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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"The Roman Republic in the Long Fourth Century"
May 16–18, 2019
Princeton University
111 East Pyne
Princeton, New Jersey (USA)
 
 

"The Roman Republic in the Long Fourth Century" investigates the transformation of the Roman Republic from the sack of Rome in 387 BCE to the war against Carthage in 264 BCE. As has long been recognized, this crucial moment saw the formation of the Republican state's political structures. Less acknowledged is that this political transformation accompanied radical changes in Rome’s society and economy, as well as in the very character of its cultural production. The aim of this conference is to offer a timely reassessment of state formation in this period and to relate this dynamic process to a wider context of change. The result will be a more holistic view, highlighting the period’s significance for our understanding of the Roman Republican history and providing a basis for future study.

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Tue, 04/30/2019 - 9:52am by Erik Shell.
Lived Ancient Religion in North Africa
 
University Carlos III of Madrid
19-21 February 2020
 
Organised by
Valentino Gasparini & María Fernández Portaencasa
(Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)

Call For Papers (ENGLISH)

The LARNA project (Lived Ancient Religion in North Africa), based at the Institute of Historiography ‘Julio Caro Baroja’ (University Carlos III of Madrid) and funded the Autonomous Community of Madrid, invites researchers of ancient history, history of religion, archaeology, anthropology, classical studies, and further related fields to discuss the topic of Lived Ancient Religion in North Africa.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 04/29/2019 - 2:51pm by Erik Shell.

Multi-Society Statement on Proposed Cuts at the University of Tulsa

The undersigned associations urge the University of Tulsa to reconsider and rescind its recent recommendations calling for the elimination of undergraduate majors in philosophy, religion, theater, musical theater, music, languages, law, and of several graduate and doctoral programs, including those in anthropology, fine arts, history, and women’s and gender studies and to eliminate undergraduate minors in ancient languages and classical studies.

View full article. | Posted in Public Statements on Mon, 04/29/2019 - 9:09am by Erik Shell.

The new Classics Everywhere initiative, recently launched by the SCS, supports projects that seek to introduce and engage communities all over the US with the worlds of Greek and Roman antiquity in new and meaningful ways. During the first round of applications, the SCS funded 13 projects, ranging from performances and a cinema series to educational programs and inter-institutional collaborations. In this blog post, we aim to highlight three programs in which Classicists are sharing the joy of studying Greece and Rome with their communities..

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 04/25/2019 - 9:12pm by Mallory Monaco Caterine.
We would like to alert classicists to a recently-identified website (classicalbulletin.org) that presents itself as that of The Classical Bulletin (a now-defunct periodical) and offers open-access publication for a fee. The site fraudulently uses logos and trademarks, and the names of institutions and individuals, including the names of alleged editors.  Institutions named include The Canadian Classical Bulletin, two Xavier Universities, the Institute of Classical Studies in London, and Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. None of the institutions or persons mentioned have any connection to the website.  Thanks to @rogueclassicist for uncovering the details.
 
The official site of the Canadian Classical Bulletin is: http://www.cac-scec.website/canadian-classical-bulletin-ccb/
 
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View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 04/25/2019 - 12:38pm by Erik Shell.

12th Annnual West Coast Plato Workshop

San Diego State University, 24-26 May

Friday (May 24)

3-4:30pm: Drinks and Refreshments

5-6:30pm: Keynote Public Lecture: Deborah Modrak (University of Rochester)

7-9pm: Dinner for Speakers, Commentators, and Chairs


Saturday (May 25)

9-9:30am: Coffee and Refreshments

9:30-10:45: Invited Speaker: Adam Beresford (University of Massachusetts at Boston)

Commentator: Jan Szaif (University of California at Davis)

11-12:10pm: Oksana Maksymchuk (University of Arkansas): An Anthropological Defense of the Measure Doctrine in the Protagoras

Commentator: Grant Dowling (Stanford University)

12:15-1:30pm: Lunch and Business Meeting

1:45-2:55: Marta Jimenez (Emory University): Protagoras and Socrates on Courage and Knowledge

Commentator: Ryan Drake (Fairfield University)

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Mon, 04/22/2019 - 9:35am by Erik Shell.

(Republished from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

In a career that lasted over 70 years, Jerry Clack wore many different hats.

From a youthful stint at the Swedish Legation in Washington and four years with UNESCO to public relations and accounting positions with AAA, Coca-Cola and the American Heart Association, he went on to assume directorship of Allegheny County’s chapter of The March of Dimes in 1953. His 15-year tenure with March of Dimes saw the development of two anti-polio vaccines, that of Jonas Salk at University of Pittsburgh and the oral vaccine of Albert Sabin.

Mr. Clack died Monday at Shadyside Hospital due to heart failure.

The son of Mildred Taylor Van Dyke of Pittsburgh and Christopher Thrower Clack of Boydton, Virginia, Mr. Clack was born in New York City on July 22, 1926. Because his father was a foreign representative of the Pittsburgh-based Blaw-Knox Company, he spent his early years in Europe, mostly in London and Dusseldorf. After his father’s death, he returned with his mother to Pittsburgh, attending the Fulton School and Peabody High School.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Mon, 04/22/2019 - 8:43am by Erik Shell.

by T. H. M. Gellar-Goad and Christopher B. Polt

In this post, Profs. Gellar-Goad and Polt clarify their position in the debate over holding the annual CAMWS meeting at BYU for the 2023 annual meeting and why they view BYU as an unsafe conference site for LGTBQ+ classicists.

On Saturday, April 20, the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS) rescinded its earlier decision to hold part of its annual meeting on the campus of Brigham Young University (BYU) during its 2023 conference in Provo, Utah.

CAMWS leadership had selected Brigham Young University (BYU) to host its 2023 annual meeting — despite the fact that serious concerns about the safety and inclusion of its LGBTQ+ members at such a conference site were voiced before and after that decision was made — and dismissed repeated requests for compromise that would safeguard LGBTQ+ colleagues. Over the last 18 months we tried to work with, and within the structure of, CAMWS to address this issue quietly and amicably. We did so in an attempt to save everyone a great deal of anguish and to avoid unnecessary negative attention for the Classicists at BYU. Ultimately, however, we felt compelled to call on CAMWS publicly to change course, and CAMWS leadership did so only in the face of significant public pressure by Classicists across the world.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 04/22/2019 - 8:13am by T. H. M. Gellar-Goad.
Eta Sigma Phi students, Callie Todhunter, Noah Andrys, and Myles Young, staff the Homerathon booth at the University of Iowa

For a number of years, our local Eta Sigma Phi chapter has been organizing public readings of the sorts of things classicists cut their teeth on – or at least feel like we do: Homer’s epics, Vergil, Ovid. These have always been a wonderful experience for our department – everyone involved loves the opportunity to read and hear these works as they were meant. We decided that this year we wanted to reach a different and larger audience than before, inspired by the outreach of, among others, Bob Cargill and the University of Nebraska's Homerathon tradition (which the SCS Blog covered last year). Literature and art flourish in Iowa City, a UNESCO City of Literature, which is also the home of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and many artists. Why not ask them, as well as people in our community, to join us? One of our guiding principles was that Homer belongs to everyone, not just classicists.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 04/18/2019 - 10:56pm by Rosemary Moore.

"Writing Ancient and Medieval Same-Sex Desire: Goals, Methods, Challenges"
June 30-July 2, 2020
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

https://cms.victoria.ac.nz/slc/about/events/writing-ancient-and-medieval-same-sex-desire-goals,-methods,-challenges

This call for papers is for a conference to take place June 30-July 2, 2020 at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, on the topic of writing about same-sex desire in ancient and medieval societies.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 04/17/2019 - 9:03am by Erik Shell.

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