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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Asclepius, his sons, daughters, and Hygeia in the background with a family of worshippers. Votive Relief from the 4th cent. BCE. National Archaeological Museum of 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 10 countries, including Canada, U.K., Italy, Greece, Belgium, Ghana, Puerto Rico, Argentina, and India.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 06/24/2021 - 5:17pm by .

Revised 9/23/21 with updated submission deadline of Friday February 18, 2022.

As previously announced, Patrice Rankine and Sasha-Mae Eccleston will serve as guest editors of a future issue of TAPA with the theme of race, racism, and Classics (issue 153:1, to appear April 2023). Covid-19 and the global Movement 4 Black Lives have highlighted the extent to which racism is a public health emergency whose reach extends across the Black Atlantic and far beyond. In light of these deeply imbricated developments of 2020 (and 2021), this volume becomes even more timely. A detailed call for papers, along with instructions for submission, follows.

Race and Racism: Beyond the Spectacular

"…the “cultural logic” of lynching enables it to emerge and persist throughout the modern era because its violence “fit” within the broader, national cultural developments. This synchronicity captures why I refer to lynching as “spectacular”: the violence made certain cultural developments and tensions visible for Americans to confront."

Jacqueline Goldsby, A Spectacular Secret: Lynching in American Life and Literature

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 06/24/2021 - 8:49am by Helen Cullyer.
Scene from Lil Nas X's music video for MONTERO. A distorted image of a landscape with red trees, large ancient statues, and ancient buildings.

On the eve of March 26th, rapper and internet personality Lil Nas X dropped his newest single, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” which caused immense controversy in its wake. At its heart is a young, gay Black man’s anthem about self-expression, resembling a “coming-out song.” Lil Nas X himself implied this in a letter to his younger self, posted alongside the song’s release. The title references the 2017 film Call Me By Your Name (based on the 2007 André Aciman novel) about the summer relationship between a Classics professor’s son and doctoral student.

This allusion to the film is not the only sidelong glance that Lil Nas X gives to the Classics. One of the first establishing shots of the video shows the landscape of “MONTERO” littered with classically-inspired architecture:

A distorted image of a bleak landscape filled with ancient statues and ruins

View full article. | Posted in on Tue, 06/22/2021 - 8:51am by Vanessa Ruth Stovall.

The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities The Hebrew University of Jerusalem cordially invite you to a Joint Conference on

Orality and Literacy XIV: Textualization

Sunday-Wednesday June 20-23, 2021

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Mon, 06/21/2021 - 1:45pm by Erik Shell.

(Originally posted on haverford.edu)

Aryeh Kosman, Haverford's John Whitehead Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, died early [June 17] of complications following a fall. He was 85.

After receiving his undergraduate and M.A. degrees at the University of California, Berkeley, he briefly studied at Hebrew University before earning his Ph.D. from Harvard University. He joined the Haverford faculty as an assistant professor in 1962, was promoted to full professor in 1973, became the Whitehead Professor in 1987, and retired in 2010.

"Aryeh was a star in Greek Philosophy," says Joel Yurdin, Haverford associate professor of philosophy. "Many of his articles are required reading for anyone writing on the topic, and they covered virtually every area of the field, including metaphysics, ethics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of science." Such scholarship led to visiting professorships at Princeton, UCLA, and Berkeley and, in 1985, an award for distinguished teaching from the Lindback Foundation. That honor affirmed what, by then, thousands of Fords already knew: Prof. Kosman was thoroughly devoted to his Haverford students.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Mon, 06/21/2021 - 10:20am by Erik Shell.

Call for Fellows: Data Visualizations Using the D’Argenio Collection

Seton Hall University – University Libraries (Fall 2021)
Application Deadline: July 15, 2021
Fellowship Period: Fall 2021

Background

Seton Hall University Libraries support excellence in academic and individual work, enable inquiry, foster intellectual and ethical integrity and respect for diverse points of view through user-focused services and robust collections as the intellectual and cultural heart of the University.  Walsh Gallery, based in the Library, manages the University’s museum collections, and the Library’s Data Services division assists the University community in managing and presenting their data.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Wed, 06/16/2021 - 10:55am by Erik Shell.

The ACLS is running two searches this summer at ACLS. They seek a Program Officer in International Programs (regular ongoing staff position) and a Program Officer in Higher Education Initiatives (two year term).

These positions are excellent for classics Ph.D.s looking to stay in academic contexts but do a different kind of work from teaching and researching.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Wed, 06/16/2021 - 10:53am by Erik Shell.

The SCS Board of Directors has co-signed the following statement, which has been authored jointly by the American Association of University Professors, the American Historical Association, the Association of American Colleges & Universities, and PEN America. As of June 16, 2021, 80 organizations have endorsed the statement.

You can read the full text and list of signatories below and read the press release by the American Historical Association here

June 16, 2021

We, the undersigned associations and organizations, state our firm opposition to a spate of legislative proposals being introduced across the country that target academic lessons, presentations, and discussions of racism and related issues in American history in schools, colleges and universities. These efforts have taken varied shape in at least 20 states; but often the legislation aims to prohibit or impede the teaching and education of students concerning what are termed “divisive concepts.” These divisive concepts as defined in numerous bills are a litany of vague and indefinite buzzwords and phrases including, for example, “that any individual should feel or be made to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological or emotional distress on account of that individual’s race or sex.” These legislative efforts are deeply troubling for numerous reasons.

View full article. | Posted in Public Statements on Wed, 06/16/2021 - 7:09am by Helen Cullyer.

TLL Fellowship 2021-2022 Application Cycle

Supported by a Generous Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 06/15/2021 - 5:16pm by Erik Shell.

Call for papers: Human Crime and Divine Punishment in Ancient Didactic poetry

Trinity College Dublin, 10-11 March 2022

As has long been observed, ancient Didactic poetry is not merely a vehicle to convey technical information and instruction. Justice and the place of humanity in the cosmos are already central concerns of Hesiod’s Works and Days, which attributes the harsh realities of agricultural life to a history of transgression, moral decline, and punishment. Similar questions continue to fascinate his didactic successors, who not only develop Hesiodic material, for instance in the departure of Justice from Earth in Aratus’ Phaenomena, but also explore other manifestations of divine intervention, such as through myths of metamorphosis and catasterism. In some didactic poems, such as Virgil’s Georgics or Oppian’s Halieutica, the pursuit of their subject matter itself poses the risk of violating ethical norms or overstepping mortal boundaries.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 06/15/2021 - 5:09pm by Erik Shell.

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