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.

 "The Mekone Scene in the Theogony: Prometheus as Prankster," GRBS 23.2 (1982) 101-110.

“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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"Portrait of a young woman from Pompeii (so-called 'Sappho')" Courtesy of Creative Commons

This piece was co-authored by Del A. Maticic, Alicia Matz, Hannah Čulík-Baird, Thomas Hendrickson, Anna Pisarello, Amy Pistone, and Nandini Pandey.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 01/25/2021 - 12:00am by .
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Session Recordings Available

All sessions that gave unanimous consent for post-conference publication have been made available on the OpenWater annual meeting platform.

You can access these recordings by logging in the same way you logged in for the annual meeting, navigating to the paper session you want to see, and watching the recording streamed on the registration site itself.

You can find a list of available recordings below. All those not listed did not give consent for their sessions to be published.

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Tuesday, January 5

  • SCS 1- Merchants and Market in Late Antiquity
  • SCS 6- New Approaches to Spectatorship
  • SCS 10- Roman Comedy

 Wednesday, January 6

  • SCS 15-Staging Epic and Tragedy
  • SCS 16- Virgil and Religion
  • SCS 17-Usurpers, Rivals, and Regime Change: The Evidence of Coins
  • SCS 24- Lightning Session 2: Crossing Boundaries

 Thursday, January 7

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 01/20/2021 - 12:48pm by Erik Shell.
57th Presidential Inauguration, 21 January 2013. View of the U.S. Capitol building from the crowd, with people waving flags.

Were Joe Biden ascending to the chief executive office in Ancient Rome — as one of the year’s two elected consuls — he would start his inauguration day with augury—that is, by taking the auspices. It would, first of all, be January 1, rather than the 20th; according to a surviving Roman calendar, in fact, the state’s year began then “because on that day magistrates enter office” (Fasti Praenestini, Jan. 1). That morning, Biden would look to the sky and request a sign from the gods. If Jupiter announced his favor — a lightning flash on the left was the best omen for this occasion—then the installation could proceed.

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 01/20/2021 - 9:44am by .

The Society for Classical Studies is delighted to announce that the TAPA Editor Search Committee has selected Joshua Billings and Irene Peirano Garrison as the new co-editors of TAPA. This is the first time in its history that TAPA will be led by two co-editors. Professors Billings and Peirano Garrison will cover TAPA volumes 152-155 (2022-2025).

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 01/20/2021 - 8:38am by Helen Cullyer.

On December 21, 2020, which now seems like eons ago, Donald Trump issued the “Executive Order on Promoting Beautiful Federal Civic Architecture” (EOPBFCA). This understandably has been overshadowed in recent days by discussions of the Executive Order on Promoting Besiegement of Federal Civic Architecture (also EOPBFCA). Nevertheless, we should not forget to examine the original document (which, in draft form, was opposed by the SCS Board in February 2020), especially since the two occurrences are closely related — and not only in the sense that the latter action seems in direct violation of the first. The two are actually intellectual cousins.

The “Purpose” section sets the tone for all that follows:

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 01/15/2021 - 9:21am by .

Against the backdrop of the United States’ first non-peaceful transition of power, there is a much smaller-scale — and much more peaceful — transition happening: the changeover of the SCS Communications Committee chair and SCS blog Editor-in-Chief. Sarah Bond, after three years of visionary leadership and fantastic direction of the blog, has handed the reins over to me, as a veteran Committee member. I think I speak for the Committee and for the blog’s readership when I offer Sarah my profoundest gratitude and appreciation for her awe-inspiring work during her term. I’ll be standing on the shoulders and following in the footsteps of a giant.

View full article. | Posted in on Tue, 01/12/2021 - 7:47am by T. H. M. Gellar-Goad.

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies Postdoctoral Fellowship September 2021 – August 2022

For the third year in a row, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies (SNF CHS) at Simon Fraser University invites applications for a one-year Postdoctoral Fellowship focused on Hellenisms Past and Present, Local and Global. Our search committee welcomes applications that span disciplinary boundaries from candidates working on comparative approaches to the advertised fellowship theme. Applicants from all fields of the humanities and the social sciences are encouraged to apply.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Mon, 01/11/2021 - 3:02pm by Erik Shell.

34th Biennial Conference of the Classical Association of South Africa

Order and Chaos

19 – 22 January 2022

University of Cape Town

FIRST CALL FOR PAPERS

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 01/11/2021 - 2:57pm by Erik Shell.

The Ausonius Institute (CNRS – Université Bordeaux Montaigne), under the patronage of the  Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (AIBL, Paris), the International Association of Greek and Latin Epigraphy (AIEGL) and the Société Française d'études épigraphiques sur Rome et le monde romain is pleased to invite you to the 16th International Congress of Greek and Latin Epigraphy, which will take place in Bordeaux  from August 29 to September 2, 2022.

The aim of the conference is to reflect on the situation of epigraphy and the role of the epigrapher in the 21st century. The congress will, therefore, be organized around thematic, chronological or geographical reports, which will allow us to assess advances in our knowledge with regards to methodological, technical or ethical issues that occur in contemporary epigraphic studies. Particular attention will be paid to new epigraphic perspectives made possible by the development of digital humanities.

You can find more information on the conference website here: https://ciegl2022.sciencesconf.org/

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 12/28/2020 - 12:03pm by Erik Shell.
NEH Logo

December, 2020

Below is a list of the most recent NEH grantees and their Classically-themed projects. The NEH helps fund a number of SCS initiatives, and their support affects the field of Classics at a national and local level.

Grantees

  • Mark Fisher (Georgetown University) - "Thucydides and the Heroic Democracy"
  • Sinclair Bell (Northern Illinois University) - "Research and Preparation of a Book on the Representation of Africans in Ancient Roman Art"
  • William Seales (University of Kentucky Research Foundation) - "The Digital Restoration Initiative: A Cultural Heritage Imaging and Analysis LabSo"
  • Melissa Mueller (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) - "Sappho and Homer: A Reparative Reading"

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(Photo: "Logo of the United States National Endowment for the Humanities" by National Endowment for the Humanities, public domain, edited to fit thumbnail template)

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Mon, 12/28/2020 - 12:01pm by Erik Shell.

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