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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Upon a recommendation by the Society for Classical Studies, FIEC has approved a statement on the format of abstracts and keywords for the submission of articles

FIEC STATEMENT

L’Année Philologique is the main database for publications in Classical studies. In the interest of all scholars, authors and researchers, it seems important to define some basic requirements that will make it easier for the local branches of L’Année Philologique to analyze the entries. The following is a recommendation made to all associations of Classical studies affiliated to FIEC. Associations are kindly asked to circulate this statement among their members. In view of the ever-growing number of articles and chapters in collective volumes processed for registration by L’Année Philologique, and in order to reduce the amount of work required of the various branches of L’Année Philologique, it is recommended that journal and volume editors regard it as a best practice of the efficient analysis of the data that each article or chapter be accompanied by a brief abstract and a list of keywords. To ensure the utility of abstracts and keywords for the efficient analysis of data for L’Année Philologique, please take note of the following guidelines:

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 07/12/2019 - 2:47pm 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 children’s programs to teaching Latin in a prison. In this post we focus on two programs that bring the study of Greek and Roman antiquity to two traditionally underserved communities: incarcerated students in a correctional facility and the racially, ethnically, and economically diverse community in Winnipeg, Canada.

There is a pressing need to make Classics more open and inclusive, and to diversify the voices dominating the study of Greek and Roman antiquity. A growing number of classicists are rethinking the field's often unspoken assumptions, exploring the ways in which contemporary scholarship may be affirming or challenging existing social structures, and reaching out to more diverse audiences, to encourage new responses and perspectives. 

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 07/10/2019 - 4:20pm by Nina Papathanasopoulou.

Classical Studies in the 21st Century: More Relevant Than Ever

The AIA-SCS joint ad hoc committee on the future of classics and archaeology met earlier this year to discuss pressures common to both fields. The group agreed to create a document that can be used to remind college and university administrators of what we do and our relevance. The joint statement entitled “Classical Studies in the 21st Century: More Relevant Than Ever,” is below and also available as a PDF download. Department chairs and other departmental members are welcome to use it as talking points with decision-makers at your institutions, be they chairs, deans, provosts, chancellors and some other administrator, as a reminder of the continuing and important benefits of our fields. You may use the entire statement or customize it to meet the specific needs of your department and profile of your institution. We realize that there are many successful advocacy strategies, and we hope this brief statement will join them. If you have already successfully advocated to preserve or expand your department, let us know what worked.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 07/10/2019 - 11:46am by Helen Cullyer.

FIEC resolution towards supporting the registration of Ancient Greek and Latin in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage

(approved by the FIEC General Assembly of Delegates, London July 4th, 2019)

The International Federation of Associations of Classical Studies (FIEC) supports the registration of Ancient Greek and Latin in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Those two languages have had a deep impact on the Mediterranean area (in a wide sense) over several millenia; this impact is still to be felt very strongly today, not only in that area, but also in the world at large.

Ancient Greek was the main language spoken and written in Archaic and Classical Greece, as well as in the whole Eastern Mediterranean from the Hellenistic period till the end of the Byzantine period. In contact with other languages (notably Semitic languages and Latin), it has gradually evolved without changing its basic structure, to become Modern Greek. Latin started in the Italic peninsula and, as Roman power extended over the centuries, has spread to most areas of present-day Europe, where it evolved to produce the Romance languages. Through the process of colonization, Latin has also spread to other parts of the world, notably the Americas.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 07/05/2019 - 2:46pm by Helen Cullyer.

ToposText is a set of tools that projects the geographic elements of ancient texts onto a mapping of the ancient world. Users can follow a classical reference from place-to-text, or from text-to-place. Zooming in on Thebes and clicking on “Cadmeia,” for example, takes us to 63 text entries, such as the Bios Ellados of Heracleides Criticus; clicking on Bios Ellados takes us to 36 map locations through 78 text references. The text is displayed in public-domain English translation (default) with a link to the original ancient Greek (in this case, at Bibliotheca Augustana). The places are located through a Google Map interface.


[1: Screenshot: ToposText Map of Thebes, including icon for Cademeia]

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 07/03/2019 - 10:01pm by Janet D. Jones.

Sixth Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Heritage of Western Greece

with special emphasis on

ἀρετή aretē: virtue, excellence, goodness

and a pre-conference seminar on Gorgias of Leontini

plus a post-conference tour of Greek cities in Calabria

Exedra Mediterranean Center
Syracuse, Sicily, 15-20 June , 2020

The cultural and intellectual legacy of Western Greece—the coastal areas of Southern Italy and Sicily settled by Hellenes in the 8th and 7th centuries BCE—is sometimes overlooked in academia.  Yet evidence suggests that poets, playwrights, philosophers, and other maverick intellectuals found fertile ground here for the growth of their ideas and the harvesting of their work.  The goal of the Fonte Aretusa organization is to revive the distinctive spirit of Western Greece by exploring it from a variety of disciplinary perspectives including art history, archaeology, classics, drama, epigraphy, history, literature, mythology, philosophy and religion.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 06/28/2019 - 9:47am by Erik Shell.

Penn-Leiden Colloquium on Ancient Values XI: Valuing Labor in Greco-Roman Antiquity

Call for Papers

The Penn-Leiden Colloquia on Ancient Values were established as a biennial venue in which scholars could investigate the diverse aspects of Greek and Roman values. Each colloquium focuses on a single theme, which participants explore from various perspectives and disciplines. Since the first colloquium in Leiden (in 2000), a wide range of topics has been explored, including manliness, free speech, the spatial organization of value, badness, ‘others’, aesthetic value, the past, landscapes, competition and the night. All conferences (full list below) have resulted in edited volumes published by Brill Publishers.

The topic of the 11th colloquium, to be held in Leiden June 11-13, 2020, is:

Valuing Labor in Antiquity.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 06/28/2019 - 9:45am by Erik Shell.
Kathleen Coleman (Harvard University) has written an article to mark the 125th anniversary of the TLL's founding in 1894. This was subsequently translated into German by the TLL office., and has appeared in the magazine of the Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Akademie Aktuell 2/19.
 
You can read the update here.
 
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(Photo: "_DSC7061" by rhodesj, licensed under CC BY 2.0)
View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 06/28/2019 - 9:33am by Erik Shell.

Classics is a field immersed in the digital age. This isn’t news for anyone who teaches undergraduate language courses and has seen their students pull out their smartphones to access any number of dictionary apps that can find the first principle part of the verb εὕρηκα faster than you can find the epsilon-section in your Middle Liddell. But the field of Classics has done more than simply provide quick and easy applications to digital databases.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 06/27/2019 - 4:38pm by Angela Holzmeister.

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