Dear Alumni and Friends,

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “signature” as “a distinctive technique, attribute, product, etc., which is identified or associated with a particular person or thing.” I find that I can quite readily characterize the cutting-edge scholarship of my colleagues in the Division of the Humanities as “signature” work.

I think of Agnes Callard’s (Philosophy) forthcoming book, Aspiration: The Agency of Becoming, in which she describes an emergent nondeliberative rationality that aims to bring about a change within, rather than outside, a person. Or Chris Kennedy’s (Linguistics) article, “Two Sources of Subjectivity: Qualitative Assessment and Dimensional Uncertainty” (Inquiry 56 [2013], 258–77), which uses a diagnostic called truth assessment, together with analysis of grammatical structure, to examine the way that certain adjectives convey subjective and nonsubjective opinions.

These erudite and path-breaking studies, honed in graduate seminars, University workshops, and scholarly conferences, contribute to the significant body of work that each scholar is building.

Happily, this research also finds its way into the formation of our undergraduate students. This spring, the College is launching a new initiative, the Signature Course Program. These classes have been competitively selected to introduce College students to exciting themes, ideas, and materials in the humanities and social sciences, and afford unique and memorable learning experiences, exemplary of humanistic inquiry.

The Humanities Division faculty will be offering seven intriguing signature courses. Callard’s class, Self-Creation as a Philosophical and Literary Problem, clearly resonates with her forthcoming book, and Kennedy’s course, pithily titled Truth, likewise recalls a methodology that he employs in his research. Students will have other options as well—Big: Monumental Buildings and Sculptures in the Past and Present (James Osborne, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations), Richer and Poorer: Income Inequality (Elaine Hadley, English Language and Literature), Introduction to the Middle East (Fred Donner, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations), Traditional East Asian Literature: Ghosts and the Fantastic (Judith Zeitlin, East Asian Languages and Civilizations), and Making and Meaning in the American Musical (Thomas Christensen, Music).

What catches my eye in these titles is how skillfully my colleagues have managed to shape their research so that it will introduce undergraduates to unfamiliar disciplines and methodologies, inspiring them perhaps to investigate these areas further. Through these signatures across the Division, College students can engage directly with Divisional faculty research.

As newly appointed Dean of the Division of the Humanities, I very much look forward to encouraging this type of direct transfer of knowledge and to supporting the continued excellence of our faculty, staff, and students in the Division over the next five years.



Anne Walters Robertson
Dean, Division of the Humanities
Claire Dux Swift Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Music