Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
George Steiner (SHTI-nur), one of the most influential comparatists, critics, and translation theorists of the late twentieth century, was born on April 23, 1929, in Paris. His parents, Austrian émigrés, were both university professors, and, as the author notes in After Babel, his early youth was spent in multilingual surroundings—so much so that some critics consider him equally a native speaker of English, French, and German. He studied at various universities and subsequently filled professorial positions at universities in Europe and the United States. Steiner became a United States citizen in 1944 and is generally considered an American critic, although he has spent considerable time in Europe. After some time at Yale University, Steiner accepted a professorship in English and comparative literature at the University of Geneva, where he later became head of the comparative literature department.
Steiner emerged as a critical force before his thirtieth birthday with his first long work, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, published in 1959. This work is based on the premise that the function of the critic differs from that of the reviewer in that the critic distinguishes not between the good and the bad but between the good and the excellent. Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, as a gauntlet thrown in the face of the then-prevailing critical current of New Criticism, also proved that there was still much to say about literary greats through the...
(The entire section is 1604 words.)
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