April 1, 1999
Vol. 18 No. 13

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    [amy lehman] by jason smithBill Brown, Associate Professor in English, has assumed the position of Master of the Humanities Collegiate Division.

    Brown succeeds Desan as master

    By Jennifer Leovy
    News Office

    Bill Brown, Associate Professor in English, has begun a three-year appointment as Master of the Humanities Collegiate Division. Brown succeeds Philippe Desan, Professor in Romance Languages & Literatures.

    “We are grateful to Philippe for his seven years of leadership, and we are equally delighted to have Bill Brown as his successor,” said John Boyer, Dean of the College. “Bill is a respected scholar and an inspiring and creative thinker who has displayed a proven commitment to our tradition of liberal education through his work in the Humanities Core sequence. His broad intellectual interests and interdisciplinary approach will lead to exciting new programs and courses in the Collegiate Division.”

    Brown joined the University in 1989. A college graduate of Duke University, he earned both his M.A. in creative writing and his Ph.D. in modern thought and literature from Stanford University. In addition to publishing The Material Unconscious and Reading the West and writing for numerous publications, Brown serves as a co-editor for Critical Inquiry and as a member of the editorial board for American Literature.

    Between 1992 and 1994, Brown, along with seven other faculty members, established the Common Core three-quarter sequence Reading Cultures: Collecting, Traveling and Capitalistic Cultures. “That experience taught me how you could design a Core course that attracts not only students, but also faculty who find the subject intensely interesting and exciting,” said Brown.

    Brown believes the recent changes in Core requirements provide an opportunity for faculty to rethink and define objectives for general education courses. “We can’t see the future, how the changes will play out. Will students take a two-quarter or three-quarter Humanities Core course? Will they take a two-quarter or three-quarter civilization course?” said Brown. “It’s my hope that we, the faculty, will use this time to produce some collective thinking and thus wisdom about what we expect of the students and of ourselves––and therefore, can make both the civilization and humanities sequences even greater sites of real excitement and intellectual energy.”

    Brown also hopes to connect faculty in different fields of research. “A professor who thinks about modernism in Japan, another who thinks about Russian film and another who works on competing modernisms in India all together might provide an extraordinary course or sequence of courses in comparative modernism,” said Brown. Serving as a catalyst, Brown hopes to prompt connections between professors that will inspire innovative undergraduate courses informed by current research.

    An advocate of the performing and creative arts, Brown believes more attention could be given to success stories like University Theater or student-led music ensembles. Student-driven successes could be the groundwork for very interesting curricular innovations, he said. “If you think about humanistic education in its broadest sense, you would want students taking courses not just in literature or musicology but also in creative writing, musical performance or painting,” said Brown.

    Brown’s enthusiasm for untapped possibilities is hard to miss––an enthusiasm he plans to share with his peers. “I want to make sure we don’t let the dust settle, that we don’t say ‘Oh, there have been changes, let’s process them and be done,’” said Brown. “Rather, I want to make sure we are always thinking about innovation and vision for the curriculum.”