The Marcel Bataillon Professorship in Comparative Literature
The Marcel Bataillon Professorship in Comparative Literature was established in 1972 by Werner P. Friederich in honor of his friend Marcel Bataillon, who was called “the dean of French comparatists.”
Friederich named the endowed professorship after Bataillon to perpetuate recognition of his friend’s outstanding achievements in comparative literature. Bataillon was a member and former director of the Collège de France and a member of the Institut de France. He was well-known for his many works on Spanish Renaissance literature, especially his fundamentally important “Erasmus in Spain.” Bataillon and Friederich were honorary presidents of the International Comparative Literature Association.
In creating the chair, Friederich stipulated that the holder should be “a distinguished scholar, an inspiring teacher, an excellent linguist, a leader in his field and, in view of Professor Bataillon’s French background, preferably well-grounded in French literature.”
Friederich himself personified these qualifications. A native of Switzerland, he was educated at the University of Bern, the Sorbonne in Paris and Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D. in comparative literature (German, English and French) in 1932. Friederich joined the UNC faculty in 1935 and in 1956 was appointed chairman of comparative literature – a position he held for nearly a decade. He also served as a Kenan Professor in German and Comparative Literature at UNC.
Friederich’s 35 years at UNC were interrupted frequently by visiting professorships at the universities of Zurich, Bern, Duke, Berkeley, Colorado, Southern California and Hawaii, and by Fulbright grants to universities in Melbourne and Perth, Australia. Friederich founded and served as an early president for both the American and the International Comparative Literature Associations. He also started the Comparative Literature Section of the Modern Language Association of America, co-founded the journal Comparative Literature, and founded and edited the Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature.
Friederich died in 1993 at age 88.
The Marcel Bataillon Professor: