Eliza Miruna Ghil, a University of New Orleans professor who devoted her life to the study and teaching of languages and literature, has died.
A noted Occitanist, a scholarly expert of the French troubadour poetry of the 12th and 13th centuries, Ghil was born in Bucharest in 1943. She left communist Romania and settled in Israel in 1966 before immigrating to the United States in 1971 to continue her studies in French medieval literature.
Fluent in five languages—Romanian, French, Italian, Hebrew and English—Ghil earned a Ph.D. in French and romance philology at Columbia University in 1978 and went on to teach at Columbia University and Dartmouth College.
She joined the faculty of the University of New Orleans in 1984, when she was appointed assistant professor of French.
“She was quite the catch,” said Juliana Starr, associate professor of French and associate chair for foreign languages. Starr, who was hired by Ghil in 2005, described Ghil as incredibly vibrant and warm—a distinguished scholar who inspired her students and kept her colleagues entertained with her wit, insight and, at times, her stubbornness.
“She was an intellectual,” Starr said, “but she was not off-putting, not condescending.”
Ghil rose quickly at UNO, serving as chair of the Department of Foreign Languages from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1997 to 2014, when she led the department following Hurricane Katrina. It was under Ghil’s leadership, Starr said, that the department began offering master’s level language courses online, a popular addition to the curriculum that today enrolls 71 students.
Ghil published her first scholarly study of troubadour poetry, L’Age de Parage, in 1997, and served as co-editor of Romance Studies Today: In Honor of Beatriz Varela.
At the time of her death at age 73, she had nearly completed a seven-year long project, Love’s Law, a book-length scholarly exploration of the constructs of Occitan poetry.
In addition to her scholarly pursuits, Ghil was a passionate aficionada of literature and opera, holding season tickets to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. Her colleagues said they will remember her for her humor, her intellect, her eccentricities and her strength.