Timely Reflections on his Art of Comedy
Walter E. Rex had finished this book and written a detailed prospectus for publishers when he died from complications attendant upon surgery in January 2010, at the age of eighty-two. Molière had been his main pre- occupation since he finished his preceding book, Diderot’s Counterpoints, in 1998. His energy, wit and acuity did not diminish as he grew older. This was one of two ambitious and intensively researched books he wrote after retiring from a long, distinguished teaching career at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1992. Rex was known as a student of the eighteenth century. He explains in the preface to this book why, when choosing a subject for the book he knew would be his last, he abandoned the Enlightenment for the century of the Sun King. He wanted a diverting subject, something that would keep him laughing. But, not coincidentally, he detects in Molière the critical acumen, the political good sense, irony and sweet reason he had always admired in Diderot. The impact of Rex’s work on a great variety of fields was reflected in two interdisciplinary sessions organised in his honour at the annual meeting of the American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies in March 2012. His doctoral thesis at Harvard, written on Pierre Bayle, under the direction of the renowned Diderot specialist Herbert Dieckmann, was published in 1965 (Essays on Pierre Bayle and Religious Controversy). Numerous publications followed, including: (in collaboration with Richard N. Schwab) a transla- tion of Jean Le Rond d’Alembert’s...
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