Academic journal article The Romanic Review

On Michael Riffaterre

Academic journal article The Romanic Review

On Michael Riffaterre

Article excerpt

What many of us feared and loved about Michael Riffaterre coincided. His reactions could appear totally out of whack. When I was teaching at Barnard, I first asked, timidly, to be sure, if I could audit one of his courses. He looked at me severely, emitting just three words: "De quel droit?" Indeed, I felt none, and had no "droit"--whatever that meant in that situation. But I did audit whatever course it was, and eventually also--through Roy Breunig, very close to Mike--became a friend. I felt privileged, and that friendship never changed, throughout the years.

Improbable Mike always was. When we were on a panel once at the MLA, something about surrealism or Dadaism or both, the Chicago surrealists not only appeared but unleashed a record of barnyard noises not to be believed. Then one of them strode up the aisle to dump cigarette ash on the speaker's shoulder. That shoulder belonged to the unflappable Manny Grossman, who calmly dusted off the ash and went on. Not to be stopped at that, the interrupter threw the contents of the water pitcher on the speakers' table over Manny's paper, upon which Manny simply got out another copy. Mike leaned over to me and asked if we should call the police of the hotel--was he joking or serious? I never knew, but of course, we called no one, and the case rested. …

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