1950 he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with first class honours in English and French[3] and in 1952 graduated with an M.A. with first class honours in French.[4]

He undertook research for a doctorate at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, which he successfully completed in 1954 with a "mention très honorable" for his thesis, Style et Poétique chez Guillaume Apollinaire.[3]

Academic careerEdit

In 1963, after two years as lecturer in French at the University of Queensland[5] and six years as a senior lecturer in the Department of French under Professor Ronald Jackson at the University of Melbourne,[6] Lawler became, at the age of just 33,[2] the foundation Professor of French Studies at the University of Western Australia. He proceeded to restructure the French department, introducing new courses in French civilisation and history to accompany the traditional offerings in French language and literature.[7]

During his tenure at UWA he founded Essays in French Literature, a "top ranking"[5] academic journal that still exists and is now known as Essays in French Literature and Culture.[8]

Lawler left Australia for North America in 1971 where he was appointed to a succession of chairs of French: at the University of California, Los Angeles, then at Dalhousie University, in Nova Scotia (1974–79), and finally at the University of Chicago (1979–97) where he was became the Edward Carson Waller Distinguished Service Professor in Romance Languages and Literatures. While at Dalhousie University he founded the journal Dalhousie French Studies. While at Chicago, he was also an visiting professor at the Collège de France and an invited professor in Tokyo (teaching classes in the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities in Japan).[7][9]

Lawler was a foundation member of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.[1]

Later lifeEdit

Lawler's burial niche at Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France

In 1997 Lawler retired and he and his wife moved to Paris. He remained active in his literary life and studies and served as the president of both the Association Internationale des Etudes Françaises and of the Association des Amis de Rimbaud.


According to Wallace Kirsop, Lawler was for more than fifty years "one of the most distinguished representatives of a remarkable group of [Australian] students of French poetry from Baudelaire to Valéry".[5]

He was a popular teacher who enjoyed the "give and take" of the classroom.[9] He preferred teaching smaller groups where he could "sit in front of a text with ... students and discover it with them, explore the many-sidedness of it, the sound, the different ways of entering into a text".[9] Previous students and colleagues remember him as an "inspirational teacher" and as a "mentor" who set other academics on the "path to a career in French".[7][2]

Personal lifeEdit

James Lawler was married to Christiane Labossière,[10] a French citizen and an anthropology graduate. She worked alongside him at the University of Western Australia and played a major role in establishing the French civilisation courses there.[7]

They had two children, Jérôme and Ariane (both born in 1960).[10]

He died 28 July 2013 in Paris at the age of 83. His wife had predeceased him in 2009. They were both laid to rest in the Père Lachaise Cemetery.[10]

Select bibliographyEdit

Honours, awardsEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Paul Perron and Sergio Villani, eds., Lire Rimbaud: approches critiques. Hommages à James R. Lawler, Toronto: Canadian Scholars' Press Inc., 2000.


  1. ^ a b c James A. Lawler: 1929–2013, The Australian Academy of the Humanities, Annual Report 2013–14, p. 35. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Vale Professor James Lawler, une.edu.au. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b "New Appointments", University of Queensland Gazette, No. 31, May 1955, pp. 9-10. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  4. ^ "University Degrees Conferred: Two Sessions in the Union Theatre", The Age, 22 December 1952, p. 4.
  5. ^ a b c Wallace Kirsop, Scholar of French Poetry over Three Continents: James Ronald Lawler 1929-2019, isfar.org.au. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  6. ^ Members Council, Boards and Faculties, Committees and Staff, University of Melbourne Calendar, 1962, p. 56, unimelb.edu.au. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e Beverley Noakes, Vale Jim Lawler, University News: The University of Western Australia, 15 August 2013, uwa.edu.au. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  8. ^ Essays in French Literature and Culture, uwa.edu.au. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  9. ^ a b c Jennifer Vanasco, Graduate Teaching Award: James Lawler, The University of Chicago Chronicle, Vol. 16, No. 19, 12 June 1997. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  10. ^ a b c Peter Evans, James R. Lawler – My Uncle Jimmy, isfar.org.au. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  11. ^ "James R. Lawler". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

External linksEdit