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CALÍOPE Vol. 19, No. 1, 2014: 7-9 In Memoriam Elias L. Rivers (September 19, 1924-December 21, 2013) T he field of Renaissance and Baroque Hispanic poetry lost a brilliant scholar and generous mentor with the death of Elias L. Rivers, a founding member of the Society for Renaissance and Baroque Hispanic Poetry. Highlights of his distinguished career are his significant editions and studies of major poets; his mentorship of younger scholars; and his leadership in international collaboration. He was a co-founder of the Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas and took on leading roles for nearly three decades, as Secretary General (1962-1980), Vice President (1980-1986), and President (1986-1989). In 2009, he was named Presidente de Honor. Throughout his career, he was awarded well-deserved research support and honors, from a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1959 and support for numerous NEH research and mentoring projects, to the Universidad de Salamanca’s Nebrija Prize in 1992. He was elected miembro correspondiente of the Real Academia Española in 2009. A central theme of Elias’ illuminating readings of Spanish poetry of the Renaissance and Baroque was the intersection of writing and Elias L. Rivers at the VIIth SRBHP Conference University of Miami, 2005. Photo: Inés Azar In Memoriam 8 orality. This interest drew him to the work of Walter Ong and Jacques Derrida, but his predisposition toward the “linguistic turn” of the 1970s began much earlier, during his bilingual childhood on James Island, near Charleston, South Carolina, where he grew up speaking English and Gullah, the creole language spoken by the African-American community in coastal regions of Georgia and South Carolina. Thus, while developing the passionate interest in literature that led him to Paradise Lost and the Aeneid in Latin, he was also fluent in a language and culture without a written literature at the time. His consciousness of the possibilities for diversity among languages and dialects was heightened by his study of Mandarin at Georgetown University; his fluency was honed during military service in the Signal Corps in Kunming, China, a strategic point on the Burma Road during the Second World War. He had studied French, Latin and Greek at the College of Charleston, and after the war, he completed his A.B. degree in Spanish at Yale University, under the guidance of R. Selden Rose and José Juan Arrom. At Yale, where W. K. Wimsatt was promoting the “New Criticism,” Elias began his formal study of Spanish literature with Rafael Lapesa and Dámaso Alonso, and earned the M.A. in 1950 and Ph.D. in 1952. With research support from Yale, he published a study of the poetry of “El divino Capitán,” Francisco de Aldana, in 1955, followed by an edition of Aldana’s poetry in 1957. Elias’ authority in the field was established by his critical edition of Garcilaso de la Vega’s Obras completas (1974). He made the conceptual and sensual beauty of Spanish Renaissance and Baroque poetry accessible to generations of students through his bilingual edition of Renaissance and Baroque Poetry of Spain, which appeared in 1966 and remains unequalled in its usefulness; and through his editions and critical guides to the works of Garcilaso, Fray Luis de León, Quevedo, and Sor Juana. His critical essays in Quixotic Scriptures, Muses and Masks, and Talking and Text highlight his concern with the social context of learned poetic language as a literary ideal, and changing valuations and practices of literary genre, with particular attention throughout his career to the sonnet and the silva. He began his teaching career at Dartmouth (1952-62) and The Ohio State University (1962-64). At Johns Hopkins University, he met his second wife, the distinguished sorjuanista Georgina SabatRivers , whom he married in 1969. Georgina’s wit and energy were the In Memoriam 9 perfect complement to Elias’s quiet, dignified demeanor. As chair of the Department of Romance Languages from 1970-78, and as a member of the editorial board of MLN from 1965-78, Elias was exceptional among Hispanists at the time in fostering an environment in which semiotics and deconstruction flourished among faculty and graduate students. In 1970, I was one of those...


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