Assembly gives French prof. teaching award

by Hannah Plotkin | 11/17/05 6:00am

The Student Assembly presented Lawrence Kritzman, professor of French and Italian and comparative literature, with the fall 2005 Profiles in Excellence Teaching Award at a dinner Wednesday evening.

Kritzman spoke during the dinner, criticizing what he called the College administration's inability to evaluate scholarly work. Kritzman said his faith in the institution to make impartial decisions regarding research has been shaken.

In reference to his view of the administration as feeling the need to constantly cultivate productivity, Kritzman said the "read a book, write a book phenomenon" was "lamentable."

"I think that creative work is important, but you also need to have an administration that understands what the nature of a creative work is about," he said.

He jokingly remarked that people who know him well know that he has trouble with institutions.

"I also think, as an intellectual, one should always remain suspicious of institutions," he said.

Kritzman views his own teaching methods as a continuous and creative process not in search of a specific result.

"When I say good teaching at least for me is useless, it means that I want it to be open-ended. I don't want it to have a final destination because giving it a final destination is an act of death," he said.

Kritzman went on to discuss his idea of a teacher's role in the development of ideas and what responsibilities it involves.

"Teaching really has something to do with thinking, not producing, but thinking, challenging, going beyond, displacing received ideas, thinking as both a response to the other, never a response to the other as an absolute, but teaching as a responsibility in terms of responsiveness," he said.

Rather than just as a profession, Kritzman views teaching as an emotionally invested pursuit that can involve the "erotic."

"Teaching is, at least for me, something that requires love," he said.

Over the course of his career, Kritzman has won several awards, including the Order of National Merit, the second-highest civilian honor given by the French government, in 2000 for his contribution to awareness of French culture.

Dean Drizin '06, the Assembly's vice president for academic affairs, introduced Kritzman along with Michael Miller '06, who wrote his comparative literature thesis under Kritzman's guidance.

"In my four years at Dartmouth, after having taken courses in a wide range of departments, never have I encountered a professor so willing to spend time with his or her students," Miller said.

"Professor Kritzman has continuously made my experience at Dartmouth more and more memorable and rewarding," he added.