North American Scholar

UHLFELDER, Myra L.

  • Image
  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1923-09-16
  • Born City: Cincinnati
  • Born State/Country: OH
  • Parents: Sol & Rhea U
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 2011-12-20
  • Death City: Centerville
  • Death State/Country: OH
  • Education:

    A.B., U. of Cincinnati, 1945; M.A., 1946; Ph.D., Bryn Mawr, 1952.

  • Professional Experience:

    Instr. class., Sweet Briar Coll., 1950-2; instr. to asst. prof., State U. of Iowa, 1952-63; asso, prof. Latin, 1963-72; prof. Latin, Bryn Mawr, 1972-91; Guggenheim fell, 1958-9.

  • Dissertation: Array
  • Publications:

    “University of Michigan Latin Workshop,” CW 46 (1952) 3-5; “Further Thoughts on Caesar and Latinity,” CJ 50 (154) 65-6; “Medea, Ariadne and Dido,” CJ 50 (1955) 310-12; “The Romans on Linguistic Change,” CJ 59 (1963) 23-30; “'Nature' in Roman Linguistic Texts,” TAPA 97 (1966) 583-95; John the Scot, Periphyseon: On the Division of Nature (trans.) with summaries by Jean A. Potter, Library of Liberal Arts 157 (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1976); The Dialogues of Gregory the Great: Book Two, Saint Benedict (New York: Macmillan, 1986); The Consolation of Philosophy as Cosmic Image (Tempe, AZ: ACMRS, 2016).  

  • Notes:

    Myra Uhlfelder graduated from University of Cincinnati in 1945 with high honors in Classics, received a MA in 1946, and continued at Cincinnati as a doctoral student through 1947. At that time she won a year's fellowship for study at Bryn Mawr College, and then a Rome Prize at the American Academy in Rome for the years 1948-50. The Academy was newly reopened after WW II; there she overlapped with the painter Philip Guston, among others, and excavated at Cosa in the first of the Academy's many seasons at that site. In the event, after her Academy experience, Uhlfelder finished her graduate degree work at Bryn Mawr, receiving a PhD in 1952.

    Lawrence Richardson in his (highly candid) memoirs of post-WWII American Academy life described Uhlfelder as "a brilliant Latinist who worked chiefly in late antiquity with difficult writers such as Martianus Capella. Everyone loved Myra and admired her, but it was almost impossible to penetrate her shell of defense. She worked very hard at everything she did, but she could evince a light touch and a considerable wit, never talking about her work unless you brought up the subject first. She was the adored pupil of [Bryn Mawr medievalist] Berthe Marti and was much loved by [AAR professor-in-charge] Frank Brown, but she seemed to live in fear of being patronized, if not in her scholarship, then in her lack of sophistication and would hide behind a facade of naiveté and simplicity.  I remember that Frank Brown discovered that she loved zuppa di pesce and that on the eve of her departure [from the Academy] he gave a dinner in her honor with that as the piece de resistance.  Although she was too shy to enjoy being lionized, her gratitude sparkled in her eyes. When she returned to this country she first taught at lowa, but then moved to Bryn Mawr, where I believe she spent the rest of her career. Those of her pupils whom I have met have all adored her and speak of her selflessness."

    At Bryn Mawr, for 28 years Myra Uhlfelder taught both Classical and Medieval Latin at a high level and, as Richardson states, won the respect and admiration of her students. But in the life of the college she was overshadowed by more charismatic colleagues in the departments of Greek, Latin, and Classical & Near Eastern Archaeology, and so the number of those students was not great. When Uhlfelder retired in 1991, the Bryn Mawr administration replaced her position in the Latin Department and that of recent emerita Mabel Lang in the Greek Department with a single appointment, in Greek and Roman history. Uhlfelder marked her retirement from Bryn Mawr in spectacular fashion; after attending her final commencement in 1991, she walked out of her office—leaving the door ajar and what seemed to puzzled colleagues all her books and papers on the shelves—and then drove her car to her sister's home in Centerville OH, where she lived for the next 20 years. After retirement Uhlfelder focused on Boethius; her last work, The Consolation of Philosophy as Cosmic Image, was published posthumously in 2016.

     

  • Sources:

    DAS 8:536; Lawrence Richardson Jr., The American Academy 1947-56. Reopening and Reorientation: A Personal Reminiscence (Rome: The American Academy in Rome, 2012); personal knowledge.

  • Author: Ward W. Briggs, Jr. and (Notes) T. Corey Brennan