All Scholars

NETHERCUT, William Robert

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  • Date of Birth: January 11, 1936
  • Born City: Rockford
  • Born State/Country: IL
  • Parents: Robert, a railway engineer, & Constance, a Spanish teacher, N.
  • Date of Death: August 14, 2020
  • Death City: Austin
  • Death State/Country: TX
  • Married: Jane Swann, July 1977.
  • Education:

    A.B. (magna cum laude) Harvard, 1958; study at New England Conservatory of Music, 1958-60; Ph.D. Columbia, 1963. 

  • Dissertation:

    “Propertius and Augustus” (Columbia, 1963).

  • Professional Experience:

    Instr. to asst. prof. classics, Columbia, 1961-7; asso. prof. U. of Georgia, 1967-72; prof., 1972-5; prof. U. of Texas, Austin, 1975-2020.

  • Publications:

    Ille parum cauti pectoris egit opus,” TAPA 92 (1961) 389-407; “Vergil's Dove,” CB 41 (1965) 65-8; “Sappho's Rose-Fingered Moon. A Note,” with A.L. Weld, Arion 5 (1966) 28-31; “A New Look at Ovid,” CO 45 (1967-8)     ; “Petronius, Epicurean and Moralist,” CB 43 (1967) 53-5; “The Conclusion of Lucretius' Fifth Book. Further Remarks,” CJ 63 (1967) 97-106; “Trees and Identify in Aeneid viii and Bucolic ii,” Vergilius 13 (1967) 16-27; “Dionysus' Vote for Aeschylus,” CB 44 (1968) 81-4; “Elegiac Technique in Propertius iv,1,71-150,” WS n.s. 2 (1968) 92-7; “Invasion in the Aeneid,” G&R15 (1968) 82-95; “Mountains and Mediterranean Temple Sites,” Explorers Journal (New York Explorer’s Club) 46 (1968) 2-16; “Notes on the Structure of Propertius, Book iv,” AJP 89 (1968) 449-64; “Propertius i,21,5-6,” CP 63 (1968) 141-3; “Vergil and Horace in Bucolic 7,” CW 62 (1968) 93-8; “Apuleius' Literary Art. Resonance and Depth in the Metamorphoses,” CJ 64 (1968) 110-19; “Additions to the Search for Augustan Influence in Livy,” CB 45 (1969) 33-7; “Apuleius'Metamorphoses. The Journey,” Agon 97 (1969) 97-134; “Menalcas' Answer. The Hyacinth in Bucolic3.106-107,” CJ 65 (1970) 248-54; “Propertius 3.12-14,” CP 65 (1970) 99-102; “The Astrological Significance of Propertius IV,1,150. A Re-examination of sinistra,” WS 4 (1970) 110-17; “The Ironic Priest. Propertius' Roman Elegies, III,1-5. Imitations of Horace and Vergil,” AJP 91 (1970) 385-407; “Propertius ii, 15, 41-48. Antony at Actium,” Rivista di Studi Classici 19 (1971) 299-301; “Propertius III,7,21-24,” Hermes 99 (1971) 248-51; “Dido and Aeneas: Notes on Virgil’s Art,” CO (1971)    ; “The σφραγίς of the Monobiblos,” AJP 92 (1971) 464-72; “De Properti elegia II,7,19-20,” Mnemosyne 24 (1971) 380-4; “Propertius 3.11,” TAPA 102 (1971) 411-43; “The Imagery of the Aeneid,” CJ 67 (1971-2) 123-43; “Hector at the Abyss,” CB 49 (1972) 7-9; “Propertius, Elegy ii, 10,” SO 47 (1972) 79-94; “Ovidius de hominibus,” Latinitas 21 (1973) 290-7; “Three Mysteries in the Aeneid,” Vergilius19 (1973) 28-32; “Vergil's De rerum natura,” Ramus 2 (1973) 41-52; “Snakes in the Aeneid. Two Comments,” Vergilius 20 (1974) 20-3; “Propertius III,1, 1-6 Again,” Mnemosyne 28 (1975) 73-5; “The Characterization of Mezentius. Aeneid 10.843-845,” CB 51 (1975) 33-7; “Twelve Years of Propertian Scholarship. 1960-1972,” CW 69 (1975) 1-33; “Weaving. A Point of Art in the Ciris,” CB 51 (1975) 62; “Foreshadowing in Aeneid I.751-752?,” Vergilius 22 (1976) 30-3; “Propertius' fallax opus (4.1.135),” RhM 119 (1976) 30-8; “The Epic Journey of Achilles,” Ramus 5 (1976) 1-17; “Lord of the Scales,” CO 53 (1976) 51-4; “Twelve Years of Propertian Scholarship 1960-1972,” CW 69 (1976) 289-309; “Vergil's Horoscope. A Correction,” Vergiius 24 (1978) 60-1; “Daphne and Apollo. A Dynamic Encounter,” CJ 74 (1979) 333-47; “The Art of Catullus 62,” in Studies in Latin literature and Roman History, I, ed. Carl Deroux (Brussels: Latomus, 1979) 229-38; “The Cradle of Flowers in B. 4.23,” Vergilius 25 (1979) 32-5; “Propertius 2.18. Kein einheitliches Gedicht...,” ICS 5 (1980) 94-109; “Propertius I.21.5; The Elision of servato,” RhM 124 (1981) 325-31; “Recent Scholarship on Propertius,” ANRW 2, 30.3 (1983) 1813-57; “Breakin'. What Cares Hippocleides?,” CO 62 (1984) 6; “The Interpretation of Theocritus 12.1-9,” Helios11 (1984) 109-15; “Aeneid 5.105. The Horses of Phaethon,” AJP 107 (1986) 102-8; “American Scholarship on Vergil in the Twentieth Century,” in Vergil at 2000. Commemorative Essays on the Poet and His Influence, ed. John D. Bernard (New York: AMS Press, 1986) 303-30; “Gilbert Highet's raising of Italy: Aeneid3.523-524,” in The Two Worlds of the Poet: New Perspectives on Vergil, ed. R.M. Wilhelm & Howard Jones (Detroit: Wayne State U. Press, 1992) 229-36.

  • Notes:

    William Nethercut (known to everyone as Bill) was one of the leading Anglophone scholars of Propertius for much of the 20th century. His numerous articles contributed to the reevaluation of Propertius and his central role in the literary culture of Augustan Rome. In addition, as a foundational member of the so-called “Harvard School” of Vergilian criticism, and as a president of the Vergilian Society, he wrote many articles in the 1960s and 1970s that contributed to a more pessimistic interpretation of Vergil’s works, especially the Aeneid. Bill always cited the influence of his mentors Moses Hadas (1900-66) and Gilbert Highet (1906-78) at Columbia and, especially, John Finley (1904-95) and Wendell Clausen (1923-2006) at Harvard on his own thinking about Greco-Roman literature. 

    In the 1990s, Nethercut switched gears and devoted himself to Egyptology, a scholarly interest that occupied him until his death. Perhaps the most lasting legacy of his scholarly pursuits are the dozens of students he trained in Egyptology, many of whom remain professional Egyptologists. 

    His ebullience and enthusiasm were legendary, and it was difficult for even the most depressive malcontents to leave an encounter with him without a smile, however small or short-lived, infecting their faces. His primary love was music, and in the early 1960s he made the difficult choice to abandon his burgeoning opera career (as part of which he gave a solo recital at Carnegie Hall and sang many leading baritone roles at the NYC Opera) to pursue a Ph.D. at Columbia. He never looked back, but he did continue to perform vocal music throughout his life. 

    Bill Nethercut’s death marks a particular loss for generational memory in the field of Classics, because he carried with him classroom observations and personal anecdotes from all sorts of long-dead Classicists, many of which came from an even earlier generation going back into the 19th Century, reported to him at second-hand; he knew many personal (and sometimes saucy) anecdotes about Wilamowitz (1848-1931), Housman (1859-1936), and Gilbert Murray (1866-1957), among others. Since his memory was what it was (he was an autodidact who knew at least 25 languages fluently and who could to the day he died recite huge swathes of Greek and Latin poetry from memory), he never felt the need to write these gems down. 

  • Sources:

    Personal knowledge

  • Author: Jason Nethercut