In Memoriam: Eliot Wirshbo

(Written by Donald Lateiner, acknowledging gratefully the help, research, and energy of the following people in compiling this SCS memorial: Natalie Wirshbo, Greg Bucher, Brad Cook, Kerri Hame, Nick Genovese, Robert Eisner, Page duBois, and June Allison. Rosaria Munson and Joe Patwell also offered observations. E. Marianne Gabel captured the photograph below on the left at Le Trou Normand during the 2016 SCS meetings in San Francisco. Natalie Wirshbo provided the photograph on the right)

ELIOT WIRSHBO. 24 January 1948--19 July 2019.

Parents: Nathan and Peggy Wirshbo.

Education: Hunter College BA 1968, University of Pennsylvania PhD 1976.

Positions: San Diego State University 1977-1979, Ohio State University 1979-82, lecturer (eventually tenured) at University of California San Diego, Department of Literature 1982-2019.

Dissertation: "Attitudes toward the past in Homer and Hesiod," 1976, directed by Martin Ostwald.

Publications: “On mistranslating Vergil Aen. 1.203,” CW 73.3 (1979) 177-178.

“Lesbia, a mock hypocorism?” CPh 75.1 (1980) 70-71.

“Can emotions be determined from words?” American Behavioral Scientist 33.3 (1990) 287-96.

"On Critically Looking into Snell's Homer," in Nomodeiktes: Greek Studies in Honor of Martin Ostwald, ed. R. Rosen and J. Farrell (Ann Arbor 1993) 467-77.

“Verbal Behavior in the Iliad,” in Kinesis, The Ancient Depiction of Gesture, Motion, and Emotion, Essays in Honor of Donald Lateiner (2015) 219-34.

Eliot Wirshbo was born in a Brooklyn snowstorm and raised in the Bronx. He came to classics accidentally, by a foreign language requirement, but came to love the subject fiercely. His graduate education was interrupted after one year by the military draft (1969-72). He served with valor as a medic for two years in the US Army in Viet Nam. His teaching style was acerbic and intensely personal. He had mixed emotions about publication and was proud of his minimal scholarly output, a page per year of teaching, as he phrased it. Although he never was granted tenure by his department, and enjoyed no leaves, he enjoyed the functional equivalent of tenure at UC San Diego where he both delighted and infuriated students by his unique teaching style, including jokes and meticulous demands (v. infra). They loved or hated his punctilious demand for accuracy. He put tremendous energy into his teaching, although his superiors often limited his courses to elementary language courses and literature courses in translation.  He loved, however, all the teaching he did. His wife Dr. Chris Norris, also a jazz singer, predeceased him in 1998. He is survived by his daughter Natalie whom he raised as a single parent.

An anonymous student’s view found on the WWW: “I took him for the entire lower division sequence, and now again every quarter for the upper division courses. He’s basically the entire reason why I went from taking Latin to fill a GE to also learning Ancient Greek and majoring in Classical Studies. Any class with him is going to be hard (I adore the guy but his exams are torture), but the upper division courses are extremely fun. We’re doing Ovid this quarter and half the time we just talk about whatever odd tangent he goes off on. Sorry, I absolutely buy into the cult of Wirshbo ....”

Kerri Hame, another former student on beginning Greek and Latin with Wirshbo: “He was present, both in and outside the classroom, to educate and to work with students. Eliot also had such a clever sense of humor that I couldn't help but laugh and learn at the same time. He was a reluctant (his word) mentor, but he showed me how to teach Greek and Latin in an effective and engaging way, and I tried to emulate his model when I became a Classics professor. I am so grateful for the gift of knowing him.”

Greg Bucher, another former student, writes: “I flailed away at Greek twice before passing it [when in graduate school]. One summer Eliot and I met weekly in a (I think) Carl’s Junior restaurant near his house so that we could read (are you ready for this) the Cratylus. That was the etymologizer in evidence, and I just said “whatever” since I needed practice with a good reader. That was perhaps the highest brow thing that was ever done in that restaurant. ... I have always loudly proclaimed, most recently on Facebook, that I would never have gone on to graduate school without his example, his demonstration that an academic could be a regular guy, and his support. We were never close enough that he seemed like a father figure to me, and he was too old to be a brother, but he was certainly, from my point of view, a close friend even when we didn’t see each other much. I expressed to him very fully how much I owed him (to his very embarrassed tut-tutting) as a person when we last saw each other in San Francisco. He, for me, was “that teacher”: the one that made the difference. ...“He would talk endlessly about his own life, especially if the story came back to redound against him. He reveled in the title “grammar nazi”, which some student had leveled at him. His indignation over poor teaching of Language could get him going easily.”

A former colleague tactfully observed: “I fear most of my anecdotes of Eliot wouldn't really fit an obituary for SCS and had little to do with Classics. However, he was a naturally inspiring teacher who captivated the 650 students we typically had in the Mythology course.”

Eliot published little by choice. His philological article on emotions in verbal responses, based on his Viet Nam experiences, reflects his skeptical attitude towards the possibility of understanding other people. His Lesbia article reflects his interest in the philology of sex. He gave a well-received lecture in 2017on the topic of hypallage in Vergil’s Aeneid that he hoped to publish. He allegedly was developing at his death a manuscript on “The History of Dawdling”. I am not sure whether this was a joke or real. He preferred the give and take of dialogue and was a regular member of the UCSD Greek and Latin Philosophy Reading Group. Having read Sardonic Smile in manuscript, he suggested that instead of “downward avoidance behavior,” the author should have written “duck.” He scorned those who published so as not to perish, considering most contributions a waste of the teacher’s time and his or her reader’s effort. At the time of his unexpected and untimely death, he was reading and translating Seneca’s letter with a friend. We shall never see the likes of Eliot Wirshbo, because there never will be a “like.” How many classicists keep a regulation-size pommel horse in their living room? He dubbed himself a “walking oxymoron.”

    



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(Photo: "Candle" by Shawn Carpenter, licensed under CC BY 2.0)   

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The new Classics Everywhere initiative, launched by the SCS in 2019, supports projects that seek to engage communities all over the US and Canada with the worlds of Greek and Roman antiquity in new and meaningful ways. As part of this initiative the SCS has been funding a variety of projects ranging from children’s programs to teaching Latin in a prison. In this post we focus on two programs that encourage audiences to look at the ancient material and traditional practices with a new lens, with a comparative and critical eye.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 10/25/2019 - 7:48am by Nina Papathanasopoulou.

“Causes and Causality in Aristotle and the Aristotelian Tradition”

22-24 June 2020
 

This Conference is intended to provide a formal occasion and central location for philosophers and scholars of the Midwest region (and elsewhere) to present and discuss their current work on Aristotle and his interpreters in ancient and medieval philosophy.

Presented by the Midwest Seminar in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy with the support of the Department of Philosophy at Marquette University

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 10/21/2019 - 9:26am by Erik Shell.

14th London Ancient Science Conference 2019

The 14th London Ancient Science conference will be held at the Institute of Classical Studies, Senate House, University of London from Monday, February 17th to Friday, February 21st  2020.

Abstracts of around 200 words should be sent to Prof. Andrew Gregory (andrew.gregory@ucl.ac.uk) by 10th November. Decisions by mid November.

Papers are welcomed from established academics, postdocs and postgraduate students. Papers are welcomed on science in any ancient culture treated historically, philosophically, sociologically or technically. Science is construed quite broadly and may include epistemology, metaphysics and ontology relating to the natural world.

Papers generally will be 20 minutes with 10 minutes for discussion though some papers may be invited to give longer presentations.

This year the keynote speaker will be Prof. Dan Graham

There will also be two panel sessions this year. On the Material Basis for Early Philosophy organised by Prof. Robert Hahn and Prof. William Wians, and on The Antikythera Mechanism organised by Dr. Tony Freeth. Paper proposals are also welcomed for these areas.

Paper proposals are welcomed for these sessions as well as any other ancient science topic.

There is a website for this conference at:

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 10/18/2019 - 12:36pm by Erik Shell.

Res Difficiles: A Conference On Challenges and Pathways for Addressing Inequity In the Ancient Greek and Roman World

Organizers:  Hannah Çulik-Baird (Boston University) and Joseph Romero (University of Mary Washington)

Date: May 15, 2020

Place: Campus of the University of Mary Washington (Fredericksburg, Virginia), HCC 136

One of the great benefits of the shift from a pedagogue-centered to a student-aware or student-centered classroom is that we listen more attentively to how our students experience the content of what we read.  A decided strength of Classical Studies is the simultaneous proximity and distance—temporally, geographically, ideologically—of the ancient Greek and Roman world.  That distance is felt more keenly when potentially difficult subjects (res difficiles) in our readings—domination, inequity, violence both sexual and otherwise—present themselves for inspection.  Often the underlying source of the dissonance or disconnect is the distance in our perceptions of social justice.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 10/18/2019 - 12:29pm by Erik Shell.

The 50th Annual Meeting of the Classical Association of the Pacific Northwest (CAPN) will take place at The University of Oregon in Eugene, OR, on March 20-21, 2020. The keynote speaker will be Andrew Stewart, Emeritus Professor in the Department of the History of Art (UC Berkeley). This keynote lecture will be open to the general public as well as to conference attendees.

Call for Papers: We invite papers on any aspect of the ancient Mediterranean world, including Greece, Rome, Egypt, and the Ancient Near East. We seek those that are likely to be of broad interest and to make connections among different elements of the ancient world. Such connections may cross traditional disciplinary boundaries (such as archaeology, drama, history, literature, and philosophy) or geographical boundaries (e.g., looking at intersections between Greek society and Roman society) or even temporal boundaries (including receptions of Mediterranean antiquity in later places and times). It should be noted, however, that papers on narrower topics are also invited. Furthermore, we welcome pedagogical papers, especially those that address the instruction of Latin and Greek at the primary, secondary, and university levels. Teachers and students of Classics at any level of instruction (K-12, college, or university) are encouraged to submit abstracts.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 10/18/2019 - 12:18pm by Erik Shell.

As part of its commitment to diversifying the graduate student body and the field more generally, the Department of Classics at the University of Virginia seeks to support students from groups that are underrepresented in our discipline and who have not yet received sufficient training and research experience to prepare them for admission to doctoral programs. The Graduate School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Virginia is accepting applications to join the first cohort of Bridge to the Doctorate Fellows for enrollment in Fall 2020. The Bridge Fellowship is a fully funded two-year program assisting gifted and hard-working students in Classics to acquire research and language skills needed to pursue a Ph.D. in Classics. The Fellowship is geared exclusively to assist the professional and personal development of the Fellow, and as such it comes without teaching responsibilities. Fellows will receive $24,000 per year in living support and full payment of their tuition, and fees, and single-person coverage in the University’s student health insurance plan for a period of two years.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Fri, 10/18/2019 - 12:09pm by Erik Shell.

43rd ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY WORKSHOP

MARCH 6-7, 2020
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN

KEYNOTE: MARISKA LEUNISSEN, UNC CHAPEL HILL

The Joint Program in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Texas is pleased to announce that the 43rd annual Ancient Philosophy Workshop will be held this year in Austin.  In keeping with workshop tradition, we invite proposals on any problem, figure, or issue in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy.  Workshop sessions will begin on Friday morning, March 6, and conclude Saturday evening, March 7.  Each paper will be allotted forty minutes for oral presentation in order to allow for both a prepared response and open discussion.

To propose a paper, send both a 1-page abstract of 300-500 words and a cover sheet with contact information to this box as two distinct attachments, preferably as PDFs. The cover sheet should contain contact information and enable its reader to identify your abstract. The abstract should contain no identifying information. The box will not receive emails, only attachments, so place all identifying information in the cover sheet.

Proposals are due no later than Friday, December 20, 2019.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 10/18/2019 - 11:56am by Erik Shell.

Romans across the city this week remembered the anniversary of the rastrellamento within the Jewish ghetto in Rome on October 16, 1943 carried out by 365 Nazi officers at the order of SS Captain Theodor Dannecker. Italians often refer to it as 'la spietata caccia agli ebrei' (“the ruthless hunting down of the Jews”). During the raid, 1,022 Jewish Romans were gathered and sent to the Collegio Militare in Palazzo Salviati in Trastevere, just a few hundred meters from Vatican city and the papal residence. Most of these Romans were sent to Auschwitz on sealed trains that left from Tiburtina station. Most would die in the gas chambers there. Only 15 men and 1 woman survived the camps and returned back to Italy alive.




Figure 1: Archival photo of the deportation of Jews from the city of Rome on October 16, 1943 near the Porticus Octaviae. (Photo in the Public Domain).

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 10/18/2019 - 6:34am by Sarah E. Bond.

ANCHORING TECHNOLOGY IN GRECO-ROMAN ANTIQUITY

An interdisciplinary conference
Soeterbeeck (Radboud University), 10-13 December 2020

‘Anchoring Innovation’ is a Dutch research program in Classics that studies how people deal with ‘the new’ (http://www.ru.nl/oikos/anchoring-innovation/). We want to understand the multifarious ways in which relevant social groups connect what they perceive as new to what they feel is already familiar (‘anchoring’). In this conference, our focus will be on technological innovations in classical antiquity, and the ways in which these became acceptable, were adopted, and spread – or died an unceremonious death.

Technology is here understood in the widest sense of the word: it includes building materials and techniques, technical procedures and products, but also information technologies such as writing and calculating, coinage, medicine and military technology. Greco-Roman antiquity offers an ideal testing ground for understanding technological change in a complex, yet non-modern society: it is richly documented (both in the written record and in material remains), and the ‘sources’ are complex but also well-disclosed, which enables us to tackle complex research questions.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 10/17/2019 - 8:31am by Erik Shell.

On October 13, 2019, the SCS Board of Directors approved the following letter addressed to the Board of Directors of the Paideia Institute for Humanistic Study, Inc.

"The Society for Classical Studies joins the American Classical League in expressing deep concern in response to recent public statements regarding the Paideia Institute. Some of those statements are authored by individuals who have been closely associated with Paideia in various capacities and who have now resigned from the Institute.  Some of the published allegations are more generally about the Institute’s cultural climate, while others concern specific incidents. All the allegations are serious.

Accordingly, the SCS board of directors has approved a temporary hiatus on new funding for Paideia programs, including but not limited to support via the SCS Minority Scholarships, Coffin Fellowships, and Classics Everywhere micro-grants.

View full article. | Posted in Public Statements on Mon, 10/14/2019 - 12:59pm by Helen Cullyer.

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