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Steven Botterill
In Memoriam

Steven Botterill

Associate Professor of Italian Studies

UC Berkeley
Steven Botterill was born on February 10, 1958, in Shoreham by Sea, England, the only child of Jeanne and Peter Botterill, both now deceased. The first member of his family to receive a university degree, he took his B.A. and M.A. in modern and medieval literature at Cambridge University, and during this time spent a year of study at the illustrious University of Pavia, where he confirmed what would become a lifelong dedication to Italian language, literature, and culture. In 1984, he took his Ph.D. in Italian from Queen's College, Cambridge University, studying under the eminent Dantista, Patrick Boyde. In 1986, Steven left his native land to assume the role of assistant professor of Italian at the University of California, Berkeley, where he would then be tenured and promoted. His seminal study, Dante and the Mystical Tradition: Bernard of Clairvaux in the Commedia, was published by Cambridge University Press in 1994, to wide critical acclaim. It remains the standard work on this important subject to this day. In 1996 he published his elegant and learned translation with introduction of Dante's remarkable treatise in defense of the vernacular, De Vulgari Eloquentia, an edition that has become the standard in English-language classrooms. He also authored some 27 scholarly articles and well over 100 reviews, notable for their deep learning, incisive criticism, and elegant style. He also gave some 100 public performances—both scholarly lectures and talks for the general public—in North America, Britain, Ireland, and Italy. And he was among the pioneers in the field of queer studies in the Italian context. He was widely admired both for his brilliant scholarship, and for the extraordinary eloquence and piercing wit that informed his writing, speaking, and teaching alike.

Just as significant as his scholarship was his profound commitment to the teaching profession and to the institution that was his home for more than 30 years. He was an admired colleague and dear friend to his fellow Italianists and many others at Berkeley. In particular, he served for four years as chair of the Department of Italian Studies at critical moments of transition (1993-94 and 1999-2000 as interim chair, and 2010—2012). He also served as director of the Graduate Program in Romance Languages and Literatures and was an active presence in the Medieval Studies Program. His teaching, in both English- and Italian-language classes, ranged from freshman seminars, through lower and upper division undergraduate courses, to graduate seminars—and at all levels he inspired devotion among his students. His courses covered the spectrum of Italian literature and culture in the Medieval and Renaissance epochs, with occasional forays into the Romantic period, modern poetry, the works of Pier Paolo Pasolini, and queer studies. His seminars on Dante and Boccaccio were especially popular with graduate students, and inspired a number of dissertations. 

His deep attachment to the students of Berkeley expressed itself in many other ways as well: in service as both undergraduate and graduate adviser in Italian studies, as member of numerous campus and external fellowship and scholars program committees, as assistant dean of undergraduate advising, and for six years as associate dean of the Undergraduate Division in the College of Letters and Science. Over the years he also did signal service for the Academic Senate, both at the campus and systemwide levels. He served terms on Divisional Council (2000-2002); Committee on Courses of Instruction (1999-2000 then chaired in 2000-2001); Committee on Student Affairs (1993-1996, chaired in 1994-95); and also spent many years on the Committee on Undergraduate Scholarships, Honors, and Financial Aid (CUSHFA) as member (1998-2001 and 2002-2009), then chair from 2010 to 2015. He twice chaired the systemwide Education Abroad Program (EAP) review committee for Italy  (2002-2003, 2012-2013), and, as below, served a two-year term as director of the EAP programs in Italy.

Most recently he had shown his profound engagement with and commitment to education abroad, in particular serving for two years as director of the UC Study Abroad Programs in Italy. During these two years (2015-2017) he and Craig, his partner and husband of 26 years, were able to realize their dream of immersing themselves together in the culture of Italy, and of sharing that joy widely with others. For co-workers, students, and his many friends, Steven Botterill was an imposing and memorable presence. We join with Craig in mourning his untimely passing.

He passed away at the age of 60 on May 5, 2018,

Albert Ascoli