North American Scholar

DAY, James Hoffman

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1927-11-27
  • Born City: McAlester
  • Born State/Country: OK
  • Parents: Roy Rufus, a meter-reader with Gulf Oil Co., & Eunice Nichol D.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1990-12-18
  • Death City: Poughkeepsie
  • Death State/Country: NY
  • Married: Susan Hammond, 8 Aug. 1959
  • Education:

    B.A. U. Oklahoma, 1952; study at Magdalen Coll., Oxford (Fulbright fell.), 1952-3; A.M. Harvard, 1955; Ph.D. U. Chicago, 1960.

  • Professional Experience:

    Lectr. to prof. Vassar, 1958-74; Matthew Vassar prof., 1974-90.

  • Dissertation:

    “Historical Method in Aristotle's Athenaion Politeia” (Chicago, 1960).

  • Publications:

    “Accidents in Aristotle, Ath. Pol. 26.1,” TAPA 92 (1961) 52-65; Aristotle's History of Athenian Democracy, with M. Chambers (Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1962); “Giovanni Conversini's Consolatio ad Donatum on the Death of Petrarch,” with B. J. Kohl, Studies in the Renaissance 21 (1974) 9-30; Two Court Treatises, etc., with B. J. Kohl (Munich, 1987).

  • Notes:

    After taking his B.A., Day studied at Magdalen College, Oxford, especially with Colin Hardie, the editor of the Appendix Vergiliana. From 1953 to 1955 he did graduate work at Harvard; he then held a traveling fellowship and lived mainly in Rome. He moved to the University of Chicago, where he had the perception that underlay his first book. He saw an intimate connection between Aristotle's political philosophy, in the Politics, and his teleologically informed history of the state in the Athenaion Politeia. Earlier scholars, testing whether there was a harmony between the two works, had seen little more than a generally conservative political stance. From this study arose his dissertation and the expanded treatment of the subject in the book by him and Mortimer Chambers. His other important contributions might well escape the attention of classicists. With his Vassar colleague, the historian Benjamin Kohl, Day published editiones principes and translations of three works of the Renaissance humanist Giovanni Conversini da Ravenna: first a letter of consolation (1374) to Donato Albanzani after the death of Petrarch, then two treatises about life at the Carrara court in Padua, “De primo eius introitu ad aulam” (1385) and “De dilectione regnantium” (1399). Day was mainly responsible for the collations of the MSS, the English translations, and the succinct apparatus criticus, with its many successful emendations; the commentary is by Kohl. The book is surely indispensable to students of court life and of Renaissance humanism.Day was a demanding, precise teacher. Language, the meaning and implications (including the political implications) of every word were his consuming passion. His wit was lustily Irish and he often visited Dublin to savor Irish rhetoric. He read widely in modern literature (James, Pound, Compton-Burnett) and was a connoisseur of classical music, especially singing. In later years his health, weakened by heavy smoking, forbade travel, and he was seldom seen outside his home or classroom, but he remained an unforgettably sparkling, uproarious personality

  • Sources:

    Memorial Minute, Vassar College; NYTimes (22 Dec. 1990) B 3; personal knowledge.

  • Author: Mortimer Chambers