Eugène Vinaver was born at St Petersburg in 1899. His father was a lawyer and politician, who later served as a minister for the Crimean regional government. Following the Bolshevik Revolution, the family emigrated to France, and took French nationality.
Vinaver pursued his studies at the University of Paris, completing a thesis on Thomas Malory in 1925. Malory and Arthurian romances were to be Vinaver's dominant academic interest, and he became renowned for his comparative studies of French and English Arthurian romances. In the early 1920s Vinaver studied at Oxford, and became a fellow and lecturer at Lincoln College, Oxford between 1924-1928, before being promoted to a readership in French at the University (1928-1933). In 1933, Vinaver was appointed to the chair of French language and literature at the University of Manchester, and he remained there for the rest of his career, retiring in 1966. He served in diplomatic roles with the Free French during the Second World War.
In 1947, Vinaver published a new edition of Malory's Morte d'Arthur, based on a 15th century manuscript discovered at Winchester College in 1934. Vinaver was a prolific scholar, and as well as being the leading authority on Malory, wrote extensively on Racine and 17th century French drama. Vinaver played a leading role in the International Arthurian Society, and was also president of the Society for the Study of Mediaeval Language and Literature, the Modern Language Association in 1961 and the Modern humanities Research Association in 1966.
He married Elizabeth Vaudrey in 1939, and they had one son. Vinaver retired to Canterbury, Kent, where he died in 1979.
Vinaver's papers relate to Dikran Garabedian (1889?-1963). Garabedian was a poet and literary scholar. He was born in Diarbekir in Ottoman Turkey, the third son of Garabed Garabedian, an Armenian priest. His family left Turkey for France following massacres of Armenians between 1894-1896. Garabedian later studied at the Sorbonne and at Cambridge University, where he received first class honours in modern languages. He spent most of his later life at Oxford University as a tutor and lecturer in French. He was Taylorian lecturer in French from 1914-1920 and a Common University Fund lecturer in French from 1950-1952. Garabedian was a scholar of French poetry, and author of a translation of Shakespeare's Sonnets, published posthumously in 1964.