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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Fra Mauro map of the world. A circular map depicting Asia, Africa, and Europe.

For this installment of the SCS Blog, Chris Waldo asked Nandini Pandey and Ethan Ganesh Warren to compare notes about their experiences as South Asians in classics. Ethan, a current classics Ph.D. student at UT Austin, started Latin at the Brookfield Academy in Wisconsin and earned a B.A. from Rochester. Nandini is currently transitioning to a position at Johns Hopkins after seven years as an Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She and Ethan first met years ago over coffee in Madison. This transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Nandini: Ethan, it’s a great pleasure to get to speak to you today…because you and I first interacted in 2018. You’d grown up in Wisconsin, and you were finishing your undergrad at Rochester, and you had just read an article of mine on Eidolon on “turning the tables on dominance and diversity in Classics.” And it meant so much to me that you reached out.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 08/16/2021 - 9:44am by .

(From the University of Washington website)

Daniel P. Harmon

May 3, 1938 – July 25, 2021

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Mon, 08/16/2021 - 9:30am by Erik Shell.
Etruscan mirror with Lasa. Image courtesy of Met Museum.

The colloquium that I organized for the AIA annual meeting this past January, “Nudity, Costume, and Gender in Etruscan Art,” was intended to be a venue for current research on gender, dress, and the body in Etruscan art. It soon became clear, however, that the presenters’ work owed a tremendous debt to the scholarship of one of the premiere Etruscan scholars, Larissa Bonfante. Consequently, the session became a memorial to her and her contributions to the field.

Bonfante passed away in August of 2019, much to the shock of her family, friends, and colleagues. Though in her late 80s, Bonfante kept a busy research schedule as if she were a newly hired assistant professor working towards tenure. She was a versatile scholar who wrote on a diversity of topics, including the Etruscan language (usually with her father Giuliano, a well-known and respected linguist); representations of clothing in Etruscan and Roman art; influence of the Etruscans beyond Etruria; Etruscan identity; depictions of marriage, couples, and motherhood in Etruria; as well as the lack of dress in some Etruscan art.

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 08/11/2021 - 10:38am by .

Art and Migration
2022/2023

The theme of migration has remained an inherent subject of art ever since some modern humans began to move across the planet, bringing their objects and technologies with them. Whether in Mesoamerica, the ancient Mediterranean, or medieval Africa, war, invasion, colonialism, enslavement, resettlement, and trade have fundamentally altered cultural production, reception, and rituals. In light of the many recent migration crises throughout the world, artists and scholars have responded to the critical movement of people and artifacts in myriad ways.

This year's theme encompasses questions of memory, destruction of cultural heritage, provenance and repatriation, and the complex lives of movable objects, traditions, and practices. How does art that concerns migration contribute to or detract from ideas about belonging and community; assimilation and isolation; tradition, innovation, and legal or cultural boundaries? How are patterns or processes of movement made visible or invisible through the artworks, objects, and communities that are created, adapted, abandoned, or destroyed? Furthermore, what happens when mobility is brought to a halt?

Applicants may also consider representation, identity, and hybridity, as well as recent genetic research and long-term patterns of mobility, immobility, and migration.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Wed, 08/11/2021 - 8:03am by Erik Shell.
Sappho reading one of her poems to a group of friends. Red-figure vase by the Group of Polygnotos, ca. 440–430 BCE. National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

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.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 08/02/2021 - 9:15am by .

An announcement from the organizers of the West Coast Plato Workshop:

The 2022 West Coast Plato Workshop will be on Plato’s Republic Book 1-4.  It will take place May 27-29, 2022, at Stanford University.  

We do intend this to be an in person conference (the pandemic permitting).  But we also understand that some people’s circumstances may not allow them to attend an person event.  We will make the conference available via Zoom and if anyone whose paper is accepted is unable to attend in person, we’ll work with her to make it possible for her present via Zoom.  Although we still intend it to be in person, we can make some exceptions if need be.

Submissions should consist in two separate pages: (i) the title of the paper, name(s), academic rank(s), affiliation(s), and email contact of the author(s); (ii) title and 500-word abstract prepared for blind review.  Submissions should be double-spaced in 12 point font.  MSWord or PDF formats only.  The paper presentation at the conference should be about 40 minutes in length. 

Refereeing for submissions will be blind and will be done by the present host of the WCPW along with members of the WCPW program committee and other WCPW-affiliated scholars. 

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 07/26/2021 - 7:01pm by Helen Cullyer.

H. Don Cameron (1934-2021), Arthur F. Thurnau Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan, passed away on July 17, 2021. Among his many achievements, Professor Emeritus Cameron was the recipient of the 1987 APA Award for Teaching Excellence at the Collegiate Level.

A full obituary and tribute, written by Benjamin Fortson of the University of Michigan, is available online: https://lsa.umich.edu/classics/news-events/all-news/search-news/remembering-don-cameron.html

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Mon, 07/26/2021 - 6:49pm by Helen Cullyer.
ACLS logo

An announcement from the ACLS:

The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) is pleased to announce our 2021-22 fellowship and grant competitions. Our online application system is now open for programs with September and October deadlines.

ACLS offers fellowship and grant programs that promote research across the full spectrum of humanities and interpretive social science fields. ACLS invites applications from scholars on and off the tenure track. 

Our peer review and award processes aim to promote inclusive excellence, and we welcome applicants from groups that are underrepresented in the academic humanities and from across the diverse landscape of higher education.

Detailed information including Fall 2021 deadlines is available at: https://www.acls.org/Fellowship-and-Grant-Programs/Competitions-and-Dead...

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Mon, 07/26/2021 - 6:39pm by Helen Cullyer.
Cover of Euripides' The Trojan Women: A Comic, by Rosanna Bruno and Anne Carson

By Christopher Trinacty, Emma Glen, and Emily Hudson (Oberlin College)

Anne Carson’s celebrated adaptations and translations of Ancient Greek and Latin literature have ranged from imagining the love affair between Geryon and Heracles in The Autobiography of Red to meditating about the death of her brother through Catullus 101 in Nox. In our opinion, Carson’s works highlight her theoretical sophistication as well as her deep commitment to the reception of Classics broadly understood. This new “comic” version of Euripides’ Trojan Women by Carson and illustrator Rosanna Bruno offers a creative and challenging take on Euripides’s tragedy.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 07/23/2021 - 12:45pm by .

The National Humanities Center invites applications for academic-year or one-semester residential fellowships. Mid-career, senior, and emerging scholars with a strong record of peer-reviewed work from all areas of the humanities are encouraged to apply.

Scholars from all parts of the globe are eligible; stipends and travel expenses are provided. Fellowship applicants must have a PhD or equivalent scholarly credentials. Fellowships are supported by the Center’s own endowment, private foundation grants, contributions from alumni and friends, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Located in the vibrant Research Triangle region of North Carolina, the Center affords access to the rich cultural and intellectual communities supported by the area’s research institutes, universities, and dynamic arts scene. Fellows enjoy private studies, in-house dining, and superb library services that deliver all research materials.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Wed, 07/21/2021 - 12:18pm by Erik Shell.

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