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.”

    

---

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

Categories

Follow SCS News for information about the SCS and all things classical.

Use this field to search SCS News
Select a category from this list to limit the content on this page.

Many thanks to our Local Arrangements Committee for creating a fantastic guide to the DC area for our January 2020 meeting. The guide features plenty of family-friendly activities and also includes walking tours of classical DC. 

Read and download the Local Arrangements Guide for 2020.

---

(Photo: "_DSC7061" by rhodesj, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Sat, 11/30/2019 - 7:13am by Helen Cullyer.

Precollegiate Teaching Award

College Teaching Award

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Sat, 11/30/2019 - 7:10am by Helen Cullyer.

The Committee on Public Information and Media Relations is pleased to announce that this year's Forum Prize, for a work originating outside the academy, has been awarded to Jeff Wright for Odyssey: The Podcast.

The winner of the 2019 Society for Classical Studies Forum Prize—Jeff Wright, creator and performer of Odyssey: The Podcast—takes many turns toward and away from his illustrious epic source. Jeff’s Homer is a composite character built on the bases of English translations among the most appealing today. But Jeff is not content merely to play rhapsode to Homer’s bard.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Sat, 11/30/2019 - 7:08am by Helen Cullyer.

The deadline for the Undergraduate Minority Scholarships is December 13.

---

(Photo: "_DSC7061" by rhodesj, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Sat, 11/30/2019 - 7:04am by Helen Cullyer.

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 teaching Latin in a prison to collaborations with artists in theater, music, and dance. In this post we focus on a variety of programs directed to children: summer camps, classics days, after-school programs, and the creation of children-oriented animated videos.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 11/29/2019 - 1:52am by .

Registration for the Career Networking event at the 2020 Annual Meeting is now open. Graduate students and contingent faculty interested in careers outside of academia are encouraged to attend.  There is no extra charge for this event but space is limited.

Registered attendees of the 2020 meeting can sign up for this event by filling out this form. Sign up will be open until December 6th or close sooner if the event reaches capacity before that date. 

---

(Photo: "_DSC7061" by rhodesj, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 11/27/2019 - 12:39pm by Erik Shell.
"Empty Theatre (almost)"by Kevin Jaako, licensed under CC BY 2.0
Juliette Deschamps
The Tragedy of Dido
 
US Premiere
Friday, December 6, 2019, 7:30pm
 
Featuring acclaimed actor Gale Harold

Post-performance Q&A with Juliette Deschamps

Mixing captivating video projection, live jazz music, and powerful storytelling, The Tragedy of Dido created by French videographer Juliette Deschamps paints an extraordinary portrait of Queen Dido, the legendary founder of Carthage.

Part of A Weekend Celebration of Tunisia, the sensory and aesthetic performance will feature narration and music inspired by North African melodies performed by pianist Paul Lay. The performance will be introduced by Professor Judith P. Hallett and narrated in English by acclaimed actor Gale Harold (Falling for Grace, Queer as Folk, Grey’s Anatomy).

View full article. | Posted in Performances on Wed, 11/27/2019 - 10:44am by Erik Shell.

CfP: “Class before Capitalism?: Social Structure and the Ancient World” (Deadline: January 1, 2020)

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Keynote speaker: Johanna Hanink (Brown University)

The graduate students at Harvard University’s department of the Classics invite abstract submissions for the upcoming graduate student conference, “Class before Capitalism?: Social Structure and the Ancient World”.

Socio-economic status and the intergenerational structures which maintain it have been a persistent source of tension across the world and across history. In the influential tradition of thought following Karl Marx, class has been seen as a fundamental agent of socio-political change and an inescapable force that conditions the production of literature, art, and other cultural materials. The application of ideas formed in a post-industrial, capitalist age to pre-modern societies presents some significant methodological challenges, however, and has been the source of an intense scholarly debate which continues to this day. 

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 11/27/2019 - 10:38am by Erik Shell.

Recogito is a software platform that facilitates annotation of text and images. Through both automatic annotation and manual annotation by users, the software links uploaded files to geographic data and facilitates the sharing and downloading of this data in various formats. The software is freely available for download through GitHub, and a version is also hosted online. In the online version, users have a private workspace as well as the ability to share documents among a group or publicly. Recogito was developed from 2013 to 2018 as part of the Pelagios network, a much wider project dedicated to creating gazetteers and tools for annotation, visualization, pedagogy, collaboration, and registering linked data.

ANNOTATION

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 11/21/2019 - 7:03pm by Kilian Mallon.
"Empty Theatre (almost)"by Kevin Jaako, licensed under CC BY 2.0

CAMP Press Release

The SCS’ Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance (CAMP) would like to announce a change in its staged reading for the 2020 meeting in Washington D.C.  Instead of Robert Montgomery Bird’s “the Gladiator,” the committee will instead present Joseph Addison’s “Cato.”  Both plays provoke interesting discussion on the connections between American history and Classical Rome.  “Cato,” which dramatizes the stoic and patriotic Cato’s last stand against a tyrannical Julius Caesar, was quoted and alluded to by the leaders of the American Revolution, and staged by George Washington for his troops at Valley Forge in defiance of a congressional ban on plays.

Both plays and their authors are also rooted in the ideologies of their own times, ideologies which include some racist and colonialist viewpoints.  That these viewpoints have been connected with Classics as an academic field is an important element of both the history of and the contemporary challenges of our discipline.  CAMP believes that by working with and presenting such material, even when (and in fact especially when) it is problematic, we can simultaneously acknowledge the field’s entanglement with historical wrongs, and have fruitful discussions about how we can productively move forward.

View full article. | Posted in Performances on Wed, 11/20/2019 - 8:17am by Erik Shell.

Pages

Latest Stories

Calls for Papers
Classical Memories Modern Identities Series
Awards and Fellowships
Residential Fellowships 2021-22
SCS Announcements
Dear members and past annual meeting attendees,

© 2020, Society for Classical Studies Privacy Policy