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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Dear Colleague:
 
This afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives began debating the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies spending bill (H.R. 2584).  In last week’s action alert, I mentioned that amendments could be offered on the floor that would further reduce funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities beyond the $135 million in FY 2012 funding approved by the Appropriations Committee (a $19.7 million, or 13% cut from the current year).
 
Just hours ago, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) offered an amendment to reduce funding in the Interior bill by $3 billion in various accounts, including $1.9 billion in EPA spending, as well as complete elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts (among other programs).  The Huelskamp amendment failed by voice vote, but a recorded vote was requested, and is expected to take place tonight.
 
Even if the current measure fails, additional amendments to weaken funding for NEH may be offered during this week’s floor consideration of the FY12 Interior bill.  If you have not already done so, please email your Representative and ask him/her to:

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Tue, 07/26/2011 - 12:52pm by Information Architect.

"Papyri.info is dedicated to the study of ancient papyrological documents.  It offers links to papyrological resources, a customized search engine (called the Papyrological Navigator) capable of retrieving information from multiple related collections, and an editing application, the Papyrological Editor, which contributors can use to suggest emendations to PN texts. The Papyrological Navigator aggregates and displays information from the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS), the Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri (DDbDP) and the Heidelberger Gesamtverzeichnis der griechischen Papyrusurkunden Ägyptens (HGV), as well as links to Trismegistos."

http://www.papyri.info/

View full article. | Posted in Websites and Resources on Sat, 07/23/2011 - 1:58am by .

The Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance (CAMP) invites expressions of interest in directing a staged reading at the 2013 APA meeting in Seattle, Washington. CAMP is very proud to sponsor this reading, which has become a tradition. The tenth annual reading, which will take place at the 2012 APA meeting in Philadelphia, will be The Jurymen, an Aristophanic take on the last days of Socrates by Katherine Janson, directed by Amy R. Cohen.

Past scripts have included translations and adaptations of ancient Greek and Roman plays, as well as plays inspired by classical themes, figures, and topics. Previous performances were:

The Invention of Love (Tom Stoppard), 2002, Philadelphia, Mary-Kay Gamel, Director

The Heavensgate Deposition, or Claudius, the Gourd (Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis, translated by Douglass Parker), 2003, New Orleans, Amy R. Cohen, Director

The Golden Age (Thomas Heywood), 2004, San Francisco, C. W. Marshall, Director

Iran Man (Plautus’s Persa, translated by Amy Richlin), 2005, Boston, Mary-Kay Gamel, Director

Thespis (Gilbert and Sullivan), 2006, Montreal, John Starks, Director

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 07/20/2011 - 5:20pm by Adam Blistein.
Posted on behalf of APA President Kathleen M. Coleman
 
Dear APA members,
 
Many of you will be aware of the drastic cuts threatening the Department of Classics and Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London. 
 
As the APA's immediate response to this crisis, the Board of Directors has taken the following steps. First, together with John Miller, Chair of the APA's Classics Advisory Service, I am composing a letter to send to the Principal of Royal Holloway protesting against these proposals. Second, Ruth Scodel, a former President of the APA, will be in the UK on September 16 and has agreed to represent the APA at a symposium in London that day celebrating Classics at Royal Holloway and Bedford (Bedford College having merged with Royal Holloway College in 1985); Professor Scodel will be a powerful presence, and I am most grateful to her for representing us. 
 
View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 07/18/2011 - 8:31pm by Adam Blistein.

The Program Guide for the January 2013 Annual Meeting will appear in October.  Organizers of affiliated group and organizer-refereed sessions that have been approved for presentation at the 2013 meeting are reminded that calls for abstracts for their sessions should be sent to the Association Office no later than September 16, 2011.  See the APA web site (http://apaclassics.org/index.php/annual_meeting/meeting_info/calls_for_a...) for samples of previously published calls for abstracts.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 07/18/2011 - 1:46pm by Adam Blistein.

The Roundtable Discussion Session is a 90-minute joint annual meeting session with the AIA consisting of a number of tables devoted to discussions of a variety of topics, with at least one discussion leader for each topic.  Members are invited to propose themselves as roundtable discussion leaders.  Topics may be the leader’s area of scholarly interest or an issue important to the profession.  Since certain topics lend themselves to presentation by more than one leader, proposals for multiple leaders are welcome.  The Program Committee believes that these sessions can provide an excellent opportunity for younger registrants (both graduate students and recent Ph.D.'s) to interact with established scholars in a less formal environment than a session or a job interview.  Leadership of a roundtable discussion does not count as an “appearance” on the annual meeting program; i.e., roundtable leaders may present a paper or serve as a respondent in an APA paper session.

The Program Committee invites members to submit brief (50-100 word) descriptions of a suitable topic for a roundtable.  These submissions for the annual meeting in Philadelphia, PA should be sent to Heather Gasda (heatherh@sas.upenn.edu) by September 6, 2011.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 07/14/2011 - 7:47pm by Adam Blistein.

Mabel Louise Lang, emeritus professor of Greek at Bryn Mawr College, died peacefully on July 21, 2010, at the age of 92. She had spent more than seventy years at Bryn Mawr, where she was worshipped by generations of students and admired by scholars around the world.

Lang was born on November 12, 1917 in Utica, New York, and received her AB from Cornell in 1939 and her PhD from Bryn Mawr in 1943. She began teaching at Bryn Mawr in 1943 and continued to do so long after her official retirement in 1988, allowing more than half a century’s worth of students to benefit from her extraordinary ability to bring out the best in them.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Wed, 07/13/2011 - 7:16pm by Adam Blistein.

Malcolm Burgess, publisher of the City-Lit series, selects his favourite reads about the eternal city, from I, Claudius to the Rome of Fellini and beyond. Read more in The Guardian online.

View full article. | Posted in Book Reviews on Wed, 07/13/2011 - 1:40pm by Information Architect.

The following questionnaire appeard on the Humanist Discussion Group:

Manuscripts Online: Written Culture from 1100 to 1500

Manuscripts Online is a new project that aims to enable federated searching of transcriptions, editions, catalogue descriptions, and calendars of primary texts in English, Latin, French, Welsh etc from or relevant to the British Isles, 1100-1500, on the model of Connected Histories for 1500-1900 (http://www.connectedhistories.org/). The service will be hosted by the University of Sheffield Humanities Research Institute. The specification of the service and a bid for funding are currently being drafted.

Please send responses to Professor John Thompson, School of English, Queen's University Belfast (J.Thompson@qub.ac.uk).

1. Would you use such a service?

YES [go to question 2]
NO [go to question 5]

2. What existing online digitised resources would you like to see included?

3. What digitised datasets that are currently offline would you like to
see included?

4. What printed resources would you would like to see digitised and
included?

5. Any other comments?

6. Please provide your name, institution, and email address:

View full article. | Posted in Websites and Resources on Sun, 07/10/2011 - 2:12pm by .

"No woman, according to New York Mayor Jimmy Walker, was ever ruined by a book. But Christopher B. Krebs, a classics professor at Harvard, makes a strong case that an early ethnological monograph, written in the first century in Latin by the Roman historian Tacitus, may have warped the cultural identity of an entire nation. In my old Penguin translation, 'Germania'—'On Germany'— runs fewer than 40 pages, but, like other comparably short documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and 'The Communist Manifesto,' its influence has been earthshaking. As the Penguin translator, H. Mattingly, frankly writes in his 1947 introduction, the book is 'a detailed account of a great people that had already begun to be a European problem in the first century of our era.'"

Read more of the review of A Most Dangerous Book at The Washington Post online.

 
View full article. | Posted in Book Reviews on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 4:54pm by Information Architect.

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