Anne Carson is one of my favorite writers, and this quote comes from one of her most extraordinary works, a wry, original and fascinating exploration of an ancient Greek poet, Simonides, and a 20th-century German-language poet, Paul Celan. The father’s position is extreme, Carson points out, but it is not so uncommon. Her own early efforts as a poet met with a similar disapproval. Perhaps poets are ones who waste words and make up stories. But the telling and retelling of stories is fundamental to the way we express ourselves as human beings and, more importantly, to how we share knowledge. If we don’t tell our stories, what then? We risk losing what is most precious: Possibility. Discovery. Connection.
I believe the best way to connect the people of this community is through our stories, and so I am pleased to present you with the second edition of A&S Magazine. I want to thank you all for sharing your thoughts on the first edition and hope that you will continue to give me your input. The medium of print may be under siege, but the tangible pleasure of holding and handling a print publication is something I don’t think we should give up prematurely. On the other hand, it would be foolish to ignore the creative potential and ease offered by digital media. My communications team has therefore made an extra effort to provide you not only with an improved electronic version of the magazine but expanded online content. Do look for companion pieces to our feature articles and highlighted links to Arts & Sciences people and projects on our website.
His biographers recount that when the poet Paul Celan was four years old, he took a notion to make up his own fairy tales. He went about telling these new versions to everyone in the house until his father advised him to cut it out. “If you need stories the Old Testament is full of them.” To make up new stories, Celan’s father thought, is a waste of words.
— Anne Carson, Economy of the Unlost
This has been another tremendous year for me as dean and I am eager to share the highlights with you in these pages. We are under way with ambitious plans to improve our academic excellence. We have made a number of exciting new hires, and stand poised to recruit more of the very top-ranked faculty next year.
Significant faculty achievements for the year include a Guggenheim fellowship awarded to Matthew J. Gabel for his work on comparative judicial politics. Sarah C.R. Elgin continues her innovative work in science education research with another generous and pivotal institutional grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Scholars in the humanities also have had a particularly strong showing this year with four fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, three fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and a very exciting multi-year grant from the Mellon Foundation.
A trove of 72 books from Thomas Jefferson’s library was recently identified in the Washington University rare book collection, reminding us that where exceptional people and places are involved, the most unexpected discoveries can happen. Following the daily discoveries of the WUSTL community is a constant source of delight. The creativity and productivity of our students, teachers and scholars never ceases to amaze me. From Packard fellowship recipient David Fike to our Rhodes Scholar, Priya Sury, we have a wealth of talent, commitment and drive among our faculty, students and alumni. To my mind, their passion for discovery and social engagement exemplifies what is so very special about the community that I am honored to serve.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences
Hortense and Tobias Lewin Distinguished Professor in the Humanities