In a major faculty shakeup for the relatively small Classics Department, the University has tapped senior professors from the University of Texas at Austin and England’s Oxford University. Meanwhile, two classics professors — one of whom is already tenured at Yale — have announced they will leave this summer for senior positions at Stanford University and the University of London.
Tenured classics professor Susanna Braund, who specializes in Latin literature, and classics professor Stephen Colvin, who specializes in Greek linguistics, will leave for Stanford and London, respectively. Newly recruited Texas professor Egbert Bakker specializes in Greek literature and Oxford professor Christina Kraus specializes in Greek and Latin literatures.
With fewer than 20 professors in the Yale Classics Department and just 22 junior and senior majors, these faculty appointments and departures are significant, Classics Director of Undergraduate Studies Michael Anderson said.
“As DUS, it does complicate the curriculum planning for next year,” Anderson said. “But I think, given the balance of exiting faculty and entering faculty, we should be able to manage the necessary courses and still provide plenty of choice among courses for both classics majors and any students interested in classics.”
Braund said she thinks “it must look bad” for the small department to see two professors leave at the same time.
“When it’s a smaller department like Classics and all these things are happening at once, people find it a bit destructive,” Braund said. “[Stanford] made an approach to me and the reason it was persuasive in the end was completely because of personal circumstances. It is nothing negative about Yale at all.”
With her husband moving to a post at the University of Alberta in Canada, Braund said her move is a personal decision. She said she is sad to leave her “adorable neighborhood” on the Long Island Sound for Palo Alto, Calif.
“When I came to Yale in 2000, I imagined I would be here for the rest of my career,” Braund said. “It’s a big surprise to me that life has brought these changes about.”
Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said he is pleased with the “great” new appointments.
“I’m very sorry for Susanna Braund to leave us,” Brodhead said. “She’s a very smart woman and was a very energetic presence. Stephen Colvin, too, enjoyed everyone’s great admiration.”
Colvin could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
Bakker, who has a new and interesting perspective on Homer, will focus on developing Greek linguistics, Anderson said.
“Bakker is interested in trying to read tenses in different ways and develop a better understanding of how Greek syntax works,” Anderson said.
Anderson said Oxford’s Kraus, like Braund, specializes in Latin literature, but Kraus focuses on prose and Braund on poetry. Kraus has also studied Greek tragedy, Anderson said.
Braund said she is pleased that Bakker and Kraus will join the faculty, calling them “excellent scholars.”
“It’s a very exciting moment for the department,” Braund said. “It’s a new infusion of energy.”