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PROF. MICHAEL J. SMITH OF THE DEPT. OF POLITICS RETURNS AS THE DIRECTOR OF PST BEGINNING ON JULY 1, 2014.

I  am delighted to report that Prof. Michael Smith, who directed PST for thirteen years, from 1999 to 2012 (after having co-directed the Program in 1996-99), will be returning to the directorship beginning on July 1, 2014.  Michael has done much to turn PST into the rigorous and wide-ranging, yet also coherent, program that it is. His commitment to students is legendary. His mastery of the content that PST students grapple with in the third-year core seminars–philosophical, literary, and social-scientific works ranging from the ancient Greeks to the recent past–is beyond compare. Finally, supported by Thesis Advisers from around the University, he has shepherded hundreds of fourth-year theses to successful completion.

I expect to continue collaborating with the Program in Political and Social Thought for many years to come. I first began to advise PST theses way back in academic year 1991-92 (I was involved with two theses in that year), and I have also had many PST majors (and pre-majors) in my classes since then. Moreover, since agreeing, in July 2012, to take on the directorship for a two-year period, which made it possible for Prof. Smith to take his first sabbatical leave in many, many years, I have learned a great deal more about the Program.

In addition, directing the Program has enabled me in some instances to re-encounter texts that I had not read or taught for thirty or forty years. In other instances, it has led me to engage with texts (or “texts”) that I had in fact not read (or “read”) before–such as Euripides’ BACCHAE, the ANALECTS of Confucius, Tolstoy’s WAR AND PEACE, William James’s VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE, and the recent, and quite neglected, movie MARGARET.

Some of these omissions are perhaps shocking, but the bias of modern academia is toward specialization (for reasons that Adam Smith, in THE WEALTH OF NATIONS makes clear). One advantage of PST as a major is that it gives students the chance to range more broadly than they will likely ever again have the chance to do. Another advantage is that in the course of this reading we encounter some very, very smart people.

Allan Megill, Director of the Program in Political and Social Thought, July 1, 2012-June 30, 2014

 

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