Shirley Arora, 1930–2021
By Simon Bronner —
I am saddened to report the passing on March 23, 2021, of Dr. Shirley Arora, Professor Emerita of Spanish and Portuguese at UCLA and a Fellow of the American Folklore Society.
She was born June 3, 1930 in Youngstown, Ohio. She received her BA and MA from Stanford University in 1950 and 1951, respectively, and the PhD from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1962. She became assistant professor of Spanish and Portuguese the same year and was promoted to professor in 1976. In 1981, she became the chair of the department, a post she held for ten years, and expanded the department with ten new hires, including a Chicano literature specialist. She retired from UCLA in 2000.
She was elected to the Fellows of the American Folklore Society in 1992.
Her research in folklore focused on proverbial speech in the Spanish-speaking world and legend. She was the author of Proverbial Comparisons and Related Expressions in Spanish Recorded in Los Angeles, California (University of California Press, 1977) and Proverbial Comparisons in Ricardo Palma’s “Tradiciones Peruanas” (University of California Press, 1966), and co-editor of Antlogia del folklore de Torrelaguna (Comunidad de Madrid, 1990). She was also an acclaimed novelist, including What, Then Raman? (Follett, 1963), which was translated into multiple languages and made into a Kannada-language movie (as Bettada Hoovu, 1985). Her contributions to proverb study included analysis of the social significance of proverb communication, particularly from the perspective of the listener. Notable among her many articles on proverbs is “The Perception of Proverbiality” that was part of the first volume of Proverbium; Yearbook of International Proverb Scholarship, 1 (1984), 1-38. According to bibliographer Wolfgang Mieder, it was the most cited article in international proverb scholarship.
Her research of the legend, supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, in 1991 was notable for publications on La Llorona with attention to social and psychological implications of the narratives. Widely reprinted was her essay “La Llorona: The Naturalization of a Legend,” Southwest Folklore 5 (1981): 23-40. In 2000, she was the founding trustee for the Arora Family Charitable Foundation, which established the Dr. Shirley L. Arora Graduate Fellowship Fund to support graduate students of the UCLA Department of Spanish and Portuguese. In 1995, Arora received a festschrift edited by Wolfgang Mieder on the occasion of her sixty-fifth birthday (Proverbium 12). In 2010, Wolfgang Mieder also published a selection of Arora’s letters in “True Friends Are Like Diamonds”: Three Decades of Correspondence Between the Folklorists Shirley L. Arora and Wolfgang Mieder (University of Vermont, 2010).
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