Professor Irwin Weil

Professor of Russian Literature and Music - Northwestern University

One has the impression that Professor Irwin Weil was born approximately 12 months  before the launching of Noah's Ark. He was actually born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the context of a family whose members spoke only American English, peppered with a few words of Cincinnati Deutsch. He received his B.A. and M.A. at the University of Chicago, and his Ph.D. at Harvard University. In the process of study, he met the work of a writer whom he had never met before, in Cincinnati. That was a man named Dostoevsky, a new name to the young student. When his friends recommended that he read more novels by this man, the young Weil decided he would read that work in its original Russian Language form.
In 1947, this started his encounter with the Byzantine like corridors of the Russian Language - its complicated grammar, its powerfully adumbrated style, and its wonderful musical tonalities. In 1948, the young fellow had the opportunity to live in Paris for several months, and he promptly entered the Soviet Consulate to ask for permission to visit a large city where Russian was spoken. The Soviet Diplomats laughed in his face and asked him what world he thought he inhabited.
It was only 12 years later,after Kennedy and Khrushchev signed an agreement for cultural exchange, that the 32 year old Weil was able to enter the country then known as the USSR.That was the beginning of over 100 visits to the USSR/Russia, where he did research, taught college courses,and got to know the remarkably attractive side of literally hundreds of acquaintances, and dozens of real friends. His spoken Russian is often taken as native by many people in that fascinating and hospitable country.
He has now taught courses in Russian Language and Literature for over sixty years, 46 of them at Northwestern University, where his course on Russian Culture drew 800 students annually . He has also developed unique courses in Russian Music, considered in the context of Russian History and Culture. One not unimportant result is the fact the the Northwestern University Football Team is the only such athletic group in the USA whose members sing Russian Opera in the original language.

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