January 28, 2004: From the Editor

A cyclist rides across the courtyard at East Pyne, part of the new humanities complex. (Frank Wojciechowski)

One of the joys in working at Princeton is attending afternoon events such as those sponsored by the Council of the Humanities. There are readings by poets, both Princeton’s own and visitors. Presentations by photographers, dancers, and musicians. Lectures on an incredible range of topics – including, this fall, on Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” with the story first distributed across the University for reading and discussion.

This year is a special one for the humanities at Princeton, as described in a story in this issue’s “Notebook.” Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Council – along with various humanities departments – is moving into spacious and elegant new digs. The new Andlinger Center for the Humanities comprises East Pyne and Chancellor Green, which have been renovated, Joseph Henry House, and a new building in the Henry House style. Planners hope the center will highlight Princeton’s work in the humanities and spark new conversations among students and scholars in different fields.

While much of Princeton’s growth in recent years has been in the sciences, pushing the campus frontier forward figuratively and literally, it’s satisfying to know that the humanities still have a hold on the University’s heart.

The Humanities Council is especially known for the visitors it invites to campus – for a week, a semester, or a year. Among the scholars at Princeton for the spring, for example, are Israel Yuval, a scholar of Christian-Jewish relations from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Leslie Kurke *88, a classics scholar who won a MacArthur “genius” fellowship. Historian Anthony Grafton, chairman of the council, says the University seeks the “great scholars of the world,” but that’s not enough. The council wants people “who are willing to settle in and get involved – to have a beer at the Annex with students and colleagues, and talk.”

The council’s real focus is not the public lectures, but its programs for students, Grafton says. As an example, he points to the well-known journalists who visit each semester; this spring, they are New York Times reporter Jeff Gerth, New York Times Magazine writer Deborah Sontag, Newsweek editor Evan Thomas, and Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher ’80. Fisher will teach students how to write compelling stories about people who are neither officials nor celebrities. As a journalist, Fisher has covered some of the most exciting events of recent history; in his choice to teach about the extraordinariness of ordinary lives, he finds a well of meaning and richness – much like the humanities themselves.

Basketball is under way, with Princeton first scheduled to play Penn February 10 at home. We celebrate the season with a story on the Tigers’ longstanding, passionate rivalry with our neighbor in Philly. “Passionate” is, perhaps, an understatement; in finding photographs to accompany this article, our art director noted that many of the fans’ signs – on both sides of the court – were too colorful to reproduce.


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