Early life and education
Caludio Guillén was born in Paris in 1924. His father was the poet Jorge Guillén, a prominent poet of the Generation of '27 and a scholar and literary critic as well. His mother was Germaine Cahen, Jorge Guillén's first wife. At the age of fifteen, after the Spanish Civil War, he and his family were forced to exile to the USA. He studied in Seville, Paris and the USA, where he attended the Williams College. He was a volunteer during the World War II in the side of De Gaulle. Among his instructors, there were some Spanish republican intellectuals: Francisco García Lorca (brother of Federico García Lorca), José Ferrater Mora and Joaquín Casalduero. He studied also with Werner Wilhelm, Amado Alonso and read comprehensively the works of Harry Levin. He obtained his PhD dregree from Harvard in 1953 and he specialized in comparative literature.
Between 1965 and 1985, Claudio Guillén was a professor of comparative literature at the University of California, San Diego, Princeton University and Harvard University, where he met Roman Jakobson. He was a visiting fellow in Germany, Italy, Brazil, among others; and speaker at conferences, seminars and courses in China, the USSR and several Eastern European countries. He frequented some circles of exiled Spanish intelctuals and kept in contact with Ángel del Río, Américo Castro or Pedro Salinas.
His focus of research was the novel and the poetry of the 16th century, the poetry of 20th century, genre theory and the literary history. He published several books and over a hundred of articles.
Return to Spain
Claudio Guillén returned to Spain in 1982. He had an intensive academic activity since this same year, when he became professor of Comparative Literature at the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. Between 1984 and 1989, he served as director of the Spanish Society of General and Comparative Literature and was an advisor at the Fundación Juan March. In 1996, he promoted the creation of the Foundation Generation of '27, for the study the unpublished texts of the poets and authors of this generation. In 1999 an international congress in his honor was celebrated, which results were published in a volume entitled Sin fonteras (Without Borders). This same year, he was awarded the National Prize of Essay, for his Múltiples moradas (Multifarious Dwellings). Since March 2002, he was a member of the Spanish Royal Academy.
He had recently finished a book about Goethe and was working in the edition of his father's letters when he died at the age of 82 in Madrid.