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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A tan piece of paper with a pencil drawing of part of a double helix shape, comprised of lines and circles

One of the things that makes Classics exciting is its openness to new ideas and innovative approaches to the study of antiquity. For instance, classicists have been in the vanguard of the digital humanities, using new methods to curate and analyze texts (e.g. TLG, DLL, Open Greek and Latin, and so on), inscriptions (EAGLE, PHI), and papyri (papyri.info), adopting innovative GIS technologies and platforms (Pleiades, Orbis), and deploying powerful tools to unlock precious fragments of lost works. Classical archaeologists, too, have a particularly strong tradition of openness to new tools and techniques, from isotope geochemistry in the study of ancient marble to novel ways of cataloguing and quantifying material and visualizing ancient structures and sites. Vibrant subfields like bioarchaeology and zooarchaeology are inherently interdisciplinary. More broadly, ideas and approaches informed by anthropology, economics, and psychology have enriched the study of antiquity for decades.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 09/20/2021 - 12:54pm by .

Res Difficiles 2022

Organizers:              Hannah Čulík-Baird (Boston University) and

Joseph Romero (University of Mary Washington)

Date:                          Friday, May 20, 2022

Abstract Deadline:  Friday, December 3, 2021

Platform:                    Webinar

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 09/20/2021 - 12:24pm by Erik Shell.
A black krater vase with red-figure depicts Zeus caressing Io while Hermes slays Argus

The Ancient Worlds, Modern Communities initiative (AnWoMoCo), launched by the SCS in 2019 as the Classics Everywhere initiative, supports projects that seek to engage broader publics — individuals, groups, and communities — in critical discussion of and creative expression related to the ancient Mediterranean, the global reception of Greek and Roman culture, and the history of teaching and scholarship in the field of classical studies. As part of this initiative, the SCS has funded 111 projects, ranging from school programming to reading groups, prison programs, public talks and conferences, digital projects, and collaborations with artists in theater, opera, music, dance, and the visual arts. The initiative welcomes applications from all over the world. To date, it has funded projects in 25 states and 11 countries, including Canada, UK, Italy, Greece, Spain, Belgium, Ghana, Puerto Rico, Argentina, and India.

This post centers on two projects that employ Greek and Roman literature in innovative ways to deal with contemporary issues. The first project draws inspiration from Euripides’ Trojan Women to facilitate the expression and sharing of intense experiences between students in the University of California and female prisoners, while the second project adapts Ovid’s Metamorphoses in a one-woman show that explores the role of women in our post #MeToo era.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 09/16/2021 - 11:35am by .

QUEEN: REIMAGINING POWER FROM ANTIQUITY TO THE PRESENT

A virtual symposium hosted by the Gallatin School of Individualize Study

Ancient queens established a powerful public presence through visual and material culture, and their legacies continue to shape and impact the ways we express ideas about race, gender, and identity.

QUEEN: REIMAGINING POWER FROM ANTIQUITY TO THE PRESENT is an interdisciplinary, virtual symposium hosted by NYU Gallatin on September 23-24, 2021. This symposium integrates scholarly and creative knowledge production from different perspectives that broaden the stakes and widen the impact of historical work. The symposium will model collaborative, critical, and public approaches to history and art by including the expertise of students, artists, performers, and educators beyond the university alongside the work of scholars and curators. Spanning two days, the symposium comprises seven panel discussions, five keynote talks, one performance, and an interactive website featuring public engagement, student work, and more.

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Wed, 09/15/2021 - 12:03pm by Erik Shell.

Multiple Explanations in the Ancient Greek and Roman World

Virtual seminar series, 2021-2022

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Wed, 09/15/2021 - 10:19am by Erik Shell.

Call for Papers: 

XR and the Humanities: Virtual Education in the 21st Century

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 09/15/2021 - 9:16am by Erik Shell.

“What Has Antiquity Ever Done for Us?” The Vitality of Ancient Reception Studies, Now

An international virtual conference presented by Antiquity in Media Studies (AIMS)

15-18 December 2021

Deadline for submissions: 15 October 2021

The officers of Antiquity in Media Studies invite proposals for presentations that illuminate the ongoing vitality of antiquity in recent discourses. Despite decades of institutional disinvestment in the study of antiquity, a venerated deep past figured as a powerful shared imaginary remains a perennial, emotionally evocative, even highly lucrative concept in myriad contemporary media, around the world and across all manner of identity lines. Among antiquities, of particularly widespread interest has been the millennia of history centered on the Mediterranean and dubbed “classical” among successor societies, both self-appointed and colonized. From Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey to Luis Alfaro’s Mojada, from Hideki Takeuchi’s Thermae Romae to Pat Barker’s Silence of the Girls, to politicians' and pundits' invocations of the Persian Wars and the fall of Rome, each year produces more receptions of this antiquity. Beyond the Greco-Roman-centered past, all antiquities mobilized for such cultural work today are welcome at this ancient reception studies conference. 

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 09/14/2021 - 11:30am by Erik Shell.

(Published on behalf of Werner Reiß)

Dear colleagues,

It is with great pleasure that Professor Werner Riess and his team announce the launch of the new database TheDefix (Thesaurus Defixionum), which replaces the earlier version TheDeMa (Thesaurus Defixionum Magdeburgensis). TheDefix is an open access Heurist database hosted by the University of Hamburg, Department of Ancient History, and can be reached at the following link:

www.thedefix.uni-hamburg.de.

As its predecessor TheDeMa, TheDefix seeks to collect all published curse inscriptions from the ancient world, providing the original texts, data on their material textual features as well as bibliographical information on each tablet.
Users are welcome to contact us if they need any support in the usage of the database or to suggest any improvement at the following addresses:

Prof. Dr. Werner Rieß: werner.riess@uni-hamburg.de
Dr. Sara Chiarini: sara.chiarini@uni-hamburg.de

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Tue, 09/14/2021 - 11:28am by Erik Shell.
NEH Logo

August, 2021

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

  • Julie Montione (Valencia College) - "Timeless Parallels: Classical Literature and Veteran Experiences"
  • Lauren Ristvet (University of Pennsylvania) - "Eastern Mediterranean Gallery"
  • Clifford Ando (University of Chicago) - "Roman Statutes: Renewing Roman Law"
View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Mon, 09/13/2021 - 1:35pm by Erik Shell.
A painting of four women sitting in a room weaving. One woman is spinning wool, two are arranging wool, and one is picking up tools off the floor. In the background is another room filled with women.

Welcome to Auia loca: New Paths in Classics, a new series launched by the SCS Communications Committee! Taking inspiration from Lucretius as he wanders through remote and unfrequented paths (auia Pieridum peragro loca nullius ante | trita solo, DRN 4.1–2), Auia loca seeks to spotlight new initiatives which themselves represent new and untrodden paths for Classics, as both a discipline and an academic field.

To kick off the series, it is my pleasure to introduce Hesperides, a new scholarly organization devoted to the study of Classics in Luso-Hispanic Worlds. Hesperides recently gained Category II affiliate status with the SCS, an affiliation which entitles the organization to a panel or paper session at the annual meeting. It joins a host of other SCS affiliated groups which likewise focus on the rich and complex receptions of the ancient Mediterranean across modernity, including Eos and the Asian and Asian American Classical Caucus (AAACC).

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 09/13/2021 - 10:23am by .

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