May 25, 1995
Vol. 14, No. 18

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    Amoco Teaching Award: Karl Weintraub

    Karl Weintraub's teaching of College students in Western Civilization courses has made him one of the University's favorite teachers.

    In his courses, Weintraub challenges his students to broaden their outlooks by adopting the perspectives of the people they are studying. The students study a variety of texts in the process and benefit from Weintraub's research interest in autobiography. Seeing history through the eyes of its major players is an important lesson for students to learn, Weintraub said.

    Some College students are enrolled in a new course Weintraub began this year, prompted by the reprinting of Goethe's Autobiography.

    "I had wanted to teach a course on Goethe's Autobiography, but was unable to because the book was not in print. Then last summer I learned that Princeton University Press had reissued it, so I decided to teach the book as part of a two-course sequence on autobiography," said Weintraub, the Thomas E. Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor in History. He offers the course to both College and graduate students.

    The course is paired with another on Rousseau's Confessions. The courses reflect Weintraub's interest in autobiography and his belief that understanding autobiography is a means for students to better appreciate history.

    "The reason I like to have students study autobiography is that it is a way of understanding one of the central issues of history, the emergence of individuality," he said.

    "By having students read autobiography, I can help them understand how these people were confronting problems historians face. In reading Rousseau, for instance, students can learn how his critique of society limits his ability to look at his own contributions."

    "My interest in autobiography comes from another research interest I have -- the history of history. I've been interested in the way in which history itself has developed, and an important part of that comes from understanding the emergence of individuality. We can better understand history when we understand how human beings conceive of themselves. Many of the texts we have reveal autobiographical information even though they were not written as autobiography," Weintraub said.

    The Amoco Award is the fourth teaching award for Weintraub, who received the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 1960 and 1987. He received the E. Harris Harbison Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1967 from the Danforth Foundation.

    Weintraub received his A.B. in 1949, his A.M. in 1952 and his Ph.D. in 1957, all from Chicago. He has taught at the University since 1955.

    -- William Harms