Yale Professor Naomi Schor, 1943-2001
Naomi Schor, one of the foremost scholars of French literature and critical theory and one of the pioneer feminist theorists of her generation, died suddenly in New Haven, Connecticut, on December 2, 2001 at the age of 58.
At the time of her death, Schor was the Benjamin F. Barge Professor of French at Yale University, where she had also earned her doctorate. Schor had held distinguished professorships at Brown University, Duke University and Harvard University before joining the Yale faculty in 1999.
Schor was one of the leading interpreters of the writings of the French theorists and philosophers Luce Irigaray, Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida, and was a major figure in the field of nineteenth-century French studies.
Her 1987 book “Reading in Detail: Aesthetics and the Feminine” brought exquisitely argued attention to the gendering of detail, long associated with the ornamental, the effeminate, the decadent and the mundane. Her analysis draws on texts and artists from Renaissance painting to Greta Garbo, through Kafka and Freud, Lukacs and Salvador Dali, to Eisenstein and Duane Hanson. The book remains a highly influential work to scholars across disciplinary lines, from French studies to art historians and visual artists.
Born in New York City on October 10, 1943, Schor was the daughter of the renowned painter, goldsmith and artist of Judaica, Ilya Schor, and the artist Resia Schor. Both parents were Polish refugees from Hitler’s Europe, who, after a perilous escape from Paris in June 1940, made their way to the United States, arriving in New York on December 5, 1941.
Brought up in a home filled with art, music and literature, Schor was educated at the LycŽe Francais of New York and received her bachelor’s degree from Barnard College in 1963. A consummate Francophile throughout her life, she spent many years in Paris.
Schor’s other books include “Zola’s Crowds” (1978), “Breaking the Chain: Women, Theory, and French Realist Fiction” (1985),”George Sand and Idealism” (1993) and “Bad Objects: Essays Popular and Unpopular” (1995). At the time of her death, she was working on a major book on the subject of universalism.
She had recently organized “Man and Beast,” a symposium for scholars from many disciplines to explore the similarities and differences between humans and other members of the animal kingdom. The symposium was to have taken place at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale this coming weekend.
Schor served on the editorial board and the executive committee of the Modern Language Association of America. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1997.
She is survived by her husband, Howard Bloch, also a professor at Yale University, whom she had known for many years as a friend and colleague in their shared profession before they were married in 1999. She is also survived by her mother, Resia Schor, and a sister, the artist and writer Mira Schor.