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.”

    



---

(Photo: "Candle" by Shawn Carpenter, licensed under CC BY 2.0)   

Categories

Follow SCS News for information about the SCS and all things classical.

Use this field to search SCS News
Select a category from this list to limit the content on this page.
Server

The Digital Latin Library has published a blog post detailing new its new website, upcoming text releases, and other new features.

You can read the blog post here: https://digitallatin.org/blog/updates-ldlt

---

(Photo: “Switch!" by Andrew Hart, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Mon, 05/13/2019 - 9:15am by Erik Shell.

This month, we spotlight the graduate research of Dr. Vivian A. Laughlin, who recently defended her dissertation on the Roman imperial appropriation of Serapis this spring.

While excavating at Hadrian’s Villa in 2015 with Columbia University I noticed that there were various architectural designs and material culture that appeared to be influenced by Egyptian culture. Then when roaming through various parts of the city of Rome, I began to see similar aesthetic references to Egyptian iconography in many places from Augustus’ House on the Palatine to Roman imperial works within various museums throughout the city. I questioned the Egyptian iconography I saw and why the visual references were being made. The more I questioned it, the more it created a burgeoning reason to investigate further and to better understand the relationship between Rome and Egypt. It was almost as if the material culture was speaking to my soul.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 05/10/2019 - 6:40am by Vivian A. Laughlin.

The SCS is proud to announce that it is now hosting the newest version of Joy Connolly's "Going on the Market...and What Comes Before," a detailed and practical guide to preparation for the academic job market.

The text is hosted on the SCS website here, and can be found on the Placement Service toolbar.

---

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

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 05/09/2019 - 9:13am by Erik Shell.

CfP: The spatial turn in Roman studies

Auckland, January 22-24 2020
Durham, June 10-12 2020

Organised by Amy Russell and Maxine Lewis

We write to announce two international conferences plus a year-long programme of events in Durham on the theme ‘The spatial turn in Roman studies’. This is the call for papers for the Auckland conference, 22-24 January 2020. A call for papers for the Durham conference will follow.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 05/09/2019 - 9:03am by Erik Shell.

By Urmila Mohan and Courtney O’Dell-Chaib

Scholars of religion have developed a framework for exploration of interactions between religion and tangible objects called "material religion." Over the past two decades, the focus within the study of material religion has emphasised object agency, aesthetics and networks. Disseminated in part by the journal Material Religion, a materialised study of religion explores religiosity as inseparable from a matrix of components including people, divine forces, institutions, things, places and communities. However, what still remains to be unpacked is a focus on the way material religion takes place globally. That is not merely editing case studies from different parts of the world based on theory generated in the West, but trying to see how vectors of bodies, affect, objects and ecologies might generate new theoretical approaches and data based on close cultural or ethnographic analyses.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 05/02/2019 - 4:47pm by .

(From the University of Mississippi's website)

Former University of Mississippi professor Lucy Turnbull will always be remembered as a beloved educator who could make her curriculum both easy to understand and infinitely interesting to her students, a mentor and a champion of civil rights at Ole Miss.

Her enthusiasm for the classics was contagious, which propelled her students to success in her art history, archaeology, mythology and classical civilization courses. Turnbull, 87, of Oxford, joined the university faculty in 1961 and taught until 1990. She died Sunday (April 21).

Dewey Knight, recently retired UM associate director of the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience, was one of Turnbull’s friends. He entered the university as a freshman in 1966 and found himself in one of her classes that year.

“She walked into the classroom that first day,” Knight said. “There were about 25 of us, and we were immediately very afraid of Professor Turnbull. She was incredibly intelligent. She could read Greek like we read English.

“We all were in fear of her, but we had the ultimate respect for her, because it was very obvious she was brilliant.”

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Thu, 05/02/2019 - 8:39am by Erik Shell.
"The Limits of Exactitude"

Università degli Studi di Bari “Aldo Moro”
19th-20th December 2019

Keynote speaker: Prof. Therese Fuhrer (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)

Exactitude is the third of the Six Memos for the Next Millennium by Italo Calvino (Cambridge MA, 1988). According to Calvino ‘exactitude’ is a «well-defined and well-calculated plan for the work in question; an evocation of clear, incisive, memorable images [...]; a language as precise as possible both in the choice of words and in the expression of the subtleties of thought and imagination». The aim of Prolepsis’ 4th International Conference is to reflect on Calvino’s definition applying it to the Classical, Late-Antique and Medieval Worlds. This year the conference will be particularly keen on – but not limited to – the following topics:

- Accuratio vel ambiguitas in speech, argumentation and narration.

- Ambiguous, inaccurate and disconcerting communication from the author, and potential reader response.

- Metrical and musical exactitude and its limits.

- Exactitude in treatises (scientific, rhetorical, grammatical).

- Quoting, misquoting and misplacing.

- Accurate and inaccurate titles, and their transmission.

- Limits in the material evidence (manuscripts, papyri, inscriptions, formation of corpora, mise en page, stichometry).

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 05/01/2019 - 1:39pm by Erik Shell.

Destructions, Survival, and Recovery in Ancient Greece

May 16-18 American School of Classical Studies at Athens

Organizers: Sylvian Fachard and Edward M. Harris

From the Trojan War to the sack of Rome by Alaric, from the fall of Constantinople to the bombing of European cities in World War II and now the devastation of Syrian towns lmed by drones, the destruction of cities and the slaughter of civilian populations are among the most dramatic events in world history.

Sources documenting destruction and slaughter in the Greek World are plentiful. The fear of being attacked, ruined or annihilated was so real that almost all poleis increasingly built city-walls to protect their populations and economic assets. In spite of the deterrent potential of forti cations and their real force, however, the ancient historians report that ancient Greek cities continued to be besieged, stormed, “looted,” “destroyed,” “annihilated” and “razed to the ground.” For instance, Herodotus (6.101.3) states that the Persians burned down the sanctuaries of Eretria in 490 BC and took away all its citizens as slaves. According to Livy (45.34.1-6) in 167 BC, the Romans destroyed 70 towns and enslaved 150,000 people in Epeiros, an act of destruction with few parallels in the ancient world.

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Wed, 05/01/2019 - 12:01pm by Erik Shell.

(From the Cornell Chronicle)

Classics scholar David Mankin, beloved by Cornell students for his inspiring and idiosyncratic teaching style, compassionate mentorship and the signature black sunglasses he wore to class, died April 24 after a brief illness. He was 61.

Mankin, associate professor emeritus of classics, was the longtime instructor of Greek Mythology, a perennially oversubscribed course with an enthusiastic following. Many students described it as one of the most memorable and meaningful courses of their Cornell careers.

He was a scholar of Latin prose and poetry, with publications including commentaries on the “Epodes of Horace” (Cambridge University Press, 1995) and on the concluding book of Cicero’s “On the Orator” (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

“Dave Mankin’s knowledge of Latin authors and scholarship was superb, and he was strongly committed to undergraduate teaching; students took his classes in droves, and recommended them to their friends,” said Hunter R. Rawlings III, Cornell president emeritus and professor emeritus of classics. “In this era of declining enrollments in humanities courses, Dave Mankin countered the trend with remarkable success.”

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Tue, 04/30/2019 - 3:11pm by Erik Shell.

"The Landscape of Rome's Literature"
Seminar at the annual conference of the Association of Literary, Scholars, Critics, and Writers (ALSCW) 
Oct. 3-6, 2019 

The College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA
http://alscw.org/events/annual-conference/alscw-2019-conference/

This call for papers is for the seminar "The Landscape of Rome's Literature," one of many seminars that will occur during the ALSCW 2019 annual conference.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 04/30/2019 - 10:25am by Erik Shell.

Pages

Latest Stories

Calls for Papers
The Classical Association of Ghana
Calls for Papers
Honor and Shame in Classical Antiquity
Calls for Papers
Sailing with the Gods: Religion and Maritime Mobility in the Ancient

© 2019, Society for Classical Studies Privacy Policy