Jerome Schwartz, a 32-year French faculty member and well-known scholar in early modern French studies, died Jan. 12, 2022.
“I first had the pleasure of reading his 1990 book “Irony and Ideology in Rablelais” while I was a Ph.D. student,” recalled Todd Reeser, chair of the Department of French & Italian. Schwartz’s early work also resulted in the book “Diderot and Montaigne.” “Since then, I have cited his important work in my own scholarship on Renaissance France.”
Born Feb. 10, 1935, in Queens, New York, Schwartz earned his BA, MA and Ph.D. from Columbia University, the latter in 1965. He had already taught at the prestigious Lycée Henri-IV in Paris (1956-1957), where he met his wife, Sandra, who was in France on a Fulbright scholarship.
He joined the Pitt faculty in 1965 — the year his department was founded — and was tenured in 1968. He was promoted to full professor in 1989 and retired as professor emeritus in 1997.
While at Pitt, he brought students from Pitt and other universities to spend the year in Rouen, France (1970-1971), a part of a University program to study French literature, and wrote many articles for scholarly reviews and presented at conferences across the United States.
Schwartz became a specialist in 16th-century French language and literature, and widened the study of French literature from Francophone countries, Sandra Schwartz said. He was involved with analyzing translations “and how often they were mistranslated,” she said, and was very meticulous in his study.
“He became obsessed with one essay that Montaigne wrote,” she recalled, and needed to find out whether a comma or a semi-colon had been used in one spot in the original. That meant traveling to the French library where it was held. She remembers him being greeted with: “You’re the man who traveled all the way here in search of a comma.”
In fact they spent all his sabbaticals in France, doing research, she said.
He was a fine pianist and took a tremendous interest in that study, but pursued painting upon retirement with a particular passion. That created an entire second career, she noted: “For 10 years he painted nonstop. He sold paintings. He won prizes. He belonged to galleries. He had exhibitions.”
The couple’s friend Merilee Salmon, emeritus professor in the history and philosophy of science, recalls him as “a very educated man. He would converse about a lot of things. He was a delight to be with. A great sense of humor. Just a charming man — a wonderful man and a good friend.”
He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Sandra Schwartz, and his two daughters, Lena Bennet and Monika Schwartz. A memorial service will be planned in the future.
— Marty Levine