Professor Keith Reader Obituary

By Professor Michael Syrotinski, Marshall Chair of French, School of Modern Languages & Cultures 

It is with great sadness that we recently learned of the sudden death of Professor Keith Reader, who had been Professor of Modern French Studies at the University of Glasgow for many years until his retirement in 2011.  

He will be remembered with great fondness and respect by many friends and colleagues in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, and the College of Arts, and he remained a loyal friend to the School after he left.  He continued to be very active to the end, having moved to Paris and taken up a part-time teaching post at the University of London Institute in Paris. 

His contributions to the fields of contemporary French cinema, cultural studies, and critical theory were passionate and often ground-breaking, and he combined a searing intellect with an incomparably sharp wit, and a deep sense of social justice. 

He was broad in his academic interests, and a major voice in French cinema criticism.  He wrote with great erudition about many aspects of it, particularly from the 1930s onwards, with a very fine volume on Robert Bresson in the French Film Directors Series for Manchester UP (2000).

His intellectual sympathies were always broader. His first book was on Intellectuals and the Left in France since 1968 (1987), in which he wrote with deep insight on politically and sociologically oriented thinker such as Régis Debray and Pierre Bourdieu, as well as the texts of Jacques Lacan, Louis Althusser or Jacques Derrida.

Keith was one of the key figures in the development of French Cultural Studies in the late 1980s. He possessed an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of French culture, and was a natural choice as co-editor of the landmark Encyclopedia of Contemporary French Culture (1998), with Alex Hughes, and to which he contributed many entries on French cinema. One of his final publications was a wonderful cultural history of the Marais quartier in Paris (2020).

He was also a longtime editor of Paragraph, the journal of contemporary critical theory, and his eloquent interventions at many French Studies conferences are the stuff of legend. He will be sorely missed.

His funeral will take place later this month in Islington, London, details of which will be shared when they are confirmed.


First published: 11 August 2022