Samuel G. Armistead
|Samuel G. Armistead|
|Born||Samuel Gordon Armistead
August 21, 1927
|Died||August 7, 2013
|Occupation||ethnographer, linguist, folklorist, Historian, Professor and critic of literature|
Samuel Gordon Armistead (August 21, 1927 – August 7, 2013) was a prominent American ethnographer, linguist, folklorist, Historian, Professor emeritus of Spanish and critic of literature. He is considered one of the most notable Hispanist scholars of the second half of the 20th and early 21st century. His studies were especially focused in the Medieval Spanish language and literature, Hispanic folk literature, comparative literature and folklore. He excelled also in his studies on minority languages and archaic but still existing languages, such as the Spanish language of the Isleño American communities and, especially, the Sephardic Jews language. Armistead was author of a multi-volume series that assembles information concerning the traditional literature of the Sephardic Jews and is author (co-author, editor, or co-editor) of over twenty books and several hundred articles on Medieval Spanish Literature, Modern Hispanic Oral Literature, and Comparative Literature. His research fields that have had special impact include early poetry, medieval history, Hispanic dialectology, the Spanish epic and Romance old and traditional and he conducted numerous field surveys on the language and oral literature of the Sephardic communities of Morocco and the East as well as in rural communities in Portugal,Spain and Israel, and several sites in the United States.
Samuel Gordon Armistead was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was raised in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. He was graduated from Penn Charter School in 1945. Afterwards he spent six months in the U.S. Merchant Marine and traveled to France and the Caribbean, where he finished perfecting his Spanish, the language having attracted him since his adolescence. Beginning in the fall of 1945 he began to study Spanish literature at Princeton University, and he received his doctorate in Spanish literature and Romance languages from this university in 1955. By then he had begun teaching at the same university (1953–1955), where he was a doctoral student from the following year and began a teaching career that led him to become a professor at the universities of California (Los Angeles) (UCLA), between 1956 and 1967, Purdue University (Indiana) from 1967 to 1968, the University of Pennsylvania, between 1968 and 1982, and the University of California, Davis, where he taught Spanish  from 1982 until his death.
In 1957, Armistead initiated a collaborative project to collect, edit and study the massive body of Hispanic oral literature from a comparative perspective. Since beginning this research in 1957, he worked closely with another eminent Hispanist scholar, Joseph H. Silverman (1924–1989) and the musicologist Israel J. Katz (born 1930), with both of whom he developed an extensive work primarily focused on the oral literature of the Sephardic communities of Morocco and the East. He also worked closely with Hispanist Manuel da Costa Fontes in studies focusing especially on the oral tradition of Portugal and Brazil.
Beginning in 1975, Sam Armistead developed a field study on the Hispanic linguistics of Spanish colonial home communities in Louisiana, communities that have existed in that state since the 18th century and still do. The book he published from that study is The Spanish Tradition in Louisiana (1992), and more recently he was engaged in researching additional aspects of Louisiana Spanish and its oral literature.
Between 2000 to 2002 he was co-chair of the departments of Spanish and classics in the University of California, Davis. Since 2003 he published a six-volume collection of Portuguese traditional romances from the Azores Islands, and he was at work on subsequent volumes. He retired in the 2011 year as professor emeritus.
Samuel G. Armistead wrote more of 30 books and 500 articles. Alone or in collaboration with colleagues, Samuel G. Armistead published exemplary studies and collections of medieval Spanish literature (epic, chronicles, and lyrical jarchas primitive ballads) and its modern oral survivals, as well as studies of the Pan-Hispanic Ballad and pan-European and language, culture and literature of the Sephardic Jews and other minority communities and cultures. He also wrote studies considered indispensable on the languages and oral literature of various Hispanic linguistic groups from the those located in the Canary Islands and Mexico to those in the state of Louisiana. El romancero judeo-español en el Archivo Menéndez Pidal (The Judeo-Spanish ballads in the Archive Menéndez Pidal, 1978) has been frequently used as a reference work for all students of Sephardic ballads. Samuel G. Armistead has also carried out pioneering studies on other genres of pan-Hispanic oral literature, such as song lyrics from the Mozarabic jarchas, contemporary lyrics to these songs, riddles, folk tales, proverbs and improvised oral poetry. It has also published important studies concerned and also on traditional Arabic literature and epic French, German and Pan European. Among the contributions made stronger by Samuel G. Armistead to studies Hispanic literature, their finding should be noted that nearly a score of Sephardic romances are directly and genetically with the epic medieval Spanish, French and German, rather than with the texts printed by publishers ballads of the 16th century. This has provided an extraordinary boost to reception of the theories defined as "traditionalist," in distinction to the "individualist" theory, about the genesis and evolution of Hispanic ballads, and he has always defended their genetic dependence upon the epic. The "individualist" theory denied the link between epic and ballad and argued that the ballad was a genre created mostly by scholars of the 16th century. Another major contribution by Professor Armistead to hispanistic studies has been his continued field work and the pursuit of oral literature materials among people belonging to the lower classes and social groups and linguistically peripheral and thus marginalized within their respective cultural areas. Finally, Professor Armistead has formed many generations of Spanish scholars by means of his courses, seminars, conferences  and lectures, and the influence of his prize-winning teaching has contributed greatly to the evolution and development of the school of American Hispanicists throughout the second half of the 20th century and into the 21st century.
Armistead spent his last years in Northern California. He was married during some time with Maria del Pilar Valcarcel-Calderon. After his divorce, he married Annie Laurie Meltzoff. Armistead died on August 7, 2013, with 85 years old, in Davis, California, due to complications from surgery.
His books, written either in English or in Spanish, are:
- Judeo-Spanish Ballads from Bosnia (with Joseph H. Silverman), 1971
- Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews, Vol. I: The Judeo-Spanish Ballad Chapbooks of Yacob Abraham Yona; (with Joseph H. Silverman), May 1, 1972
- Romances judeo-españoles de Tánger (Judeo-Spanish Romances of Tangier, with Joseph H. Silverman), 1977
- El romancero judeo-español en el Archivo Menéndez Pidal (The Judeo-Spanish ballads in the Archive Menéndez Pidal, with several authors) (1978)
- Tres calas en el romancero (Three bays in the ballads, with Joseph H. Silverman), 1979
- Hispania Judaica: Studies on the history, language, and literature of the Jews in the Hispanic world (with Joseph H. Silverman and Josep M. Sola-Solé), 1980 
- Judeo-Spanish Ballads from New York (with Joseph H. Silverman), 1981
- Seis romancerillos de cordel sefardíes (Six ballads of Sephardic string, with Silverman and Iacob M. Hassán), 1981
- En torno al romancero sefardí: hispanismo y balcanismo de la tradición judeo-española (Around the Sephardic ballads: Hispanism and Balkanism of the Judeo-Spanish, with Joseph H. Silverman), 1982.
- Musica Y Poesia Popular De España Y Portugal (Music and Popular Poetry of Spain and Portugal, reedition of book written by Kurt Schindler in 1941), 1991
- Bibliografías del romancero oral 1 (Bibliographies of oral ballads 1), 1992
- The Spanish Tradition in Louisiana: I, Isleño Folkliterature (with musical transcriptions by Israel J. Katz), 1992
- Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews (three volumes, with Silverman and Israel J. Katz ), 1972 - 1994.
- La tradición épica de las "Mocedades de Rodrigo" (The epic tradition of "Rodrigo Mocedades"), 1999
Honors and Awards
- Medieval Academy of America (Fellow, 1973)
- Doctor of Humane Letters (Georgetown University, 1990)
- American Folklore Society (Fellow, 1991)
- Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española (corresponding member, 1998)
- U.C. Davis Faculty Research Lecturer (1998–1999)
- Premio Internacional ("International Award") Elio Antonio de Nebrija, received in the University of Salamanca (1999).
- Distinguished Lecturer in Medieval Studies (Arizona State University, Tempe, 2000)
- U.C. Davis Distinguished Professor (2003)
- Elected foreign Corresponding Member
- Named a corresponding member of the Real Academia Española (June 2009)
- Awarded Doctor honoris causa, Universidad de Alcalá (Madrid, December 2010).
- Armistead, Samuel Gordon (In Spanish). Retrieved June 13, 2012.
- Anle: Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española (In Spanish: Anle: North American Academy of Spanish language). Retrieved June 13, 2012.
- Samuel G. Armistead, Spanish scholar
- Anroat Ediciones: Samuel G. Armistead (In Spanish). Retrieved June 13, 2012.
- e-Sefardi: Noticias del mundo sefardi. Samuel G. Armistead, un experto, da a conocer el valor del romancero asturiano, el gallego y las tradiciones sefardíes (in Spanish: Notices of Sefardi world. Samuel G. Armistead, an expert, put in knowledge the value of Asturias´s romancer).
- Distinguished Professor Samuel G. Armistead Awarded a Doctorate honoris causa by the Universidad de Alcalá
- e-Sefarad: Noticias del mundo Sefardí (In Spanish: e-Sefard: News of Sefardi world)