The Washington Post published a remembrance by President Michael Roth of Carl Schorske, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who died this month at age 100. Schorske taught at Wesleyan for many years, and was a mentor to Roth.
Carl was the great historian of anti-historical thinking. What does that mean? He charted how at times a wave of culture makers attempted to break free of any connection to the past. But Carl, with care and precision, wove their rejection of history into a narrative that made meaning out of context and change over time. In his masterwork, “Fin de Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture,” he explored “the historical genesis of modern cultural consciousness, with its deliberate rejection of history.”[…] Carl was an extraordinary teacher — erudite, humane and sensitive to the different ways that students learned. He was an activist, a scholar and a pedagogue. These aspects of his personality all worked together in his intellectual practice as a scholar-teacher. When he was teaching a subject he was deeply engaged with as a scholar, he said he “was really cooking with gas.” He took culture seriously, and he took enormous pleasure in it, too. That seriousness and capacity for pleasure was something that his students were so fortunate to share in.
Roth was also quoted in a New York Times obituary of Schorske.
“Many of us academics write like klutzes,” Roth said. “What Schorske did in each essay was write in a way that lived up to the intellectual and aesthetic standards of the culture makers he had studied.”