History professor at UC Berkeley, Princeton University dies at 100

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Carl Schorske, a professor remembered fondly for his charismatic lectures, dedication to his students and genius in the discipline of history, died Sept. 13 at the age of 100.

Schorske was a professor at UC Berkeley from 1960-69, a time characterized by the Free Speech Movement. After his time at UC Berkeley, he taught history at Princeton University, where he remained until his retirement in 1980.

“His lectures were beautifully crafted,” said Thomas Laqueur, who attended Schorske’s lectures while a graduate student at Princeton and now serves as the Helen Fawcett Professor of History at UC Berkeley. “They were rich in a way no other lecture I’ve ever heard has been.”

Martin Jay, Ehrman Professor of History at UC Berkeley, succeeded Schorske as a campus intellectual historian and professor and remembered Schorske as an “enormously impressive” lecturer and person.

Jay recalls a lecture given by Schorske that tackled both Egyptian politics and Freudian psychoanalysis. Forty-five years later, Laqueur remembers Schorske lecturing on the “powerful image” of the St. Pancras train station in London.

Schorske went on to receive the MacArthur “Genius Grant” in 1981, the year of its inception, and a Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction in the same year for his most well-recognized work, “Fin-de-Siecle: Politics and Culture.”

At UC Berkeley, Schorske was regarded by colleagues as a liberal thinker and a reputed supporter of the aims of the Free Speech Movement, identifying with students’ demands for free speech and respect.

“You have to convert the poison of social discord into the sap of intellectual vitality,” Schorske said in an interview in 2000, reflecting on his time at UC Berkeley.

Before his time on campus, Schorske served in the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA during World War II, working as chief of political intelligence for Western Europe, and compiled a psychological portrait of Nazism.

“He thought deeply and long about things. He was an academic of the older style,” Laqueur said. “It was not that he wrote so much, but that he wrote so well. He was recognized as a brilliant teacher and a genius of history at every level.”

During his tenure at Princeton, Schorske wrote the book that would define his academic career, “Fin-de-Siecle,” describing the culture and politics of Vienna in seven interlocking essays. In 2012, Schorske was made an honorary citizen of Vienna.

“(‘Fin-de-Siecle’) is cultural history at its best,” Jay said. He managed to combine psychoanalysis; intellectual, cultural history; architecture — all these fields that he fit together. I’d like to thank him for elevating European intellectual history to a very high level.”

Schorske is survived by four children, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Contact Anderson Lanham at [email protected].

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  • thompson_richard

    Schorske’s lectures were legendary. In 1966, while at Berkeley, he was recognized by Time magazine as one of the 10 “great teachers” in the country. He was remarkable even when things didn’t go so well.

    One day, he started a lecture; stopped; started again; then stopped, looked up at the class and said, “I’m sorry, it’s not working today. I’ll see you next time.” He left the room to a standing ovation. Professor Schorske cared deeply about teaching. He saw teaching as a vocation, in the old sense.