University of Michigan
News for Faculty and Staff

March 17, 2018

Obituary: Paul Ilie

January 8, 2018

Obituary: Paul Ilie

Topic: Obituaries

Paul Ilie, professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature, scholar and critic in the fields of the history of ideas in Europe, and former University of Michigan professor, died July 18 in Los Angeles. He was 84.

Ilie is best remembered for his broad academic interests, his ability to genuinely communicate with people, his dedication to independent thought and his intellectual honesty.

Paul Ilie

Ilie graduated from Brown University with master’s and doctoral degrees in romance languages and literatures. He then taught at U-M in the Romance Languages Department from 1959 to 1983, with guest professorships at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and UCLA. He then joined the University of Southern California before retiring as a professor emeritus in 1997.

Ilie received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1965 to expand his research in Spanish literature, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Del Amo Foundation and the Horace Rackham Foundation. His summer grants and sabbatical years focused on research in Spanish and French libraries.

Aside from teaching, Ilie wrote more than 100 academic articles and literary criticisms on widely varied subject matters, and authored eight books including of “The Grotesque Aesthetic in Spanish Literature, from the Golden Age to Modernism” (2009); “The Age of Minerva, Volume I: Counter-Rational Reason in Eighteenth-Century Thought: Goya and the Paradigm of Unreason in Europe,” and “Volume II: Cognitive Discontinuities in the Eighteenth Century: From Body to Mind in Biology and Art” (1995); “Literature and Inner Exile: Spain in 1939-75” (1981); and “The Surrealist Mode in Spanish Literature” (1968).

He also enjoyed writing short stories and, at the time of his death, had written a near-complete novel about the 17th-century Spanish King Felipe V.

Jesús Torrecilla, a Spanish literature professor at UCLA and former doctoral student of Ilie’s, expressed the gratitude and admiration he felt for Ilie. “His exacting standards challenged my ideas and forced me to push the limits of my arguments. Most significantly, I learned from his example that intellectual honesty is more important than professional success, even if that implies disrupting one’s comfort zone… I could not be the scholar and the person I am today without the influence of Paul.”

Ilie is survived by his wife of 48 years, Marie-Laure; his nephew, Andrew Ilie; and several cousins in Los Angeles from the Weintraub family.