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 Ancient Mediterranean for Modern Audiences: Reception, Pedagogy, Entertainment

March 6-7, 2020
Ohio Union, Columbus, Ohio

The aim of the OSU Classics Graduate Student Colloquium is to explore various directions in which the Ancient Mediterranean has been adapted and utilized by different cultures in Modern world from the Renaissance to the present day. In recent years, the online journal “Eidolon” and other public scholarship media have already successfully demonstrated how the cultures of the Ancient Mediterranean can be accessed, interpreted, and applied through various experiences by scholars, students, writers, and by the wider communities. We believe that the reception of Ancient Mediterranean cultures has become an important element of Classical scholarship and pedagogy. It is a critical point of contact between the academic community and the general audience.

The OSU Classics Graduate Student Colloquium invites papers on a range of topics that discuss and analyze the reception of the Ancient Mediterranean from a point of view of philology, linguistics, theater and performance studies, history, pedagogy, archaeology, art history, philosophy, anthropology, political studies, media studies, and/or gender studies. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 09/26/2019 - 12:34pm by Erik Shell.

Conference: Cathartic History

University of West Georgia, Carrollton, GA
February 25-27, 2021

The aim of this conference and the edited collection that will result is to propose Aristotelian catharsis as a new lens for historical inquiry. The project aims to do so, specifically, through the study of cathartic history as a phenomenon in the Greco-Roman Mediterranean and in the field of Classical history today. In the process, the project will serve as an example of the productive application of catharsis to the study of the past, and thus a model for other fields of historical research.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 09/26/2019 - 10:22am by Erik Shell.

SCS member and Classical Studies professor at the University of Pennsylvania Emily Wilson has won a 2019 MacArthur Fellowship by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

You can read the full announcement on the UPenn page here.

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

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 09/26/2019 - 9:55am by Erik Shell.

International Association for Presocratic Studies

Seventh Biennial Conference: 15-19 July 2020
Belo Horizonte, Brazil: Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

Chair of Organizing Committee: Miriam Peixoto

The International Association for Presocratic Studies announces its Seventh Biennial Conference. The meeting will take place at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil 15-19 June 2020 (http://www.ufmg.br). 

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 09/25/2019 - 11:37am by Erik Shell.

Poetry, Philosophy, and Mathematics: Performance, Text, and External Representations in Ancient Greek Cultural Practices

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 09/25/2019 - 11:02am by Erik Shell.

The SCS board of directors has endorsed a statement on the use of student evaluations of teaching developed by the American Sociological Association.

The board has also reaffirmed its own statement of November 28, 2016 that condemns “the use of the texts, ideals, and images of the Greek and Roman world to promote racism or a view of the Classical world as the unique inheritance of a falsely-imagined and narrowly-conceived western civilization.” In accordance with that statement, the board has also endorsed the American Historical Association’s statement on Domestic Terrorism, Bigotry, and History and would like to draw attention to its condemnation of the “recent deployment of histories invented in the interest of bigotry, violence, and division.”

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View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 09/25/2019 - 10:22am by Erik Shell.

Registration is now live for the Spatial Turn in Roman Studies Auckland conference, to be held January 22-24, 2020. For information about the conference, please see https://www.dur.ac.uk/classics/spatialturn/auckland/

If you plan to attend the Auckland conference, please fill out this registration form, including reading the event code of conduct linked to in the form.  

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Wed, 09/25/2019 - 9:09am by Erik Shell.

Here are a few important deadlines coming up at the end of this month:

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View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 09/20/2019 - 8:32am by Erik Shell.

Of the slew of Disney’s new live-action remakes, perhaps the most anticipated release was this summer’s The Lion King, directed by Jon Favreau. After all, the original 1994 version was arguably the crown jewel of the ‘Disney Renaissance’, enjoying massive commercial and critical success (followed by a highly successful Broadway production). More importantly - at least for those like me who grew up in the 90’s - it was a cultural touchstone, a perennial source of references, parodies, and praise.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 09/19/2019 - 10:00pm by Colin MacCormack.

The following members were elected in the ballot held this Summer. They take office in January 2020, except for the two new members of the Nominating Committee who take office immediately.  Thank you to all SCS members who agreed to stand for election this year.

President-Elect

Shelley P. Haley

Vice President for Communications and Outreach

Alison Futrell

Goodwin Committee

Harriet Flower

Nominating Committee

Toph Marshall

Patrice Rankine

Program Committee

Melissa Mueller

Carlos Noreña

Directors

John Gruber-Miller

Jennifer Sheridan Moss

Professional Ethics Statement Amendment

Passed

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 09/19/2019 - 9:40am by Erik Shell.

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