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In Memoriam, Lía Schwartz




The passing of Distinguished Professor Lía Schwartz represents a loss from which the Graduate Center will need a very long time to recover. Those of us who have known her, loved her, and worked closely with her, will never be able to pass by her office on the fourth floor without that tug to remind us of the tragic empty space she has left in the lives of her colleagues and students.
 
Professor Lía Schwartz was inordinately kind, courteous, and generous to all, sometimes almost self-effacing. She was, however, an indomitable powerhouse in her own research and a sophisticated critic in the fields of the Renaissance, Baroque, and modern literature in the Spanish language.  The two tracks seldom exist in the same person. Some scholars are born researchers, others critics. Lía Schwartz was, in addition to her credentials as both researcher and critic, a superb teacher. A frequent guest to countless conferences in so many countries, there never was and could never be anything lite about Professor Lía Schwartz.
 
In more ways than one, she was the direct inheritor of those brillíant philologists who, with the rise of Nazism in Germany and Austria, fled the Reich and moved to our shores. Like them, she was a highly learned intellectual whose uncompromising rigor, penetrating instincts, and indefatigable hard work made her the worthy successor to such thinkers and literary critics as Hannah Arendt, Leo Strauss, Erich Auerbach, Leo Spitzer.
 
When I served as the executive officer of Comparative Literature, one day I crossed over to the Program that she chaired and invited her to teach a course on the legacy of Cervantes in Early Modern European literature. She accepted right away, and I would like to believe that her presence in Comparative Literature changed not only the life of many of our Ph.D. candidates but hers as well. Comparative Literature became her second home. She joined our executive committee and her reputation blossomed in our midst to such an extent that adoring students enrolled in her seminars until the very, very end. Many have asked her to sit on their orals committees, some wrote their dissertations under her mentorship and more were still planning to work with her. I once invited her to give a two-hour lecture on Hermeneutics—a difficult subject. What she proved as she lectured for two straight hours was very simple: she belonged in that small, exclusive circle of the great hermeneuts of Europe. 
 
What we had in Lía Schwartz is unique—irreplaceable, unmatched, and exceptional. Comparative Literature will miss her for many years to come.
 
In their condolence note to her family, their Royal majesties King Felipe VI and Leticia of Spain describe Lía as insigne profesora, filóloga e humanista. Lía Schwartz was indeed insigne—distinguished—in ways that surpassed her professional title of Distinguished Professor. 


André Aciman

Comp. Lit. Students, Faculty, and Staff are invited to share their memories of Lìa below:

Laura Malhotra
I, like many others, was lucky enough to read Don Quixote with Professor Schwartz (who accepted and graded my final paper almost two years after the original due date - just one example of her kind nature). She was so generous with her insights, time, wit and expertise. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in her company each week and admired her ability to command a room. To listen to Professor Schwartz was to learn something new every time.
8/14/2020 8:49:44 PM

Giancarlo Lombardi
Caro amico — every time I think of Lia, those two words ring in my head, and I see her face, her smile. She always called me “dear friend” and always in my native language. Her friendship was indeed a precious gift, as was her generosity as colleague, mentor, and scholar. Lia leaves an incredible void in our lives and in the life of our program, yet her memory lives on in the teaching she imparted, in the books that she wrote, in the people she touched. I was one of those people, and I will never forget it. Che la terra ti sia lieve, cara amica.
8/12/2020 12:49:13 AM

Andrés Orejuela
To encompass in a few lines the enormous scale of the works by Lía Schwartz is a task as impossible as capturing the water of the oceans with a fishnet. How to explain the vast areas of her research, the depth and perspicacity of her analyses? My debt to her is enormous. Her courses, books and articles opened new paths for me and made me curious about topics that would have been impossible for me to learn about without her. As I quickly type these few lines, unsettled by the news of her loss, I look at the several books by Lía that I have at hand and don’t know which to grab hold of. They represent the value of the humanities and I find it difficult to speak about these books in the past tense as they remain vital treasures of elegance, rigor, wit, wisdom, and erudition—what Baltasar Gracián called, “las preciosas alhajas de los entendidos.”
8/8/2020 9:33:34 PM

Radhika Kashyap
Professor Schwartz was a ray of sunshine and always had a smile on her face. She really loved the graduate center and was a joy to work with. I will miss her.
8/3/2020 3:13:16 PM

Brian McDonald
In addition to being a brilliant critic and a celebrated scholar, Professor Schwartz was a generous and warm teacher. Learning from her was a privilege, talking with her was a pleasure.
8/3/2020 2:08:01 PM

Yulia Greyman
Professor Schwartz was a warm and wonderful woman whose love for literature and for her students was readily apparent. I'm very saddened to hear of her passing, but know that I only have to reread Borges to remember her presence.
8/3/2020 1:52:21 PM

Elaine Montilla
Professor Schwartz was a fierce advocate for student's rights and as a member of the Student Tech Fee committee would always ensure we keep the students best interest as our priority. I enjoyed our conversations. Fue un gran placer conocerla! I will surely miss her presence.
8/3/2020 12:49:45 PM

Elaine Montilla
Professor Schwartz was a fierce advocate for student's rights and as a member of the Student Tech Gee committee would always ensure we keep the students best interest as our priority. I enjoyed our conversations and will miss her dearly. Fue un gran placer conocerla! I will surely miss her presence.
8/3/2020 12:48:45 PM

Jerry Carlson
I met Lia soon after her appointment at the GC. She knew of my interest in her native Argentina. I soon learned that beyond her deep erudition was an endearing playfulness. She pointed out that she wasn't a porteña (woman from Buenos Aires). She was born in distant, sub-tropical Corrientes. "You can call me jungle girl.' And so I did greeting her in the hallway. Now it's "Adíos, jungle girl." What a privilege to have known her.
8/1/2020 9:59:07 AM

Doug Parker
An inspiring intellect, a mesmerizing lecturer, a fighting spirit: she leaves a mark.
7/31/2020 10:48:36 PM

Pierce, Carol
Prof. Schwartz was a bright light in our department, a most distinguished scholar and researcher, wonderful colleague and beloved mother. We will never forget her contributions to Comparative Literature. She will always have a special place in our hearts.
7/31/2020 9:09:37 PM

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