Michael Shapiro was born on November 29, 1939, in Yokohama, Japan, and grew up speaking Russian, Japanese, and English. He immigrated to the United States with his parents in September, 1952. He attended schools in Tokyo (American School in Japan (1946-52; Japanese Language School, International Students’ Institute, Tokyo, Middle Level Certificate, 1966; Tokyo University, Postdoctoral Student, 1965-1966), Los Angeles (Joseph N. LeConte Jr. Junior High School, Diploma, 1954; Hollywood High School, Diploma, 1957; University of California, Los Angeles, A. B. in Slavic Languages, 1961 [graduated with Honors, elected to Phi Beta Kappa], and Cambridge, Massachusetts (Harvard University, A. M. in Slavic Languages & Literatures, 1962; Ph. D., 1965; dissertation: “The Stress of Derived Substantives in Contemporary Standard Russian;” director: Roman Jakobson).
Michael Shapiro and Marianne Goldner (1940-2003) were married in New York on June 25, 1967; their daughter Abigail was born in Los Angeles on October 14, 1968.
For a Slavist who received his university education in the United States, Michael Shapiro’s experience and expertise are unique. His exposure to philosophy, general linguistics, and Slavic languages and literatures at UCLA (where he was a philosophy major for two years before switching to Slavic) ((In taking up philosophy first, then philology and linguistics, and finally university teaching, he was carrying on a family tradition. Both his parents were music educators. His mother, Lydia Ita Shapiro (Лидия Абрамовна Шапиро, née Chernetzky [ур. Чернецкая], 1905-1983) was a student of Leonid Kreutzer (1884-1953) at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin in the 1920s and taught piano extensively in Japan between and after the World Wars, latterly at the American School in Tokyo. His father, Constantine Shapiro (Константин Исаакович Шапиро, 1896-1992), a direct patrilineal descendant of the founder of the yeshiva system of Jewish education, Hayyim of Volozhin (the “Volozhiner rebbe” [1749-1821]), was a student of the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) at the University of Freiburg in the 1920’s, and of the cello virtuoso and composer Julius Klengel (1859-1933) at the Leipzig Conservatory. He later became professor of cello and composition at the Tôyô Conservatory in Tokyo. His cousins include three eminent Russian-Jewish philologists: Viktor Zhirmunsky (Виктор Максимович Жирмунский, 1891-1971), Yury Tynianov (Юрий Николаевич Тынянов, 1894-1943), and Yakov Malkiel (Яков Львович Малкиель, 1914-1998.)) came through courses taught by scholars of the first rank. When he became a student of Roman Jakobson at Harvard in 1961, he thus began graduate study with a good grounding in the preeminent approach to his field of specialization. This orientation also had the effect of preparing him in philology, literary history, and practical criticism––areas of expertise he then broadened and deepened over the entire span of his scholarly career.
After leaving Harvard and spending a year at UCLA as Acting Instructor in Slavic Languages, Michael Shapiro went to Japan on an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship and spent a year at Tokyo University improving his Japanese (one of his three “native” languages) and working in Japanese linguistics under the dean of Japan’s general linguists, Shirô Hattori. Since then, from time to time he has returned in his research and publications to Japanese topics.
He came back to UCLA in 1966 as a beginning Assistant Professor of Slavic Languages, was promoted to full professor eight years later, and served on the faculty there for a total of seventeen years. During this span he taught a broad range of courses in Slavic linguistics, Russian language, and Russian literature. After an initial concentration on the structure and description of contemporary standard Russian, his research broadened ca. 1972 to embrace literature, poetics, semiotics, folklore, and mythology; his teaching also expanded accordingly. Thus he was able consistently to bring an interdisciplinary perspective to his teaching and scholarship, one result in particular being a study comparing the Japanese poetic tradition with the Western.
In addition to the ideas of European structuralism as implemented in the systematic study of Slavic linguistics and philology, Michael Shapiro was introduced as an undergraduate to the then-embryonic concepts and methods of transformational grammar. This interest in general linguistics and English syntax was further nourished by regular attendance at Jakobson’s Harvard lectures, as well as those of N. Chomsky and M. Halle at MIT. His first two books were on Russian phonetics and morphology, as were many of his articles, and the courses he taught routinely included some portion of the undergraduate series in Russian linguistics (phonology, morphology, historical commentary), as well as graduate courses and seminars in Slavic linguistics. He also participated in examining candidates for the M.A. and Ph.D. and in directing doctoral dissertations, in both the Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures and the Department of Linguistics at UCLA (of which he was an adjunct faculty member). His linguistics offerings were informed by a lively awareness of theoretical issues inside and outside Slavic.
Michael Shapiro is a pioneer in the development of Peircean or semiotic linguistics. His Sense of Grammar (1983) and Sense of Change (1991) have been called “instant classics” and are regularly cited by scholars in a range of disciplines who undertake to illuminate their subject from a semiotic perspective. ((Here are some statements evaluating the impact of these books:
“Foremost among them [“a group of neo-Peirceans”] . . . is undoubtedly Shapiro, whose two instant classics (Shapiro 1983; 1991) are the best treatments of the linguistic facet of Peirce’s semiotic thought.” (Henrik Birnbaum, “The Linguistic Sign Reconsidered,” Elementa: Journal of Slavic Studies and Comparative Cultural Semiotics, 2:2 , 116).
“increasingly characteristic of a major stream in historical linguistic discourse [is] . . . the neo-Peircean semiotics of [inter alia] . . . Michael Shapiro.” (Roger Lass, Historical Linguistics and Language Change [Cambridge UP, 1997], p. xvii).
Birnbaum was Professor of Slavic Languages & Literatures at UCLA and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Lass, Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at the University of Cape Town (South Africa), is a prominent Anglist and theoretician of historical linguistics. See also a much expanded assessment of the relevant portion of Michael Shapiro’s work stretching back to 1969 (in the context of Jakobson’s semiotic ideas) in Birnbaum’s Sketches of Slavic Scholars (Bloomington, IN: Slavica, 1998), ch. 10, pp. 171-208. A volume of essays published in Finland––a country with a long and illustrious tradition of linguistic scholarship––is studded with direct and indirect references to his work and ideas. See Kirjoituksia muoto- ja merkitysopista [Writings on Morphology and Semantics], ed. by Urho Määttä and Klaus Laalo, Folia Fennistica & Linguistica 21 (Univ. of Tampere, 1998), esp. pp. 117-141, “Merkityksen evoluutiomallista” [“About the Evolution Model of Meaning”] by Tommi Nieminen [information received courtesy of Raimo Anttila, Professor Emeritus of General and indo-European Linguistics, UCLA]. According to Anttila (letter to me of 11/30/98), referring to Nieminen’s piece,
“as the title tells you, this is pure Shapiro (i. e., your Sense books), as well as your Peirce Seminar impact, and it is rightly given as the only way in cognitive linguistics (and otherwise). There is indeed reason, because Helsinki is in the fetters of the Lakoff and Langacker fashion. Anyway, combined with the Finnish tradition in general, your work gives a nice step of progress here, and it is very gratifying to see your famous diagram [from Asymmetry] there, with Finnish labels (p. 138).”
Anttila goes on to mention that
“there was also an interuniversity colloquium on expressive vocabulary at Åbo Akademie, the Swedish-language university in Turku, in August , with participants from five universities. I was an invited commentator on all of it. What came out was that it was your work that makes this kind of stuff theoretically salonfähig. There has been a ban on it in Finland, and it is now being lifted, thanks to your ideas.”))
As evidenced by what is now a triptych of Sense books, Michael Shapiro’s work since 1983 has turned increasingly toward general linguistics and, more recently, to English and its varieties. As many of his publications will attest, one area of linguistic theory in which he has worked particularly productively is the theory of markedness (initiated during the inter-war period by the Prague Linguistic Circle and continued by its collaborators in Copenhagen). Another is the explication of the patterned relationship between prosody (stress) and morphological structure in language. In this latter field of research his work can arguably be called ground-breaking. ((Cf. the following (rare) concession of priority to a living scholar (referring to the 1969 book, Aspects of Russian Morphology) by a linguist who has himself made major contributions to the study of morphology: “Patterns . . . where one morphophonemic alternation mirrors another so that they together form what may be called an automorphic structure in the paradigm, were first described explicitly by Shapiro, who gives several examples of existing or emerging patterns of this kind from contemporary Russian.” (H. Andersen, “Morphological Change: Towards a Typology,” in J. Fisiak [ed.], Recent Developments in Historical Morphology, 1-50, The Hague: Mouton, 1980, p. 34.) ))
Since 1990 Michael Shapiro has published seven articles in American Speech dealing with language and the value systems it represents as reflected in social change. An article in the March ’98 issue of Language provided a completely new analysis of the language of Shakespeare’s sonnets. ((A recent survey conducted by the Linguistic Society of America shows that this item is among the 25 most-viewed/-downloaded articles in JSTOR covering volumes of the journal Language from 1976 to 2000 (ideophone.org/language-anthology-citations/, Oct. 26, 2010).))
From the beginning of his teaching career in 1963, Michael Shapiro was intimately and continuously involved in the teaching of Russian, as well as in the conception, administration, and supervision of Russian language programs. He taught language courses at all levels, from elementary through the fifth year (for graduate students), and of all types (conventional, audio-lingual, intensive, conversational, reading, scientific, even sports [“Russian for the Olympics”]) and had extensive experience in directing teaching assistants. His own education gave him a special perspective from which to deal with problems confronting the American student of Russian. Formal training in linguistics and a knowledge of several foreign languages enabled him to contribute effectively to Russian language programs at UCLA, Princeton, and Brown with a demonstrable record of success in producing students with a solid foundation in spoken and written Russian.
At UCLA Michael Shapiro regularly participated in the teaching of Russian literature and in research on poetics, literary theory, and practical criticism. In addition, he was a member of several doctoral committees and regularly examined M. A. candidates in Slavic literature. He taught courses and seminars at all levels (through the postdoctoral), particularly those that dealt with Russian poetry of the classical period. (He has written more on Pushkin than on any other author and has taught Pushkin courses in English and Russian to undergraduate and graduate students at UCLA, Princeton, and Brown.) His Russian literature offerings at UCLA included an undergraduate seminar on Lermontov and graduate courses/seminars on poetic theory, versification, literary analysis, Pushkin, and Lermontov.
During his four years at Princeton (1982-86), Michael Shapiro taught several upper level and graduate courses in Russian literature and in literary theory, including a course on folk literature and one on Symbolism. He also regularly advised doctoral candidates from departments other than Slavic (which had no graduate program at the time) and directed senior theses in that department. His course on Russian Formalism was attended by graduate students from Comparative Literature, East Asian, Romance, Germanic, and English.
During the fall 1986 semester, he was a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught a graduate course on 18th-century Russian literature and gave a series of public lectures on literary theory and practical criticism.
At Brown, where he replaced Victor Terras upon the latter’s retirement, Michael Shapiro was responsible for the entire span of Russian prose courses from Gogol through Tolstoy and devised and taught a course for undergraduates and graduates called “Slavic Contributions to Literary Theory,” which resulted in several papers being presented at All-Ivy Graduate Student Conferences. From the 1991-92 academic year on, he also took over courses on Pushkin and Symbolism and regularly taught a newly-devised course on “The Russian Novel” that focused on Russian modernist fiction (including Nabokov). Over the last ten years of his service at Brown, he directed (or helped direct) several senior honors theses and Ph.D. dissertations in Russian literature and Slavic linguistics. During the 1990-92 academic years he was also the Department’s Graduate Representative [adviser] and the faculty sponsor of the Slavic Colloquium, a student-run forum for presentation of research in progress.
Michael Shapiro has written two books and some thirty articles that deal wholly or partly with Russian literature and has lectured on topics in this field at institutions throughout North America, in Britain, and in Scandinavia. About Figuration in Verbal Art (co-author, Marianne Shapiro) the reviewer for Princeton University Press, Michael Holquist, wrote: “in a brilliant synthesis the authors link Jakobson’s structuralism with Peirce’s theory of signs . . . . The book is an unusual combination of sophisticated theory with exemplary readings of particular works” (from the jacket blurb). His most recent scholarly book, The Sense of Form in Literature and Language, which was also coauthored by his late wife Marianne Shapiro, continues the line of research on poetics and literary theory inaugurated by their Figuration in Verbal Art and was published in 1998 by St. Martin’s Press. ((Its possible impact in the new century can perhaps be gauged by the endorsements of two prominent literary scholars on the book’s back cover:
“Shapiro is in many ways a unique figure on the American scholarly scene, a powerful reader as much at home in technical linguistics as he is in the intricacies of formal poetics. I believe we are on the cusp of a move from externally oriented criticism to more internally organized reading; Shapiro’s book might well come to be regarded as a canary in the mineshaft of literary scholarship. Anyone seriously interested in theoretical discussions of the relation between linguistics and literature will be drawn to the book. – Michael Holquist, Chair, Department of Comparative Literature, Yale University”
“Time and again, Shapiro achieves a synthesis of the particular and the universal, as careful analysis of detail, gathered from a dazzling, truly global array of sources, dovetails effortlessly into a judicious deduction of the principle that applies in each of the literary works he analyzes. – Victor Terras, Professor Emeritus, Brown University”
Cf. the following encomium from a reviewer:
“Michael Shapiro’s book demonstrates the enormous scope of scholarly activities to which a Peircian [sic] approach can give rise. it is also a testament to the author’s prodigious learning and expertise. To write essays on subjects ranging from ‘Wimp English’ to ‘Dostoevsky’s Modes of Signifying’ is a feat in itself and one that will stretch the limits of most readers, this reviewer included.” – Andrew Barratt, University of Otago, New Zealand (in Slavic Review, 59 , 932))) A second, expanded edition (2009) with two new chapters has garnered fresh praise. ((Cf. the following blurbs from the back cover:
“These colorful essays by Michael and Marianne Shapiro bring hidden forms in works of art to light. They increase our enjoyment of the art object and help us understand the combinatorial possibilities of human intelligence. The studies exhibit philosophical insight and wide-ranging knowledge of Russian literature, along with a sense of the complexities of ordinary speech and a structural understanding of Shakespeare’s sonnets. They make the miracle of language more vividly present to us. – Robert Sokolowski, Elizabeth Breckenridge Caldwell Professor of Philosophy, The Catholic University of America”
“It is impossible, for me at least, to identify two inquirers who bring to the question of the relationship between form and meaning a more unique combination of literary sensitivity and linguistic erudition, a more relevant set of interpretative skills and theoretical expertise, than Marianne and Michael Shapiro do in this book. The Sense of Form moves deftly from detailed analyses of specific literary works to an encompassing account of our most basic linguistic competencies––and back again. –Vincent Colapietro, Liberal Arts Research Professor, The Pennsylvania State University”
“The Sense of Form in Literature and Language is a masterful application of structuralist theory and Peirce’s semeiotic to an impressive range of literary genres, authors, and periods. Michael and Marianne Shapiro argue convincingly for an iconic relation between sound and meaning. The second, expanded edition allows us to see more clearly the important contributions of Marianne Shapiro to this work. – James J. Liszka, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Professor of Philosophy, University of Alaska Anchorage”))
Michael Shapiro’s teaching at UCLA, Princeton, and Brown included an undergraduate course on Russian folk literature, and he was actively engaged in research on Slavic and Indo-European mythology from 1979 on. His special focus was the study of animal deities in the Old Slavic pantheon. During the period from 1982 to his appointment at Brown, he was a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Anthropology at Columbia, where he gave public lectures and participated in team-taught graduate courses.
Two of his discoveries deserve special mention. He uncovered the existence of a bird cult––that of the pelican (R baba)––in Old Europe and demonstrated its persistence in the Common Slavic––particularly the East Slavic––data. He also demonstrated that Slavic shared in the Indo-European myth of the divine twins (Veles and Volos).
As a graduate student at Harvard in the early ’60s, Michael Shapiro became interested in the ideas of the modern founder of the theory of signs, Charles Sanders Peirce. It became his aim from that time on to help create a new structuralism based on a thorough understanding of Peirce’s whole philosophy. ((The success of this enterprise can perhaps be judged by the following assessment: “In this regard [i. e., establishment of a semiotic linguistics], the work of Michael Shapiro, a first-rate Peirce scholar as well as theoretical linguist, is unsurpassed by anyone else in his field” (Vincent Colapietro, “Robust Realism and Real Externality: The Complex Commitments of a Convinced Pragmaticist,” Semiotica, 130 , 322). Colapietro is Chair of the Advisory Board of the Peirce Edition Project. Cf. an earlier assessment by the late dean of modern Peirce studies, Max H. Fisch: “Among still younger linguists, one of the most productive and influential is Michael Shapiro.” (“The Range of Peirce’s Relevance,” in The Relevance of Charles Peirce, ed. E. Freeman (La Salle, ill.: Monist Library of Philosophy, 1983), p. 20).)) Here, as well as in several other respects, Michael Shapiro deserves to be considered not merely a continuator of the teachings of others but a scholar whose contribution to the study of sign systems bears a special stamp.
In 1979 Michael Shapiro directed his first (postdoctoral) NEH Summer Seminar for College Teachers, held at at UCLA and entitled “Semiotic Perspectives on Language and Verbal Art,” which attracted eleven participants from a variety of disciplines. The seminar’s main goal was demonstrating the potential force of Peircean philosophy in its application to the language-oriented disciplines, the social sciences, fine arts, architecture, film, and the broad spectrum of humanistic studies. In the summer of 1984 he repeated this seminar at Princeton and gave it for the third time in 1990 at Brown. The latter two versions included a two-day Symposium on Peirce’s Semeiotic that was attended by a sizable cross-section of the Princeton and Brown communities, as well as by scholars from several other universities.
Michael Shapiro conceived the idea of holding the Peirce Sesquicentennial International Congress and persuaded Harvard to sponsor it in September 1989. ((“The Charles S. Peirce Sesquicentennial International Congress … opened at Harvard University on September fifth, 1989, and concluded on the tenth, the one-hundred-fiftieth anniversary of Peirce’s birthday. The Congress had been convened by the Charles S. Peirce Society, based on an idea of Michael Shapiro.” (Kenneth Laine Ketner, “Preface,” Peirce and Contemporary Thought: Philosophical Inquiries, ed. K. L. Ketner [New York: Fordham University Press], 1995, p. xiii).)) The Congress was attended by more than 400 scholars from all over the world. Besides serving as a member of the Organizing Committee, Michael Shapiro delivered one of the plenary papers in the session on “Peirce and Language.” He was elected Vice President of the Charles S. Peirce Society in 1990 and served as its President in 1991––to this day the only linguist (and only the second non-philosopher) to be accorded this honor. In 1992 he was elected President of the Semiotic Society of America for a one-year term. In 2001 he was appointed to the Board of Advisors of the Peirce Edition Project, which is dedicated to the production of a multi-volume chronological edition of the Writings of Peirce, and served on it for nine years.
In June 1997 he chaired the International Colloquium on Language and Peircean Sign Theory at Duke University, a highly successful three-day meeting which he conceived and helped organize. The Colloquium, whose proceedings were published under his editorship as volume 4 of The Peirce Seminar Papers, brought together twenty-three invited scholars from France, Germany, Finland, Israel, and North America.
Michael Shapiro’s own work in semiotics has concentrated on applying sign theory to language and literature. He has published four books and over seventy papers that deal wholly or partly with the semiotic perspective on language and literature. His book, The Sense of Change: Language as History, has been called “the culmination of the century in semiotic linguistics . . . it will be indispensable in any study of sign systems and their change” (Raimo Anttila, from the jacket blurb).
A series entitled The Peirce Seminar Papers: Essays in Semiotic Analysis, of which Michael Shapiro was the founder and editor-in-chief, began publication in 1993 and encompassed five volumes. (A December 1993 review of Volume 1 in the Library Journal gave it a “highly recommended” rating.)
While a semiotic perspective has informed much of Michael Shapiro’s teaching and research from the early ’70s on, it was his experience in directing postdoctoral students in three NEH Summer Seminars for College Teachers that merits special mention. These seminars had the effect of creating a forum for collaborative research that bound together not only former participants but a range of other scholars who chose to associate themselves with the group. One tangible result of these three summer seminar directorships was a continuing involvement on Michael Shapiro’s part in the research and teaching of former participants, six of whom wrote books based directly on their work with him. ((“I am especially indebted [inter alia] to . . . Michael Shapiro, whose teaching and research were a source of regeneration and inspiration” (James Jakób Liszka, A General introduction to the Semeiotic of Charles Sanders Peirce [Indiana UP, 1996], p. xi). Liszka was his postdoctoral student at UCLA in 1979 and is Professor of Philosophy and Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at SUNY Plattsburgh. Cf. also the acknowledgments of his determinative teaching, written guidance, and published scholarship by Edwin Battistella (a participant in his 1984 Princeton seminar and currently Professor of English and Writing at Southern Oregon University) in his two books, Markedness: The Evaluative Superstructure of Language (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990) and The Logic of Markedness (New York: Oxford UP, 1996). These two student reactions are only a sample of the published acknowledgments of his help/instruction over the years by a wide variety of scholars.))
In his range of coverage and ability to lecture with a broad command of cultural, historical, and linguistic knowledge in both English and Russian, Michael Shapiro has had few peers among Slavists anywhere. His Japanological expertise was, in this respect, a valuable resource despite the cultural distance separating East Asia from the Slavic world. Also, through what was over thirty-five years of extensive collaboration with his wife Marianne Shapiro, the most accomplished and versatile American Italianist of the 20th century, he expanded his knowledge of European literature significantly beyond the range normally found among Slavists. This had the effect of giving his teaching a broader comparative scope. Although his main appeal was to students with a decided talent for research, he has always worked productively with beginners and non-concentrators. His lectures were meant to focus on conceptual problems that would further the education of serious students––including non-specialists. He has made it a special point to prepare comprehensive course materials and to provide extensive bibliographical and methodological direction of student papers and theses. There is reason to believe that the following published appreciation from one of his former postdoctoral students (Princeton, 1984), Michael Cabot Haley (Professor of English, University of Alaska Anchorage), is shared by others he has taught at all levels:
“Most of all I am deeply thankful to Michael Shapiro, who brought me to Peirce. He changed my approach to literature and linguistics; he changed my approach to my students of literature and linguistics––by showing me, in his own example, how one can become a great teacher by exhibiting the openness and curiosity of a serious student (The Semeiosis of Poetic Metaphor [indiana University Press, 1988], p. xiv).”
Another tribute, also by a former Princeton post-doctoral advisee, Robert S. Hatten (Professor of Music Theory, Butler School of Music, The University of Texas at Austin), appears in the preface to Hatten’s book, which won the 1997 Berry Publication Award, the highest award of the Society for Music Theory:
“In conceiving and developing a model of expressive meaning, I have been profoundly influenced by the work of the Peircean linguist and literary theorist Michael Shapiro of Brown University. Shapiro’s groundbreaking work on asymmetry in poetry (1976) was my introduction to the theory of markedness, and The Sense of Grammar (1983) was my inspiration for grounding markedness in a Peircean semiotic (Musical Meaning in Beethoven: Markedness, Correlation, and Interpretation [Indiana UP, 1994], p. xiv).”
The distinguishing trait of Michael Shapiro’s career is versatility. He has made substantial contributions to and significantly advanced the study of Russian linguistics, Russian literature, Slavic mythology, linguistic theory, literary theory, and semiotics. His work has a long record of international recognition, including invited lectures abroad (for example, his 1993 series of five lectures to a pan-European audience under the aegis of the revived Prague Linguistic Circle at its Vilém Mathesius Research and Teaching Workshop in Linguistics and Semiotics).
As a specialist in linguistics and poetics, Michael Shapiro adopted a broad conceptual perspective while staying close to a home base defined roughly by the historical and “culturological” dimensions of a mixed research agenda. His teaching at UCLA, Princeton, Berkeley, Brown, Green Mountain College, and Columbia has spanned almost five decades. Beginning with the 2000-2001 academic year and until his retirement in 2005, in recognition of his versatility as a teacher and scholar he was appointed a non-departmental member of the Brown faculty (the only one at the time) under its “University Courses” designation (with his own budget and staff). This unique academic status allowed him to teach courses ad libitum, and his title was changed accordingly to Professor of Slavic and Semiotic Studies.
Contacts over many years with specialists in various disciplines have resulted in a significant degree of cross-pollination, so that Michael Shapiro’s ideas about semiosis have increasingly found their way into books and articles on music theory, mythology, and literary theory as well as language.
After his retirement, Michael Shapiro’s main efforts were devoted to his first volume of fiction, My Wife the Metaphysician, or Lady Murasaki’s Revenge (2006), followed by an authorial commentary, Palimpsest of Consciousness (2007). ((Excerpts from these two books are available at his website, www.marianneandmichaelshapiro.com. Here are two reactions to the books from academic readers:
“I was about to postpone reading “Lady Murasaki” and the accompanying volume until my return from St. Petersburg, but having opened the book I wasn’t able to close it, and having put everything else I was going to do before my departure aside, I read one-and-a-half volumes in one breath––there wasn’t more time. I want to respond right away. To create a literary monument to one’s beloved is already an accomplishment that justifies one’s whole life and is something rare in history. I noticed the freshness of the genre. These books are especially interesting as a human document.” (Savely Senderovich, Professor of Russian Literature, Cornell University [translated from a letter to the author in Russian, 6/21/09])
“When academics or intellectuals turn their hand to fiction or even narrative forms such as memoirs or histories, all too often character, scene, and drama are sacrificed to abstract ideas and theoretical positions long defended in some disciplinary context. Characters tend to be thin illustrations (often utterly eviscerated examples) of preconceived theories, scenes artificially staged confrontations in which human drama is more or less absent. Michael Shapiro has, in marked contrast to this, proven himself to have a storyteller’s ear and a novelist’s eye for the seemingly insignificant, yet ultimately fateful detail. One has the sense, when confronted with his portrayal of persons, of being in the presence of singular, complex, and indeed palpable beings, whose lives are dramatically intertwined. For this imaginative and erudite scholar and theorist to be as well such a keen observer of character and adept narrator of events seems hardly fair. Should one person possess, at this level of mastery, such diverse and demanding talents?“ (Vincent Colapietro, Liberal Arts Research Professor, The Pennsylvania State University [from a “Guest Book” post on the website, 6/24/09]))
Michael Shapiro has held the following professional appointments: Consultant in Russian, Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, Calif., 1960; Teaching Fellow in Slavic Langs & Lits, Harvard, 1963 (spring term); Acting Instructor in Slavic Langs, UCLA, 1963-1964; Assistant Professor of Slavic Langs, UCLA, 1966-1970; Associate Professor of Slavic Langs, UCLA, 1970-1974; Professor of Slavic Langs & Lits, UCLA, 1974-1977; Professor of Russian Linguistics & Poetics, UCLA, 1977-1983; Visiting Lecturer with the Rank of Professor in Slavic Langs & Lits, Princeton, 1983-1985; Lecturer in Slavic Langs & Lits, Princeton, 1985-1986; Visiting Professor of Slavic Langs & Lits, Univ of Calif, Berkeley, 1986 (fall term); Professor of Slavic Languages, Brown University, 1989-2000; Professor of Slavic and Semiotic Studies, Brown, 2000-2005; Professor Emeritus of Slavic and Semiotic Studies, Brown, 2005-; Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, Green Mountain College, 2011 (spring term); Adjunct Professor, Society of Senior Scholars, Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University, 2011-.