After spending the last year in Hong Kong and Paris, Stanford comparative literature professor Haun Saussy GRD ’90 will be moving to New Haven in the fall of 2004 — and he’ll be moving with a smile.
“It’s kind of a homecoming for me,” Saussy said. “It’s not true that when people leave New Haven, they say, ‘Never again.'”
Saussy, a specialist in Greek classical literature as well as Chinese classical poetry, said he is excited to return to Yale as a senior professor in the Comparative Literature Department, which he refers to as “the most important department in the field.” Saussy decided to come to Yale shortly after he was promoted to the status of “full professor” at Stanford.
Saussy said he will not come to Yale until the fall of 2004 because he wants his children to have an easier school transition.
Saussy’s appointment comes during a departmental initiative to create a more international curriculum — a departure from its traditional Western European focus.
“In the past, all the big names [of the department] have been Europeans and Europeanists,” Comparative Literature chairman Michael Holquist said. “We believe that with Haun coming, we have made a graceful segue into the 21st century.”
A testament to his versatility, Saussy’s resume includes books on Chinese literature, French translations and book reviews of German works.
Holquist said the department has recently started building relationships with the social sciences, the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, and the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.
In light of the University’s international mission, Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said it was appropriate to hire Saussy — a man who is proficient in a multitude of languages, including Greek, Latin, French, Italian, German and Chinese.
“We think of him as the new kind of theoretical intelligence,” Brodhead said, “someone who fits the globalizing moment.”
Holquist emphasized that despite the department’s strong commitment to diversifying its curriculum, it will abandon tradition.
“We have a two-pronged approach to the future,” Holquist said. “On the one hand, [the department] is involving itself with new areas of teaching. But we’re also ensuring that our traditional commitment to the Western canon be maintained.”
Saussy said the department’s international initiative played a significant role in his decision, but that he was primarily attracted to Yale’s commitment to the humanities.
“I found it very stimulating to be at Stanford, but in some ways, I feel like I’m a minority — a marginal, unimportant part of the campus here,” Saussy said. “But Yale is a place where humanities, languages and literatures matter a whole lot.”
Saussy said because of the Yale Comparative Literature Department’s status, he expects the effects of its international mission to affect departments at other institutions.
“They’re telling the field something about direction,” Saussy said. “People pay attention to what Yale is doing.”
Ramon Saldivar, chairman of Stanford’s Comparative Literature Department, said Saussy has also made significant non-academic contributions to Stanford’s department.
“[Saussy] is one of the most highly visible members of the department in terms of creating an intellectual community and a feeling of departmental citizenship,” Saldivar said. “He was a transforming addition to our department.”