Vivas, Eliseo

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Eliseo Vivas was born of Venezuelan parents in Pamplona, Colombia, on July 13, 1901. With the advent of the Venezuelan dictator Castro in 1908, the Vivas family went on an extended exile, first to Curacao, then Paris, and eventually to New York in 1915. Vivas received his secondary education in Curacao and New York and then entered the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute's program in engineering. While there Vivas took a course with Joseph Wood Krutch and decided to change his major to the humanities, which led him to transfer to the University of Wisconsin in 1926, on a Zona Gale Scholarship. There he earned a B.A. (1928) in philosophy and a Ph.D. (1935) also in philosophy.

In 1928 Vivas married Sarah Cohen, and the couple had a daughter, Marta Elvia, early in 1933. Sarah died in 1940 after suffering for several years from cancer. Vivas married again, late in 1941, to Dorothy Gant.

After brief stints as Venezuelan consul in Philadelphia and with the Barnes Foundation (an important exposure to modern art), Vivas entered academic life at the University of Wisconsin. He remained in Madison until 1944. For the next seven years Vivas taught at several universities, among them the University of Chicago and the Ohio State University.

In 1951 Vivas came to Northwestern as John Evans Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy, a chair he had until he retired in 1969. He then taught at Rockford College and the University of Iowa. During his career, Vivas also served as a visiting professor at several institutions.

While at Wisconsin, Vivas became deeply interested in communism, although he never joined the Communist party. However, his political and philosophical beliefs steadily moved from the left to the right, and he eventually became a staunch conservative.

His writings include many book reviews (especially from the 1920's through the 1940's), articles, and books on philosophy (primarily on aesthetics and values) and literary criticism. His major books are The Moral and the Ethical Life (1950); Creation and Discovery (1955); D. H. Lawrence, the Failure and the Triumph of Art (1960); The Artistic Transaction and Essays on Theory of Literature (1963); Contra Marcuse (1971); and Two Roads to Ignorance (1979). This last volume is autobiographical. To celebrate Vivas's seventy-fifth birthday, Henry Regnery arranged and edited a festschrift, Viva Vivas (1976). Hugh Curtler compiled an annotated bibliography, Eliseo Vivas, which was published in 1982.

From the guide to the Eliseo Vivas (1901-1993) Papers, 1922-1987, (Northwestern University Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Couch, William T. (William Terry), 1901-1988. William T. Couch papers, 1926-1988. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf Eliseo Vivas (1901-1993) Papers, 1922-1987 Northwestern University Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Place Name Admin Code Country
Ethics--Study and teaching--Illinois--Evanston
Philosophy--Study and teaching (Higher)--Illinois--Evanston


Birth 1901

Death 1993



Ark ID: w6w121t5

SNAC ID: 41340909