Yale Professor Peter Brooks Wins Prestigious Mellon Award

Peter Brooks

Peter Brooks, Sterling Professor of Comparative Literature at Yale, has received a $1.5 million Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award, which will enable him to initiate a dialogue on the teaching of the humanities and professional education.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Awards are presented to scholars who have significantly influenced the study of the humanities. Brooks was one of three recipients this year. The funds support the recipient’s own research and the teaching of arts and letters at an institutional level.

“Peter Brooks has been a prominent intellectual leader at Yale and throughout the humanities. As an influential scholar, devoted teacher, and founding director of the Whitney Humanities Center, he us enormously deserving of this recognition,” said Yale University President Richard C. Levin.

Brooks is developing a program at Yale, titled “Ethics of Reading: The Humanities and Professional Cultures,” that aims to reinvigorate the interplay between the humanities and other fields at the professional level. Building on his experience integrating humanistic reading with the study of law, he will introduce workshops, seminars and guest lectures over the next three years to stimulate discourse between faculty members at Yale’s professional schools and scholars representing different disciplines within the liberal arts.

“Yale has great resources to call upon,” notes Brooks, who will focus his efforts on the professional schools of law, medicine, architecture, divinity and management. “This will be a learning experience for me,” he said.

Brooks holds Bachelor’s, Master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard. He also studied at University College in London as a Marshall Scholar and at the University of Paris. He began teaching at Yale in 1965 and rose to the rank of full professor in 1975. He has held joint appointments in the French and Comparative Literature departments. In 1980 he was named the Chester D. Tripp Professor of Humanities.

Brooks’ scholarship has focused on French and English novels of the 19th and 20th centuries and the theory of narrative. The founding and long-time director of Yale’s Whitney Humanities Center, he is distinguished for promoting a cross-pollination between the study of literature and ideas from other fields, most notably, psychoanalysis and the law.

In the Mellon Award citation, Brooks is praised as “one of the leading literary critics of his generation.” His extensive bibliography includes “Henry James Goes to Paris” (2007), “Realist Vision” (2005), “Psychoanalysis and Storytelling” (1994), “Body Work (1993), “Reading for the Plot” (1984), “The Melodramatic Imagination” (1976), “The Novel of Worldliness” (1969), “Law’s Stories” (1996), edited with Paul Gewirtz—and “Whose Freud? (2000), co-authored with Alex Woloch. He is also the author of a number of books on law and literature, including “Troubling Confessions: Speaking Guilt in Law and Literature” (2000).

The New York Times, the New Republic, Times Literary Supplement, The Nation and the Yale Journal of Law & Humanities are some of the major publications to which he has regularly contributed articles and reviews.

In addition to teaching courses in law and literature at Yale Law School, he headed a program at the University of Virginia on the humanities and the law and serves on the editorial board of the Yale Journal of Law & Humanities.

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, Brooks has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Guggenheim Foundation. He was decorated an Officier des Palmes Académiques in 1986 and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris in 1997. He served as Eastman Visiting Professor at Oxford in 2001-02.

For the first term of the next academic year, Brooks will serve as a Fellow of the Kluge Center at the Library of Congress.

This is the third consecutive year that a Yale faculty member has received the Andrew Mellon Award for Distinguished Achievement. The previous Yale recipients are Joseph Roach and Ellen Rosand.

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Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345