In Memoriam Robert Germany

In Memoriam

Robert Germany

Robert Germany (PhD '08), Associate Professor of Classics at Haverford College, PA, died of acute cardiac arrest on March 7, 2017 while exercising.  He was 42 years old.

Robert was born on November 8, 1974 in Corpus Christi, TX, to Elizabeth (Davis) Germany and the late William Germany.  Recipient of the Ruth and Myron G. Kuhlman Scholarship in Classics at the University of Texas at Austin, Robert took his B.A. in 2000, graduating with Highest Honors, and, the next autumn, enrolled in doctoral studies in Classics at the University of Chicago, with support from several fellowships (the Daniel Shorey Fellowship and the Mellon Fellowship, superseded by the Doris Liebman Fellowship). His initial plans were to pursue research in Greek Religion, which he had studied as a visiting student with Fritz Graf in Basel (1998-99), but within his first year, Robert found his passion in the study Latin Literature, and especially Roman Comedy.  Robert retained an interest in Greek and German literature, publishing two articles as a doctoral student in which Robert’s unique approach to poetics emerged (“The Figure of Echo in the Homeric Hymn to Pan,” American Journal of Philology 126.2 (2005) and “Virgilian Retrospection in Goethe’s Alexis und Dora,” Goethe Yearbook 15 (2008)).  At the end of his time in Chicago, Robert taught at Trinity University in San Antonio (2006-8), where he became friends with many of the faculty, and had the opportunity to rekindle his friendship with his former teacher at UT-Austin, the Homerist Erwin Cook, with whom Robert would share many conversations over many years.  In 2008, he completed his Ph.D. dissertation under the supervision of Shadi Bartsch, David Wray, and Jaś Elsner. A revised version of his dissertation has recently appeared in print, as Mimetic Contagion: Art and Artifice in Terence’s Eunuchus (Oxford University Press, 2016).

In 2008, Robert took up an Assistant Professorship of Classics at Haverford College, where he settled down with his family, gaining tenure in 2015.  While at Haverford, Robert’s research into the Greek and Roman Theater began to move beyond metatheatrical poetics, and to consider how the restrictions of time and space affected the themes and subjectivities of the characters on the stage.  For Robert, metatheatricality allowed characters (and actors, by proxy) to reflect upon their fate as “creatures of a day”, and to investigate the transitory nature of human existence from various philosophical perspectives.  Several important articles have emerged from this research (“The Unity of Time in Menander,” in A. Sommerstein, ed. Menander in Contexts (Routledge, 2014); “All the World’s a Stage: Contemplatio Mundi in Roman Theater,” in P. S. Horky, ed. Cosmos in the Ancient World (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming)) which suggest the work that Robert would have done for his second monograph, The Unity of Time: Temporal Mimesis in Ancient and Modern Theater.  Articles on the contexts of Roman Comedy also appeared in recent years (“Civic Reassignment of Space,” in S. Frangoulidis, S. J. Harrison, G. Manuwald, eds. Roman Drama and its Contexts (De Gruyter, 2016); “Andria”, in A. Augoustakis, Ariana Traill, eds. A Companion to Terence (Blackwell, 2013)).  It is expected that Robert’s unpublished papers will be edited and published at a later date.

Robert was a consummate teacher whose legacy is guaranteed by the dynamism of his students.  He taught frequently as a graduate student at Chicago, and during the memorable spring quarter of 2003 was the TA for the study-abroad course in Athens, where he claims to have learned that teaching could be a “full body sport”, involving holistic education in any and every circumstance.  After Athens, he was never content to restrict teaching to the classroom, or restrict classroom teaching to traditional methods, and constantly strove to break the artificial bonds that separated students from the material they were studying. Robert’s house was always full – of students, visiting friends, children, animals, food, drink, and conversation.  He was a model of hospitality to all who met him.  His hospitality extended beyond people to ideas, as he modelled a willingness to entertain and explore, which infected his students with a true love of learning.  At Haverford in 2009, he developed and co-taught a course “Culture and Crisis in the Golden Age of Athens” with colleague Bret Mulligan, which involved the students in weeks of character development and role-playing, for which Robert and Bret received the Haverford “Innovation in Teaching” award in 2011.  This past year, in which Robert was teaching one of those “full body” classes, he joyfully said that this was the best teaching he had ever had the privilege to do, and that he loved every minute of it.

Robert and his family travelled extensively in 2015-16, visiting several countries in Africa and Europe and taking up residence in Oxford as a visiting scholar.  Inspired by his four-month stay in Ethiopia, Robert was planning next to write an article on the Ethiopic translation of the Greek bestiary Phisiologus and the surprising relationship between the “three natures” of the lion and Chalcedonian theology, an indication of his undying curiosity and constant development as a scholar.  His final public lecture, “The Unity of Time in Terence’s Hecyra”, was held at the Franke Institute, University of Chicago, on February 25, 2017.  In an email to P.S. Horky on that day, he wrote:

“Do you remember one very cold day [in 2001] when we were walking past the Quad[rangle] Club together shivering and one of us made some comment about how comfy it looked and how nice it must be to have "arrived" that way?  I distinctly remember you saying the day would come when I would stay there as a guest of the university.  I thought, well, that's sweet of him to say, a little hard to imagine right now.  Not that I thought it sounded impossible, more like there was a gulf separating me from any such possible future, a gulf I didn't know how to bridge. Well, I still feel pretty far from "arriving" in that sense, but anyway you were right.” 

Robert was proud of his Chicago education and experiences; he had indeed arrived.  He is survived by his mother Elizabeth, his wife Dianna, and his four children, Grace, Ada, Elias, and Jack.  He is also survived by a cadre of friends and former students, several of whom have gone on to become Classicists themselves.  A member of the Antiochean Orthodox Church, Robert believed that the highest virtue was love – for God, family, friend, and stranger.  Imitating him was contagious.


P. S. Horky (Durham University; A.M. Chicago 2002) and D. LaValle Norman (Magdalen College, Oxford University; A.B. Chicago 2005)