Princeton professors Hal Foster and Esther Schor have received the University’s Howard T. Behrman Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities.
Foster, a 1977 Princeton alumnus, teaches and publishes in the areas of modernist and contemporary art and theory. He is an associate member of the School of Architecture and the Department of German. In addition, he sits on the executive committees of the Program in Media and Modernity and the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities, which he helped found. Foster was also a longtime chair of both his department and the Gauss Seminars in Criticism.
A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Foster was a founding editor of Zone Magazine and Books, and he writes regularly for October (which he co-edits), Artforum and The London Review of Books. He is the author of many books, including most recently, “What Comes After Farce? Art and Criticism at a Time of Debacle” (Verso Press, 2020); “Conversations About Sculpture” with Richard Serra (Yale University Press, 2018); and “Bad New Days: Art, Criticism, Emergency” (Verso Press, 2015). “Brutal Aesthetics,” his 2018 Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, will be published by Princeton University Press in fall 2020.
“Hal’s generosity both intellectual and personal, his wisdom in matters scholarly and institutional, his productivity and openness to new ideas and approaches — all that and more define Hal as the most important art historian of his generation in the United States and one of the most distinguished members of the Princeton community,” wrote one colleague in nominating Foster for the Behrman Award.
Foster teaches a wide array of classes, including the proseminar in art-historical methodology. He offers both undergraduate lecture courses in 20th-century art and graduate seminars on prewar and postwar topics. A particular interest is the relation between art and philosophy at times of political crisis. Periodically, Foster has taught with Leah Dickerman of the Museum of Modern Art and Yve-Alain Bois of the Institute for Advanced Study on such subjects as Dada and abstraction. “He has taught so many young art historians, architectural historians and literary scholars how to keep their eyes and ears open to the nuances of the work itself as they also ask far-reaching questions about the larger social and psychological forces under which the form has emerged,” another colleague wrote. “He has trained many of the most respected contemporary scholars of 20th-century and recent art.”
Esther Schor, the Leonard L. Milberg '53 Professor of American Jewish Studies and professor of English, joined the Princeton faculty in 1986. She served as the Inaugural Behrman Professor in the Council for the Humanities from 2015-18. Her scholarship focuses on two areas — Modern Jewish Culture and British Romanticism. Known as “Starry” to her colleagues, she is valued as an innovative teacher and in 2015 she received the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching. She is co-director of “Migration: People and Cultures Across Border,” an interdisciplinary research community of PIIRS.
Schor writes in many modes. She is the author of “Bearing the Dead: The British Culture of Mourning from the Enlightenment to Victoria” (Princeton University Press, 1994), and the biography “Emma Lazarus,” (Nextbook/Schocken), which won the 2006 National Jewish Book Award. She edited the “Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley,” and co-edited “The Other Mary Shelley: Beyond ‘Frankenstein’”(Oxford University Press, 1993) and “Women’s Voice: Visions and Perspectives” (McGraw-Hill, 1990). Her book “Bridge of Words: Esperanto and the Dream of a Universal Language” (Henry Holt/Metropolitan, 2016) is a hybrid of cultural history and memoir based on seven years of experience in the Esperanto community. She has also published two books of poems and a memoir.
“[T]he greatest measure of a humanities scholar and teacher is their humanity, and this can only be understood in relation to others,” wrote one colleague. “Professor Schor has met this measure and exceeded it. She has conceived the humanities as more than what we study; rather, she has imagined humanistic inquiry as a forum for understanding our relation to things that may appear to be outside our orbit.”
Schor has taught a range of undergraduate and graduate courses, including “Witness: History, Memory and Culture,” “Confessions,” “Underworlds,” “Bible as Literature,” “British Romanticism — The Age of Revolution,” “Women Writers and Romanticism,” “Wordsworth, Keats and the Romantic Canon,” and “Xtreme Romanticism.” For many years, she has served on the Executive Committee of the Program in Jewish Studies, where she teaches “American Jewish Writers,” “Introduction to Jewish Studies” and “Yiddish Literature in Translation,” among other courses. As Behrman Professor, she directed the yearlong, team-taught course “Interdisciplinary Approaches to Western Culture,” also known as the Humanities Sequence, and has taught both semesters of the course to many groups of first-year students.
In nominating Schor for the Behrman Award, a colleague wrote: “Esther Schor is to be admired — and thanked — for consistently, energetically and resourcefully pursuing the most intellectually rigorous and imaginatively demanding work in the humanities… Over the years I, like so many of my colleagues, have come to rely on Starry’s wisdom and tact, just as we have happily followed her advice and her lead in undertaking and supporting new initiatives in the humanities.”