Remembering Kate Bosher

John Given
East Carolina University

Kate Bosher, 1974-2013

As Didaskalia Volume 8 began with a tribute to the journal’s dear friend, Douglass Parker, so Didaskalia 10 begins with a lament for a too-soon-departed editorial-board colleague, Kathryn G. Bosher. Kate passed away on March 23, 2013, after a brief battle with metastatic lung cancer. She was 38, and is survived by her husband Dale Winling and their young son Ernest. She had been an Assistant Professor of Classics at Northwestern University since 2006, and was poised to take up a position at Ohio State University in fall 2013. Her education was at the University of Toronto (B.A. and M.A.) and the University of Michigan (Ph.D.), where she completed her dissertation on “Theater of the Periphery: The Social and Political History of Early Theater in Sicily” (2006).

The periphery. It is where Kate’s research interests lay. She endeavored to bring to light theatrical moments that had been lost in the shadows of more famous events. She toured Sicily on her own, to discover theaters forgotten because of scholars’ Athenocentric perspective and to discover plays performed away from the bright lights of the City Dionysia. Peripheral materials in Classical Studies are fragmentary, obscure, even unintelligible. Arguments about the periphery engage in speculation. They are the product of a scholarly optimism about recovering the unrecoverable. But Kate was not by nature a scholarly optimist. Her meticulous arguments about her intractable Sicilian material found undeniably real connections. Kate’s work provides a solid foundation for generations of scholars of ancient Greek theater away from Athens. Her edited volume, Theater Outside Athens: Drama in Greek Sicily and South Italy, was an important beginning. Edith Hall, in her Times Literary Supplement review, wrote, “The significance of an early and independent tradition of theater in Magna Graecia has indeed long been acknowledged by homegrown Italian archaeologists and German philological specialists in Greek dialects. But Theater Outside Athens, by adding literary history into the mix, and making the key debates accessible in English, will draw far wider attention to the theater-mad Greeks of south Italy.” At Kate’s funeral, there was much talk of publishing her dissertation posthumously; it is a publication that will benefit us all.

The periphery. Kate also understood it chronologically. Her recent work was moving into the reception of Greek drama in the Americas. While resident at Northwestern, she performed important archival work in Chicago to illuminate the Second City’s engagement with Greek theater. Even her reception studies focused on the peripheral within the field. Rather than explore the semi-well-known tragedies produced, for example, by Jane Addams’s Hull House, Kate found in 19th-century programs and scrapbooks a lowbrow tradition of classically themed burlesques and Roman gladiatorial sagas. For Kate, popular and commercial theater deserved as much attention as theater claiming greater cultural capital. These interests led her to spearhead a new project, The Oxford Handbook of Greek Drama in the Americas, a forthcoming book edited by Kate, Fiona Macintosh, Justine McConnell, and Patrice Rankine. As Prof. McConnell noted in a recent email to the volume’s contributors, the book’s “impetus” was Kate’s. Her spirit infuses the shape of the project. Kate kindly invited me to write a chapter on Greek comedy in American musical theater. In a spirit typical of her wide-ranging mind, she concocted an idea for a chapter by combining the lesser-studied ancient theatrical genre and a modern popular genre that, until recently, had been almost wholly neglected by theater historians. My final correspondence from Kate was an acknowledgement of my completed chapter, and it concluded with a hope “to see you at some point soon.”

The periphery. It’s also how Kate saw herself in others’ lives. I met Kate when she first came to Ann Arbor. I vividly remember speaking to her at the opening reception—standing in the corner of the room away from most of the hubbub. That was not atypical. Kate never sought the spotlight. I have far more memories of her in small settings than at boisterous social events. Whether meeting for coffee, reading Euripides, or continuing our annual tradition of birthday ice cream sundaes—our birthdays were two days apart, and we were sure to celebrate both!—Kate always made you feel like the center of the world, and she was happy to share in the glow of your light. Yet news of Kate’s death left her friends in shock. She had told very few people that she was ill. As we all immediately realized, it was Kate’s final act of selflessness, her final chance to eschew the spotlight. Kate did not like people to make a fuss over her. Her decision to fade away quietly made total sense. Even to friends who knew her well, she rarely spoke of herself. While I had known of her devotion to rowing, for instance, only from her obituary did I learn that she had rowed for Canada’s national team as a teenager, and that during grad school she had “won the Royal Canadian Henley championship women’s single scull and the women’s elite single scull at the U.S. Rowing National Championship Regatta in 2004.” Telling of those accomplishments would have necessitated public celebrations, just as telling of her illness would have necessitated public lamentations. Indeed, as I write these words, I feel guilty. Kate would surely not have wanted this tribute. Write it I must, though; for, with all her expertise in peripheral scholarly matters, Kate was wrong about her peripheral place in our lives. Our loss is at the very center of our hearts.


A PDF of this piece: Volume 10, Number 1.