William H. Trapnell, Professor Emeritus of French Literature, passed away on January 10, 2017, at the age of 85. He earned a B.S. from Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia in 1954, an M.A. in French from Middlebury College in 1962, and a Ph.D. in French from the University of Pittsburgh in 1967. After teaching for two years at Brown University, he joined the faculty of the Department of French and Italian at Indiana University in 1969 and taught at IUB until his retirement in 1997. He was the recipient of several prestigious research fellowships including from the Mellon (1963-65), Fulbright (1965-66) and Lilly (1986-87) foundations.
Trapnell was a distinguished scholar of the French and British Enlightenments. One of his main research interests was the great 18th-century playwright and novelist, Marivaux. His pioneering dissertation explored the relations between Marivaux’s journalistic works, novels and theater. Later in his career, he authored another major study on the canonical playwright, Eavesdropping in Marivaux (1987). Professor Trapnell also made key contributions to Voltaire studies: Voltaire and his Portable Dictionary (1972), Voltaire and the Eucharist (1981), Christ and his “Associates” in Voltairian Polemic: An Assault on the Trinity and the two Natures (1982). And he published two important books illustrating his interest in Enlightenment philosophy on both sides of the Channel, The Treatment of Christian Doctrine by Philosophers of the Natural Light from Descartes to Berkeley (1988), and a study on a little-known English theologian, Thomas Woolston, Madman and Deist? (1994). A rich and fruitful career indeed.