Marcel, Gabriel, 1889-1973

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French philosopher, dramatist, and critic.

From the description of Collection, 1898-1973 (bulk 1908-1964). (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122530511

Gabriel Marcel, generally regarded as the first French existential philosopher, was born in Paris in 1889 and died there in 1973. An only child in an upper-middle class family, Marcel early excelled in his studies and demonstrated an aptitude for philosophical inquiry. Shortly after Marcel began his academic career in philosophy, World War I broke out and he served in the French Red Cross, an experience that contributed to an increasingly humanistic aspect in his philosophy. In 1919 Marcel married Jacqueline Boegner, a professor at the Schola Cantorum; they adopted a son, Jean.

From 1914 Marcel kept a series of philosophical notebooks that reveal the evolution of his thought away from traditional academic philosophy and toward one influenced by the writings of Soren Kierkegaard. These notebooks were eventually published in 1927 under the title Journal Métaphysique. Later Marcel continued this practice of publishing directly from his journals with Être et Avoir (1935) and Présence et Immortalité (1959). The development of Marcel's philosophy led to his embracing Catholicism in 1929. His evolving Christian existentialism caused, in the years following World War II, his being contrasted in the popular press with Jean-Paul Sartre and the atheistic existentialism Sartre expounded and popularized.

Following his service in World War I, Marcel's academic career became an intermittent one, as he typically earned his living as a literary critic, editor, or publisher's reader. Marcel was, in these various capacities, instrumental in making contemporary foreign literature better known in France.

From an early age Gabriel Marcel evinced a keen interest in the dramatic, inventing dialogues with imaginary siblings. He had written plays as a schoolboy, and by the early 1920s Marcel had had his plays performed. His plays often demonstrated concerns manifest in his philosophical writings, and one, Le Monde Cassé (1933), is accompanied in its published version by a notable philosophical essay, Position et Approches Concrètes du Mystère Ontologique.

Music had been an integral part of the Marcel household in his childhood, and in his adult life Gabriel Marcel was fond of piano improvisations. It was only in 1945, however, that he undertook--with the assistance of his wife--formal composition, setting down his musical interpretations of the poems of, among others, Baudelaire and Rilke.

Following the death of his wife in 1947 Marcel continued to write, teach, and travel. The major international recognition Gabriel Marcel received before his death was the German Peace Prize, awarded him at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1964.

Further biographical information on Gabriel Marcel may be found in his An Autobiographical Essay in The Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel (LaSalle, Ill.: Open Court, c1984).

From the guide to the Gabriel Marcel Collection TXRC95-A53., 1898-1973, (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center University of Texas at Austin)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Marguerite Yourcenar additional papers, 1842-1996. Houghton Library
creatorOf Marcel, Gabriel, 1889-1973. Collection, 1898-1973 (bulk 1908-1964). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn William Ernest Hocking papers Houghton Library
referencedIn Fonds Louis Jouvet Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des arts du spectacle
referencedIn Moral Re-armament Records, 1812-1991, (bulk 1873-1966) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Moral Re-armament (Organization). Records of the Moral Re-armament, 1812-1991 (bulk 1873-1966). Library of Congress
creatorOf Gabriel Marcel Collection TXRC95-A53., 1898-1973 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bergson, Henri, 1859-1941 person
associatedWith Boegner, Genevieve person
associatedWith Boegner, Genevieve. person
associatedWith Bradley, F. H. (Francis Herbert), 1846-1924 person
associatedWith Delhomme, Jeanne person
associatedWith Delhomme, Jeanne. person
associatedWith Ebner, Ferdinand, 1882-1931 person
correspondedWith Hocking, William Ernest, 1873-1966 person
associatedWith Jouvet, Louis (1887-1951) person
associatedWith Lehmann, Rosamond, 1901- person
associatedWith Moral Re-armament (Organization) corporateBody
associatedWith Picard, Max, 1888-1965 person
associatedWith Richardson, Dorothy Miller, 1873-1957 person
associatedWith Rilke, Rainer Maria, 1875-1926 person
associatedWith Royce, Josiah, 1855-1916 person
associatedWith Sartre, Jean Paul, 1905- person
associatedWith Yarish, Darwin person
associatedWith Yarish, Darwin. person
correspondedWith Yourcenar, Marguerite. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Songs, French
World War, 1939-1945


Birth 1889-12-07

Death 1973-10-08







Ark ID: w63v2mw7

SNAC ID: 33498922