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Schorske, professor emeritus of history, dies at 100

Carl Emil Schorske, the Dayton-Stockton professor of history, emeritus died of old age on Sept. 13. He was 100.

Schorske won a Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction, became an honorary citizen of Vienna and was named by Time Magazine in 1966 as one of the nation’s top tenacademic leaders of the century.


Schorske died at Meadow Lakes, a continuous care community where he had an apartment, his daughter Anne Edwards said.

Schorske was married to human rights and anti-war activist Elizabeth Rorke in 1942, according to her obituary published in the Expressions Tributes. They raised five children.

According to Edwards, Schorske moved to Meadow Lakes with his wifeand remained there until his death. She said that in his last days he was very quiet and that he slept for a few days and then stopped breathing.

Schorske taught history at Wesleyan University for fifteen years and the University of California, Berkeley for ten.He also gave guest lectures at Harvard and Yale.Schorske worked at the University’s Institute of Advanced Studies in 1967-68 thenreturned to the University for a term of three years and accepted the position of Dayton-Stockton professor of history in 1969, according to an April 9, 1969article in the Daily Princetonian about Schorske’s appointment to the University.

“He was a great, great scholar and had been famous for many years by the time he came to Princeton and joined the history department,” history professor Anthony Grafton said.

Some professors were so keen to be part of Schorske’s intellectual life that they served as teaching assistants to him, history professor Natalie Davis said.


Grafton said that Schorske was a brilliant lecturer who often spoke in beautiful sentences full of metaphors and even sang musical examples, which was rare during lectures.

“He didn’t speak from notes. I think he just spoke from both memory and mastery of intellectual and cultural history, which was his pioneering field of study,” Davis said.

His student and current President of Wesleyan University Michael Roth GS '83 said that lots of people, including graduate students and other professors, came simply to hear him lecture on modern European intellectual history.

“He gave us —those of us in the lecture hall, I mean —a sense of an invitation to the pleasure of culture and of confronting or enjoying great works of art and literature and music,” he said.

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Roth said that he recalled a time when Schorske crumpled up one of Roth’s papers and threw it in the garbage in front of him.

“He was demanding in exactly the right way,” Roth said. “What I saw in Professor Schorske was an uncanny ability to be where the student needed to be.”

Edwards said that Schorske was very popular amongst his students, whom he often invited to his house for dinner. He would write invitations like “Students A through C come to Schorske’s for dinner tonight” on lecture hall blackboards because he wanted to understand and know his students, Edwards added.

Davis said that Schorske hosted many gatherings at his house, which included students, graduate students, colleagues from the University and visitors from all over Europe. Edwards added that Schorske set up many such gatherings with champagne and dry ice, where friends would come and waltz or just dance in a regular manner.

“As a daughter, I remember the fun parts more than the intellectual parts. Dad knew how to make it fun, and there were a lot of people who came and danced,” Edwards said.

Grafton said that Schorske was willing to do things as a teacher that almost nobody did at the time, like giving an entire lecture on the Ringstraße, a street in Vienna.

Schorske was appointed the director of European Cultural Studies in 1973. Davis said that he founded this pioneering interdisciplinary historical approach to enable political and cultural history to be studied together, sans isolation from each other.

In an April 22, 1985‘Prince'articleabout Women's Studies, then-professor of anthropology Kay Warren described the ECS program as the most successful interdisciplinary program Princeton has ever had because Schorske had created a center of risk-taking and intellectual excitement, to which he brought to his program all kinds of viewpoints, including those with whichhe disagreed.

Schorske retired and went on to write the Pulitzer-prize winning nonfiction book Fin-de-Siecle Vienna in 1980. According to a Feb. 4 Princeton Weekly Bulletinarticleabout Schorske’s Fin-de-Siecle Vienna, Schorske draws on art history, urban theory, literary criticism, psychoanalysis and political science to carefully reconstruct Vienna through seven related essays.

According to the book “Engagement with the Past” by William Palmer, Schorske was born to a German banker and Jewish mother in New York City on March 15, 1915. On his entry into kindergarten, Schorske sang a song about a German soldier contemplating death in battle when his teacher asked the class to volunteer to sing songs. Schorske was immediately promoted to first grade.

He received his B.A. from Columbia in 1936 and Master of Arts from Harvard in 1937 respectively, according to the1969‘Prince’articleabout Schorske’s appointment to the University. He also won the Toppan Prize for the best Ph.D. thesis in Politics when he was awarded his Ph.D. at Harvard in 1950.

Schorske worked as a political analyst for the Office of Strategic Services from 1941 to 1946, Roth said.

“One of the things he was to work on was understanding the psychodynamics of Facism and Nazism and I think he felt that it was so overwhelmingly horrible, that he turned away from it,” Roth said.

Roth added that Schorske felt like the group of people he was working with were intellectually extraordinary in a time when American intelligence services were brimming with really intelligent people.

Edwards said that Schorske was a part of many demonstrations and wrote many controversial articles for the foreign press during the Vietnam War.

“For a child it was scary and I didn’t like it,” she said."But for the country, it was necessary."

Edwards added that apart from the Vietnam War protests, Schorske was always there for his children and was very kind to them. The family had a tradition of having dinner at a specific time every day, before which each child had to tell Schorske about what they had been up to.

Grafton recalled a celebration the city of Vienna had for Schorske’s 85thbirthday, for which many scholars had very carefully prepared talks in his honor. He added that the City Hall was extremely hot and had no air conditioning, but was filled with people that mattered to Schorske.

“He rose wearing about six layers of wool and gave the most beautiful and impromptu response to all these papers, and it was so much better than any of our papers,” he said.

For his 100thbirthday celebrations, Schorske sang a duet that he was very proud of, Edwards said. Davis added that by the end of his life, he had managed to become a fabulous singer like he always dreamt of being.

According to Edwards, Schorske is survived by four of his children —Theodore Schorske, an opera singer, Edwards, a tutor for young children, John Schorske, an insurance company worker and Richard Schorske. One of his sons, Stephen Schorske, died in 2013.