January 29, 2003: From the Editor
Photo: A. J. Verdelle (Frank Stewart)
I make the same New Years 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 OBrien writes,
is as tempting as a delicious new bestseller whose contents
cry out: Pick me! But would-be students and real ones
arent 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 Im never satisfied that I have my end of it exactly right
since even at best, the world keeps changing, and with it, the students
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 others teaching style. I expect the course to work from
the outset, but it will require much fine-tuning in the years ahead,
In preparing her seminar, Reading Toni Morrison, author and Humanities
Council lecturer A. J. Verdelle reread all seven of Morrisons 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, PAWs 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.