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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Corinthian black-figure terra-cotta votive tablet of slaves working in a mine. One figure is passing a bowl to another, one is carrying a basket, and one is wielding a tool.

Content advisory: this post includes an anti-Black epithet in the recounting of a personal experience.

I have always been interested in history. In high school, I took two history courses that drew my attention to the field. One was required, the typical AP U.S. History, and one was an elective, AP European History. Both courses involved the discussion of slavery and how it affected the development of different world powers. I was not interested in the rise of nations or how they acquired power. The individuals who were used, abused, and marginalized are what I find fascinating about studying history. From high school, my path was clear: study history and, more specifically, study the history of slavery.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 09/10/2021 - 9:51am by .
Text reads "Ego, Polyphemus, a Latin novella by Andrew Olimpi." A blue sky behind an upside-down image of a bald man with gray skin, wearing a black one-shoulder garment, with a single eye in the middle of his forehead.

The sudden rise of Latin novellas might come as a surprise to anyone outside of high-school classrooms. This genre, which didn’t exist seven years ago, now counts over a hundred published works. These novellas are largely written by and for those outside the world of higher ed, but they should be of interest to the larger scholarly community—not just because they will increasingly form the background and expectations of Latin students coming into college, but also because they are one part of a larger pedagogical movement that is in the midst of transforming the teaching of Latin.

View full article. | Posted in on Tue, 09/07/2021 - 10:18am by .

(Provided by the department at William & Mary)

Chancellor Professor Emeritus of Classical Studies Julian Ward Jones Jr. passed away on August 28, 2021. He was born on July 11, 1930, at Essex County, Virginia and grew up in Fredericksburg. He graduated in 1948 from James Monroe High School as valedictorian. He read Latin at the University of Richmond. During the period 1953-1955, he served as a dental technician in the US Army at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and still found time to read Homer. He pursued a PhD in Classics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he met his wife, Liz, about whom he had written, “the most brilliant linguist I ever knew.” After two years of teaching at Ohio State University, he accepted a position as Associate Professor at William & Mary in the Department of Ancient Languages in 1961. In his long career at W&M, Professor Jones served as Chair of the Department for over ten years and was instrumental in revising its curriculum and renaming it as the Department of Classical Studies. He also served as the President of several important professional organizations, including the Classical Association of Virginia, the Southern Section of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, and the Mediterranean Society of America.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Thu, 09/02/2021 - 9:56am by Erik Shell.

Seventh Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Heritage of Western Greece

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View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 09/02/2021 - 9:53am by Erik Shell.
Roman civilians examining the Twelve Tables after they were first implemented.

Omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis. The Society for Classical Studies’ Communications Committee has approved a few changes to the SCS Blog guidelines, and we thought we’d get the word out about a couple consequential ones.

First, anonymous and pseudonymous posts are no longer strictly out of the question. The new bottom line:

The SCS Blog does not, as a rule, post anonymous content, meaning content written and submitted by one or more authors whose identities are unknown even to the editors of the blog. However, we are aware that there are situations where someone(s) might have valuable insight to share but not be able to do so out of concerns for retaliation or professional repercussions.

We expect anonymous/pseudonymous posts will be rare; in cases where authors seek anonymity/pseudonymity, we have adopted a consent-based confidentiality policy detailed in full on the guidelines page.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 09/02/2021 - 9:27am by T. H. M. Gellar-Goad.
Hephaestus returns to Olympus riding a donkey and carrying hammer and tongs. He is led by Dionysus, who bears a thyrsos (pine-cone tipped staff) and drinking cup.

Content warning: disability slurs & ableist language

As our culture changes, so, too, does the language that we use. This post is an invitation to discuss what is, at present, a culturally appropriate approach to language for writing or teaching about disability in the ancient world. We must always reflect on the importance of language and strive to learn the best practices for acknowledging the lives of the subjects of our research. At the same time, we must show due respect to our disabled colleagues and students. Our choice of language is important because, statistically speaking, you already have disabled colleagues and students. This is not an issue for other people or another time, but for all of us, disabled and nondisabled, right now.

This is a work in progress, but our goals are threefold: to demystify the language around disability; to encourage you to consider the ways that your language can humanize or dehumanize disabled people, ancient and modern; and to bring new voices to the discussion.

Language and Culture

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 08/30/2021 - 10:18am by .

The Newberry Library invites interested individuals who wish to utilize the Newberry's collection to apply for their many fellowship opportunities in 2022-2023:

The Newberry Library's long-standing fellowship program provides outstanding scholars with the time, space, and community required to pursue innovative and ground-breaking scholarship. In addition to the Library's collections, fellows are supported by a collegial interdisciplinary community of researchers, curators, and librarians. An array of scholarly and public programs also contributes to an engaging intellectual environment.

Long-Term Fellowships are available to scholars who hold a PhD or other terminal degree for continuous residence at the Newberry for periods of 4 to 9 months; the stipend is $5,000 per month. Applicants must hold a PhD or equivalent degree by the application deadline in order to be eligible. Long-Term Fellowships are intended to support individual scholarly research and promote serious intellectual exchange through active participation in the fellowship program. The deadline for long-term fellowships is November 1.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Thu, 08/26/2021 - 3:18pm by Helen Cullyer.
Header image: Telemachus and Mentor in the Odyssey. Ilustration by Pablo E. Fabisch for Aventuras de Telémaco by François Fénelon, 1699. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Organizing a mentorship program was a crucial directive from the earliest days of the Asian and Asian American Classical Caucus. The founding members envisioned building a vibrant community of APIDA (Asian Pacific Islander Desi American) scholars. Kelly Nguyen, an IDEAL Provostial Fellow at Stanford University and the AAACC’s original Mentorship Coordinator, had been shocked to discover that so many other APIDA classicists even existed. “As we set about to establish the AAACC, we always knew that we wanted the organization to be about community building, but one of the main challenges was finding that community,” she said. “We, the founders, had been surprised to even find each other after all these years of often being the only Asian in the room.” The creation of a mentorship program was important in breaking down the isolation experienced by so many APIDA scholars. “So we set out to fix this visibility issue by creating a strong network of APIDA classicists,” Nguyen recounted. “We thought that one of the best ways to do this [wa]s through a mentorship program where people could form meaningful relationships.”

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 08/23/2021 - 10:09am by .

FemClas 2022, the eighth quadrennial conference of its kind, has been rescheduled from its original dates (delayed by the pandemic) and will now take place on May 19–22, 2022, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, at the invitation of the Wake Forest University Department of Classics and Department of Philosophy.  **Virtual presentation and attendance is supported, as well.**  The conference theme is “body/language,” broadly construed, and papers on all topics connected to feminism, Classics, Philosophy, and related fields are welcome.

This conference focuses on the use of the body and/or language to gain, lose, contest, or express power and agency in the ancient Mediterranean world.  Bodies and words, at both the physical and the conceptual levels, can exert disproportionate, oppositional, or complementary forces.  Both have the power to transform their surrounding environments significantly.  Yet there is a problematic dichotomy between body/physicality and language/reason, a problem long noted by philosophers, literary theorists, and social historians. FemClas 2022 seeks to contest, blur, and even eradicate these boundaries through papers, panels, and other programming that promotes interdisciplinary exploration of the ancient world.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 08/20/2021 - 11:44am by Helen Cullyer.
CFP: Forwards and Backwards in Ancient Portraiture (College Art Association, Chicago, 16-19 February, 2022)
 
View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 08/16/2021 - 1:28pm by Erik Shell.

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