Mae J. Smethurst 1935-2019

Martha Chaiklin's picture

Dr. Mae J. Smethurst, scholar of noh, passed away on Monday, December 16 from cancer.  

Born in Michigan, her family moved to Pennsylvania when she was seven. She attended Dickinson College, receiving her BA in 1957. While there she met, and later married, noted Japan historian Richard J. Smethurst. She traveled with him when he was posted to Japan during his military service, which resulted in a life-long connection with Japan. 

Dr. Smethurst returned to Michigan for graduate school, receiving her PhD in Classics from the University of Michigan in 1968.  Although her teaching career was in the Classics Department at the University of Pittsburgh from 1967 until her retirement as professor emerita in 2013 (including serving as chair from 1988-1994), she also had an affiliation with the department of East Asian Languages and Literature from 1989.  

Dr. Smethurst was interested in comparative theater and published several books and articles on noh drama.  She received the Japan-United States Friendship Commission Prize administered by the Donald Keene Center at Columbia University for the translation of classical Japanese in Dramatic Representations of  Filial Piety in the spring of 2002 and the American Association of University Presses' Hiromi Arisawa Memorial Award in 1990, for her book The Artistry of Zeami and Aeschylus (Princeton, 1989), in addition to others for her work on classics. She was a superbly skilled linguist.

In addition, she co-curated a traveling exhibition of the noh prints of Tsukioka Kōgyo which was exhibited in Portland, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and New London, as well as contributing to a digitized archive of Kōgyo noh prints.

Her sharp intellect, acerbic wit and collegiality will be greatly missed.


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