A reader tip brings Gary Saul Morson of Northwestern University to the list of candidates for the Power Line 100 Best Professors roster. Morson is the Frances Hooper Professor of the Arts and Humanities and professor of Slavic languages and literature at Northwestern University, where, according to one recent profile, he is considered “a throwback,” because “he believes his most important job is to teach undergraduates. His Introduction to Russian Literature course regularly attracts up to 500 students, making it one of the most popular elective courses at Northwestern.”
I’m going to have a whole lot to say about this “teaching undergraduates” idea (imagine!) in a few months, but our eyes perked up when we saw that Morson was the pseudonymous author of And Quiet Flows the Vodka, or When Pushkin Comes to Shove: The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Russian Literature and Culture,and that he also turns up from time to time in The New Criterion and The Weekly Standard. What put Morson over the top to reach the Power Line 100, however, was this tidbit:
The few hundred students who have signed up for Morson’s spring quarter Tolstoy class listen politely as he talks, seemingly off the cuff, about topics ranging from Napoleon Bonaparte to Tolstoy’s critics to the British cult TV show Doctor Who.
Okay, anyone who can work Doctor Who into a classroom lecture stands a pretty good chance of making our cut.
Here’s a look at Morson in action, responding to a talk from the distinguished theologian N.T. Wright at Northwestern. The whole program is long; you can skip ahead (though if you have time it is well worth taking in Wright) to about the 40 minute mark to hear Prof. Morson: