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Emeritus Professor James Knowlson receives the Palmes Académiques

Professor James Knowlson

Professor James Knowlson, and the Chevalier des Palmes Académiques medal

Emeritus Professor James Knowlson, formerly Professor of French Studies and Founder of the Beckett International Foundation, has recently been awarded the title of Officier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques.

The Ordre des Palmes Académiques is an Order of Chivalry of France, and is awarded to those who have made a major contribution to French national education and culture.

The award was made by the President of France for "his eminent career devoted to an understanding of European theatre, specifically for his numerous publications on the life and work of the Nobel prize-winner Samuel Beckett, a friend of many years standing, and for his interviews and broadcasts on French radio and television, which have helped to promote the diffusion of the French language and French culture."

Professor Knowlson will receive the medallion, ribbon and rosette of Officier at a ceremony at the French Embassy in London, and will be awarded by the French Ambassador. He said: "Most scholars I know do what they do because of the interest, the pleasure and the satisfaction that they derive from their work. It is so often a labour of love. To receive any kind of public recognition at all for their writing is, then, a great thrill. So I am naturally delighted to receive this award."

A Reading graduate and PhD., Jim Knowlson came to the University in 1969 to a Lectureship then a Readership in French from the University of Glasgow, where he had lectured mainly on Eighteenth Century French literature and thought. In Reading, he specialised in Modern European Drama and in 1981 became a Personal Professor in French.

Ten years earlier he had set up the Beckett Archive, which is now held in Trust by the University as the Beckett International Foundation. The University of Reading's Special Collection of Beckett books, manuscripts and other important materials is the largest, richest collection in the world.

Professor Knowlson was a friend of Samuel Beckett for the last 19 years of the writer's life and has written or edited over a dozen books and essays on Beckett and modern drama. These include most recently Images of Beckett (Cambridge University Press, 2003) with the British theatre photographer, John Haynes and Beckett Remembering Remembering Beckett (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2006) with his wife, Elizabeth Knowlson. He also wrote Beckett's sole authorized biography, 'Damned to Fame. The Life of Samuel Beckett' (Bloomsbury, 1996). 

Professor Knowlson founded and edited the Journal of Beckett Studies and was President of the international Beckett Society. He was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by the University of Reading in December 2006.

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