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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Congratulations to Alexander Loney, one of 39 ACLS New Faculty Fellows for 2012 (http://www.acls.org/research/nff.aspx?id=5556).  He received his Ph.D. in Classics at Duke and will hold his NFF position at Yale.  As defined by the ACLS, "the New Faculty Fellows program allows recent Ph.D.s in the humanities to take up two-year positions at universities and colleges across the United States where their particular research and teaching expertise augment departmental offerings.  This program is an initiative of ACLS to address the dire situation of newly minted Ph.D.s in the humanities and related social sciences who are now confronting an increasingly 'jobless market.'  The generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation makes this program possible."

View full article. | Posted in Member News on Thu, 04/26/2012 - 1:58pm by .

From Informationsdienst Wissenschaft:

Universität Leipzig erhält hochkarätige Humboldt-Professur
Susann Huster

Die Universität Leipzig hat eine mit fünf Millionen Euro ausgestattete Professur der Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung erhalten, um den renommierten Altphilologen und Informatiker Prof. Dr. Gregory Ralph Crane von der Tufts University in Medford/Boston, USA, zu berufen.

Crane gilt als führender Pionier der eHumanities, der Entwicklung von Computerprogrammen für die Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften. Er kombiniert in einem innovativen Ansatz Altphilologie und Informatik. So wendet er Methoden der Informatik zur Systematisierung der kulturellen Entwicklung des Menschen an. Seine Reputation als Pionier der Digital Humanities, der digitalen Geisteswissenschaften, verdankt er der Entwicklung der Perseus Digital Library, einer umfangreichen und frei zugänglichen Online-Bibliothek für antike Quellen. Als einer der innovativsten Forscher in seinem Gebiet ist er wie kein Zweiter in den Geisteswissenschaften und der Angewandten Informatik bewandert.

View full article. | Posted in Member News on Wed, 04/25/2012 - 11:34am by .

From now on, the Gnomon Bibliographic Database will also be available in an English version (http://www.englisch.gnomon-online.de/), including a comprehensive English thesaurus. The database contains around 500,000 entries, with monthly updates comprising the latest reviews, monograph studies, anthologies, and articles in periodicals.

View full article. | Posted in Websites and Resources on Mon, 04/23/2012 - 3:54pm by .

From the San Francisco State University News:

Alexandra Pappas has been selected by the Department of Classics to be the first endowed Raoul Bertrand Chair in Classics. Currently a fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C., Pappas will join SF State this fall as an assistant professor.

Pappas will teach courses in Greek and Latin language, Greek art and archaeology and courses on Greek and Roman culture.

"Dr. Pappas is a dynamic teacher who is sure to attract new students to study ancient Greece, Rome and the broader Mediterranean," said classics Chair David Leitao. "Her exciting interdisciplinary research will help keep the classics department at the cutting edge of humanities in the 21st century."

View full article. | Posted in Member News on Sun, 04/22/2012 - 11:52am by .

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Thu, 04/19/2012 - 3:49pm by .

Members may have seen a petition posted to the website of L’Année philologique (anphil.org), expressing concern about funding for the German office of L’Année.  Here is a brief account of the situation, of which the APA Board has been aware since January, and how we have decided to proceed.

The Société Internationale de Bibliographie Classique (SIBC), based in Paris, is the international not-for-profit organization that oversees L’Année.  The German office is one of six self-sustaining offices that prepare entries for L’Année;the others are in Paris (the main editorial office), Genoa, Granada, Lausanne, and Durham, NC.  This last is the American Office, which is the responsibility of the APA and reports to our Research Division.  The funds raised in our current Gateway Campaign to date ensure the continued operation of the American Office (though we continue to solicit contributions to meet all NEH challenge grant requirements), but the APA is very concerned about the health of the German Office, which prepares a significant amount of the content in each issue of L’Année: its funding is up for renewal in a difficult fiscal climate.  It is important for members to realize, however, that a threat to an individual office does not mean that the operation of the bibliography as a whole is in danger.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 04/17/2012 - 7:09pm by Adam Blistein.

Follow this link to submit an individual abstract for the 2013 Annual Meeting.  The Program Committee will review these submissions on June 29-30, 2012.  Please be sure that your membership is current (i.e., paid up for 2012) before beginning the submission process.  If you are not sure whether you have paid your APA dues for the current year, ask the customer service staff at the Johns Hopkins University Press at jrnlcirc@press.jhu.edu, 800-548-1784 (US and Canada only), or 410-516-6987 (all others). 

Before submitting your abstract, please read the Program Committee's instructions for the submission of individual abstracts this year.  Please note that the Committee has instituted several changes in the submission process.  In addition, see the Association's general regulations concerning abstract submissions and suggestions from the Program Committee that emerged from a workshop on abstract writing at the 2010 annual meeting. 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 04/17/2012 - 5:52pm by Adam Blistein.

From the Pulitzer website:

The 2012 Pulitzer Prize Winners

General Nonfiction

For a distinguished and appropriately documented book of nonfiction by an American author that is not eligible for consideration in any other category, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Awarded to "The Swerve: How the World Became Modern," by Stephen Greenblatt (W.W. Norton and Company), a provocative book arguing that an obscure work of philosophy, discovered nearly 600 years ago, changed the course of history by anticipating the science and sensibilities of today.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Tue, 04/17/2012 - 1:36am by Information Architect.

Instructions for the submission of individual abstracts to the APA Program Committee for review at its meeting in June will be posted here by April 17.  The deadline for submission of individual abstracts will be May 16, 2012, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 04/10/2012 - 2:51pm by Adam Blistein.

From the JournalStar.com:

Tom Winter finished a lecture on passive and past-tense Latin verbs on Thursday, pulled his skateboard from the desk and rolled into a cool spring afternoon.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln classics and religious studies professor became an Internet sensation Wednesday when a photo of him skateboarding across campus became the top item on the social news website Reddit.com. The photo inspired dozens of memes -- photos with humorous text superimposed.

"Nine pages of memes and a site I never knew about before yesterday," Winter said. "It's a pretty good photo."

By Thursday afternoon, the photo had gotten more than 756,000 views on Imgur.com, the Internet image hosting site on which it originally appeared, and 1,300 comments on Reddit.com. Users of Imgur.com wrote mock captions for the image, which features a skateboarding Winter, arms out and holding a briefcase.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Fri, 04/06/2012 - 1:22pm by Information Architect.

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