“When people think higher education in universities and colleges, what do they see in their minds?” asks University Professor Catharine Stimpson, a senior fellow at The Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy.
Stimpson, dean emerita of NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science, will be puzzling out the answer with her students in a fall 2012 course titled, ‘Higher Education and the Engaged Imagination: Representations of Colleges and Universities.”
Literature has always been the home base for Stimpson who was the founding editor of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, and is the author of Where the Meanings Are and a novel, Class Notes. Throughout her career, she has published more than 150 monographs, essays, stories, and reviews on education, culture, and feminism. Among her honors are a Rockefeller Humanities fellowship, a National Humanities Institute grant, and a Fulbright fellowship.
“I’m always happy when I’m teaching literature, thinking about literature, and reading literature,” Stimpson says, noting that twelve years as dean at NYU immersed her in higher education in ways that were “practical and only too real.”
In her new course, Stimpson will be using the imaginations of writers and readers to illuminate the changing landscape of higher education. Among the assigned readings: The Groves of Academe, Lucky Jim, Brideshead Revisited, This Side of Paradise, and Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin. Two weeks will be dedicated to Moo by Jane Smiley.
“Moo is one of the best books ever written about higher education,” Stimpson says. “It’s about a land-grant university in the Midwest and I think it represents simultaneously what is good, what is bad, and what is ugly in higher education.”