Beatrice Kitzinger (Art & Archaeology) and Michael Wachtel (Slavic Languages and Literatures) have been named new Behrman Professors in the Humanities Council. The appointment recognizes distinguished humanities scholars and dedicated teachers from within the University community.
Behrman Professors coordinate the Interdisciplinary Approaches to Western Culture (HUM 216-219) and play a leading role in building community among humanities undergraduate students at Princeton.
Kitzinger, associate professor of art and archaeology, specializes in the art of the western Middle Ages. Her current research focuses on the intersection of narrative and history in early medieval art, as well as the relationship between eighth-century book culture and law.
“Teaching in the Western Humanities Sequence always affirms the excitement of exploring history in community,” said Kitzinger, who will begin her three-year Behrman professorship in fall 2023. “I became an art historian because I was fascinated by the stories objects and images can tell, which are sometimes but not always the same stories told by texts. One reason I love teaching the Sequence is that its polyvocal format brings students into a community in which many cultural threads and disciplinary approaches intertwine. The course underscores a really fundamental aspect of humanistic study: works speak to each other across genres and time, and everyone approaches their reading with diverse commitments and questions.”
Wachtel, professor of Slavic languages and literatures, will begin his three-year term in fall 2024. His research focuses on Russian poetry from the eighteenth century to the present, poetics, and Russo-German literary relations.
“I have always felt that humanities should be studied in a broad comparative context. Though I am in a Slavic Department, my undergraduate and graduate degrees were in comparative literature, and much of my scholarship concerns the ways Russian poets have drawn on their counterparts in other European traditions,” Wachtel said. “The intersections among the texts covered in the Western Humanities Sequence reveal the way writers have consistently revisited and reconceived the works of their predecessors and contemporaries. As participants in this course, we continue the tradition of discovery and reevaluation.”
The year-long course, which is team-taught by six faculty in each term, is designed for first-year students and sophomores. It is open to students across all majors. For Kitzinger and Wachtel, teaching the close cohort of undergraduates is a highlight, and both professors look forward to community building during their tenure as Behrman faculty.
“The students are essential to the Sequence’s interchange of voices and modes of inquiry, and it is wonderful to see them develop their own relationships with the works we discuss together, both within and beyond the class,” said Kitzinger.
Wachtel adds, “They are enthusiastic, intellectually curious, and often genuinely inspiring. Through their participation [the students] create a close-knit community that often remains intact through their senior year and beyond.”
The current Behrman Professors are Moulie Vidas (Religion), Yair Mintzker (History), and Katie Chenoweth (French & Italian).