January 29, 2003: From the Editor

Photo: A. J. Verdelle (Frank Stewart)

I make the same New Year’s resolution each winter: I will audit a class. So I pore through the course guide, copying reading lists, and visit a bookstore to thumb through crisp volumes with unbroken spines. Sadly, by the end of January, my resolution gets downsized to: I will attend occasional afternoon lectures, as time permits.

Among the offerings in this issue of PAW are excerpts from the spring semester course guide, which, as managing editor Lolly O’Brien writes, is as tempting as a “delicious new bestseller” whose contents cry out: “Pick me!” But would-be students – and real ones – aren’t the only people brimming with a sense of possibility this time of year. Faculty members are offering about 75 new courses, each one something of an experiment.

“I think a new course is some part spontaneous invention and some part long months and years of preparing,” says anthropology professor Carol Greenhouse. She is teaching Ethnography and Democracy after 9/11, which springs from her longstanding interests in the anthropology of law and politics, for the first time. “I think of a course as a conversation, and I’m never satisfied that I have my end of it exactly right – since even at best, the world keeps changing, and with it, the students and I.”

History professor Philip Nord and politics professor Ezra Suleiman are coteaching a course to anchor a new program in European Politics and Society. There may be some kinks, Nord acknowledges, as each gets accustomed to the other’s teaching style. “I expect the course to work from the outset, but it will require much fine-tuning in the years ahead,” he says.
Eddie S. Glaude *97, who joined the religion faculty this year, will test-drive a new course on Black Power and Its Theology of Liberation, the focus of his own research. “I am somewhat obsessed with the black power era and its impact on contemporary racial politics,” he says. But no course is ever exactly right, and he is always tinkering with ways to keep classes fresh and invigorating.

In preparing her seminar, Reading Toni Morrison, author and Humanities Council lecturer A. J. Verdelle reread all seven of Morrison’s novels — the very books to which she herself looks to see how a master uses language and creates narrative. Verdelle read every published interview with the Nobel laureate, reviewed the critical literature, and brought out her own extensive notes.

“I tell my students all the time that I try to teach them as if they will never see me again. And so, what that means is that I give my courses all the immediacy and energy I can muster at the time,” Verdelle says. “Students, of course, make each workshop or seminar unique, because they are integral participants with particular perspectives. This is what makes teaching sustainable, however, that students are like canvases, with magical realist self-reflexive powers.”

Speaking of writers, PAW’s revamped books page, Reading Room, debuts in this issue with author profiles and interviews, and short descriptions of notable books. PAW no longer will attempt to publish a comprehensive list of books received, although this list will be available at www.princeton. edu/paw. We hope the new feature will provide a more substantive look at the ideas and work of a range of Princeton authors.


Current Issue    Online Archives    Printed Issue Archives
Advertising Info    Reader Services    Search    Contact PAW    Your Class Secretary