North American Scholar

MARBLESTONE, Howard J

  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1942-07-12
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 2008-01-29
  • Death City: Allentown
  • Death State/Country: PA
  • Education:

    B.A. Cornell, 1964; Ph.D. Brandeis, 1970.  

  • Professional Experience:

    Asst. prof. class., U. Illinois, 1968-72; Brooklyn Coll., 1972-74; asso. prof. to prof., Lafayette College, 1974-2008; Charles Elliott Prof. For. Langs.; adv. Counc. Nat. Cent. Hebrew Langs; Lindbuck Dist. Teaching Award, 2001.

  • Dissertation:

    “Dictys Cretensis: A Study of the ‘Ephemeris Bella Troiani’ as a Cretan Pseudepigraphon” (Brandeis, 1970)

  • Publications:

    “ ‘Matauitatau’ in Petronius, ‘Satyricon’ 62.9: Crux Interpretum,”  Boundaries of the Ancient Near Eastern World: A Tribute to Cyrus H. Gordon, ed. Meir Lubetski [et al.] (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998) 493-510; “Cyrus Herzl Gordon in Memoriam: 29. 6. 1908-30. 3. 2001,” UF 32 (2000) xi-xxxvi.

  • Notes:

    Howard Marblestone was one of a kind at Lafayette College, because he was not, like the rest of us, simply one member of a depart­ment. Rather, he was a department. He was Classics at Lafayette. What is more, he combined his mastery as a teacher of Greek and Latin with an equally masterful ability to teach Hebrew, as well as his various broader courses in Classical literature, mythology, and ancient Mediterranean civilization. Those subjects he had ex­plored with relish under his great mentor at Brandeis, Cyrus Gordon, one of the twentieth century's most dis­tinguished and influential scholars of ancient Near East­ern languages and cultures. Gordon's deep and lasting impact was salient in Howard's teaching and writings; he so clearly shared—and, indeed, perpetuated— Gordon's famous vision of a grand "synthesis" of Hel­lenic and Hebraic cultures that prevailed in the ancient Mediterranean world. In words that would apply equally well to his own view, Howard once wrote of Gordon's: "This vision consists in his perception of patterns and paradigms within the welter of linguistic and cultural ar­tifacts, his establishment of significant interconnections among diverse cultures, and, above all, his reasoned 'multiculturalism.' [He] demonstrated that ancient cultures matured and attained their distinctive character, in relation to, and not in romantic isolation from, each other."In his intellectual disposition, Howard was a walking intercultural, inter-linguistic synthesis, with an irrepress­ible habit of interweaving Greek, Latin, and Hebrew quotations and phrasings into everyday conversation and e-mail missives. It was not uncommon, in fact, to re­ceive from Howard whole e-mail messages in pristinely eloquent Latin prose. This habit carried over to what he would inscribe when giving you a copy of a newly pub­lished article of his. As an expression of his abundant kindness, any one of these inscriptions could fuel its recipient's undeserving ego for weeks. One off-print I have bears the inscription: Erico iucundissimo ac doctissimo—which translates as: "To the most delight­ful and learned Eric!" Another reads: Amico maxime dilecto—"To [my] most esteemed friend." You can see how receiving an off-print from Howard could really make one's day.Bluntly stated, Howard was invaluable to our institu­tion—and irreplaceable. More purely than anyone else, he gave true substance to the College's espousal of hu­manistic values and Liberal Arts ideals. I never sat in on a class of his, though I passed by and heard him from the hallway countless times, and knew many of his stu­dents. All of them spoke in awe of the breadth and depth of his knowledge.What they told me merely supported what I came to know firsthand. For I too was a student of Howard's. I personally benefited beyond measure from his gener­ous, selfless willingness over the years to teach me He­brew independently, one-on-one, in countless sessions in his office, or over lunch at the Faculty Dining Room or at Tracy's diner down the street. He was an aston­ishingly effective explicator of linguistic subtleties and nuances, who could draw his pupil into, and create an uncanny aura of reality around, the whole vanished world that had yielded the ancient text under consideration. Surely that explains why, not too long after reading with him in Hebrew the tale of Joseph and his brothers, I had the most peculiar dream that I was trapped alone in a cistern. Howard's passion for his philological vocation accounts for the leadership role he assumed in his professional society, the Classical Association of the Atlantic States: CAAS. In 1996 he invited me to preside over a session on Latin literature at CAAS's annual meeting, of which he was that year's organizer. From my uncle, who taught Classics at George Washington University and was a long-time CAAS member, I had heard how cherished Howard was within that Association. I saw this myself at the conference, which was held at Lafayette. The conference, in Farinon, was heavily attended, and wher­ever one looked, Howard was there. He was ubiqui­tous, mingling with everyone, making sure that all was right, meticulously overseeing every facet of that won­derfully successful event. And over and over, the vari­ous teachers and scholars I met there spoke reverently of him, his work, and his devotion to their Association, and they remarked how fortunate Lafayette was to have such a person on our faculty.

  • Sources:

    APA Newsletter (April 2008) 9, 11; Amy Richlin, CW 101,4 (2007-2008) 546.

  • Author: Eric Ziolkowski