Douglass Stott Parker

 

Douglass Stott Parker, Sr.(May 27, 1927 – February 8, 2011) was a classicist, academic, educator, jazz musician, and renowned translator. Following his passing in 2011, the journal Didaskalia dedicated their new endeavors to "Douglass Parker, who embodied the interplay between scholarship and practice, between an acute understanding of the ancient world and a keen sense of modern audience."

Born in LaPorte, Indiana, Parker received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and a doctorate from Princeton University. He was also a Fellow for the inaugural year of the Center for Hellenic Studies (1961-1962) and a Guggenheim Scholar (1985).

Parker was Professor of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin for forty years. Before that, he was an instructor at Yale University (1952-55) and a full professor at the University of California, Riverside (1955-68). He taught classes in Greek and Latin languages and literature and offered seminars on pastoralism, serendipity, improvisation, fragments, creativity, and the way the world ends. He was known at the University of Texas for his breadth of knowledge and teaching and won graduate and undergraduate teaching awards. Tom Palaima, Professor of Classics, stated that Parker “[…] had an extraordinary gift as a poet and as a performer. While he was with us, I always told freshman students that there was one professor they should make sure to take a class from: Douglass Parker.”

For thirty-five years, he also taught, almost yearly, his course on parageography, a field pioneered by Parker himself in which he surveyed imaginary worlds and spaces, from the Apologia of Homer’s Odyssey to Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and beyond. Parker sought insight on the creative process of writing and published one of the first scholarly analyses of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

“The wide world knows him best as a dazzling translator of ancient comedy […],” said Stephen White, chairman of the Department of Classics at UT. Parker’s best known translations include Aristophanes’ plays Lysistrata (1964) and The Wasps (1962). Also, for his translation of The Congresswomen (Ecclesiazusae) (1967), which was among the Finalists for The National Book Award in 1968.

His translations of plays have been republished multiple times, and have been performed around the world. Lysistrata, for example, has had over two hundred productions. Additionally, his translation of Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis was performed at the annual national meeting of the American Philological Association in 2003. Due to its success, performance has been added as a regular feature at annual meetings in the field ever since.

Parker had a passion for jazz, playing the trombone throughout his life, and elements of jazz improvisation and creativity were themes in his research and teaching. He often combined these with comedy, and in 1979 he began developing installments of Zeus In Therapy, a series of humorous verse monologues in which Zeus reflects on his exploits and complains to his therapist about the hardships of ruling the universe. Zeus In Therapy evolved over the years to a collection of “sessions” which by 1993 included 52 entries and had produced a number of informal readings for his classes and contemporaries.

In their memorial resolution The University of Texas states: “Douglass Stott Parker was a jazz improvisationalist trapped in a classicist’s body. Or maybe his genius spirit was poured into a classics professor’s physical form as a reward from the Fates. Imagine Kurt Vonnegut teaching classics and you will have some idea of who Douglass Parker was and what he meant for over forty years to the community of scholars and students at The University of Texas at Austin.”


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