In Memoriam: Jack J. Roth
James Friguglietti and Michael Altschul, September 2003
From the In Memoriam column of the September 2003 Perspectives
Jack J. Roth, professor emeritus at Case Western Reserve University, died on May 7, 2003. He was 82.
Born in Lvov, Poland, on December 17, 1920, he emigrated to the United States with his parents. Roth earned his BA in 1942 from the University of Chicago, then served with the U.S. Army during World War II. After spending a year in France studying at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques (1949–50), he returned to the University of Chicago where he received his PhD in 1955 for a dissertation on "The Sorelian Concept of Revolution."
While preparing his thesis, Roth began his academic career by teaching at Roosevelt University from 1951 to 1968, rising from assistant to full professor, and serving as department chair from 1960 to 1968. Then he accepted a position at Case Western Reserve University, where he acted as chair of the department until 1973, and retired as emeritus professor in 1991.
Roth devoted most of his scholarship to studying the life and work of the French socialist Georges Sorel. In 1950, along with T. E. Hulme, he translated Sorel's best-known work, Reflections on Violence. After publishing numerous articles on Sorel's thought, he capped his research with the publication of The Cult of Violence: Sorel and the Sorelians (1980). Evaluating it for the American Historical Review, Robert A. Nye declared that Roth had carried out his aim of examining Sorel's apocalyptic politics in a masterful and exhaustive fashion.
Roth's other major book was World War I: A Turning Point in Modern History (1964). It contained essays by Gordon A. Craig, Carl J. Friedrich, Charles Herschfeld, and Hans Kohn dealing with various aspects of the conflict. Editing the contributions, Roth integrated the volume with a substantial concluding essay analyzing the permanent impact that the World War had on the 20th century.
In 1979, while at Case Western Reserve, Roth organized a six-week long festival "The Persistence of Surrealism." It featured an exhibit of Surrealist paintings displayed at the Cleveland Museum of Art, an opera performed at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and a series of lectures and films.
—James Friguglietti, Montana State University-Billings
Michael Altschul, Case Western Reserve University