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Tzvetan Todorov

Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences 2008

Tzvetan Todorov (Sofía, Bulgary, 1939 - Paris, France, 2017) studied Slavic Philology in his home town. One of his first teachers there was Roman Jacobson. In 1963, he moved to Paris and became a French citizen. There, he completed his doctoral degree in 1966, with Roland Barthes and Gérard Genette. He carried out his work in France and is considered a pillar of the study of linguistics, particularly in the field of Semiotics.

This literary critic, philosopher, historian and semiotician´s work has been translated into 25 languages. He first concentrated on literary criticism but he prefered the cultural analysis, defining himself as a "historian of ideas". Tzvetan Todorov was Director of Research at the French National Social Sciences Research Center (CNRS) in Paris. In the School of Higher Social Science Studies he was part of the Research Center for the Arts and Language, in the sector of Texts and Literature. He had also taught at several Universities in the United States, including Yale, Harvard, Columbia and California-Berkeley.

His first work included the well-known Théorie de la littérature, textes des formalistes russes (1965), which become a source of reference for many years. He published work such as Littérature et signification (literature and meaning) (1967), Poétique (1968), Grammaire du Decameron (the grammar of the Decameron) (1969), Encyclopaedic Dictionary of the Sciences of Language (1969). Also, there was his work on cultural diversity, such as Nous et les autres : la réflexion française sur la diversité humaine, which defined his work during the 1980´s. Parallel to this, Todorov published "The morals of history", which obtained the Rousseau Award in 1991. He then published "Imperfect Garden: the legacy of humanism" (1999), "Memory of evil, enticement to good" (2002), an exceptional study of the 20th century, and "The New World Disorder: Reflections of a European" (2003). His most recent publications include "Les aventuriers de l'absolu" (2006), "L'esprit des Lumières a encore beaucoup à faire dans le monde d'aujourd'hui" (The Spirit of the Enlightenment still has a lot to do in today's world) (2006) and "Literature in danger" (2007).

He was awarded the Charles Veillon European Essay Prize in 1998, the Charles Lévêque Prize of the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques and the first Maugean Prize of the Académie Française. He also was an Officer of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and in 2005 was conferred the honorary degree at the American University of Paris.

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