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Steven Botterill

1958 - 2018
Steven Botterill Obituary
Steven Botterill

February 10, 1958 - May 5, 2018

Steven Botterill, Professor of Italian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, renowned Dante scholar, dedicated teacher, and caring friend, passed away at the age of 60 on May 5, 2018, with his beloved husband, Craig Davidson, at his side.

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 life-long 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 UC 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 Cal. In particular, he served two terms as Chair of the Italian Studies Department, both at critical moments of transition. 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 gave rise to a number of dissertations.

His deep attachment to the students of Cal 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 for Undergraduate Advising and for six years as Associate Dean of the Undergraduate Division in the College of Letters and Sciences. 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.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on May 20, 2018
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