Martha Himmelfarb and Simon Morrison receive the Behrman Prize for the Humanities
Princeton professors Martha Himmelfarb and Simon Morrison received the University’s Howard T. Behrman Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Humanities.
Martha Himmelfarb is the Professor of religion William H. Danforth and eminent scholar of ancient Judaism and early Christianity. A member of the Princeton faculty for more than 40 years, she joined the University in 1978. She will upgrade to emeritus status at the end of this academic year.
Himmelfarb served as director of the Judaic Studies program from 2013 to 2020 and chair of the Department of Religion from 1999 to 2006. She was instrumental in establishing the Certificate in Judaic Studies program at Princeton and in establishing the Ronald O. Perelman Institute for Judaic Studies.
His scholarly work had a profound impact on the study of ancient Judaism and early Christianity, noted a colleague in Himmelfarb’s nomination for the Behrman Award. His insistence on the need to study both religious traditions, their texts and their communities in relation to each other distinguishes his research. His approach challenged and reoriented the long-held paradigm that assumed that Judaism and Christianity inevitably diverged into distinct religious traditions, and his research paved the way for new ways of understanding this ongoing relationship since the Second Temple period. until the Middle Ages.
“Widely recognized as one of the world’s foremost scholars of ancient Judaism, she has, through a series of landmark studies, rewritten the history of Jewish and Christian apocalyptism and messianism, and reshaped scholarly approaches to ‘a wide range of other aspects of ancient Jewish thought and identity,” wrote another colleague. “Martha’s work is both incredibly scholarly and a model of analytical clarity and precision.”
Another colleague wrote: “The humanistic vision that allowed him to see the way his sources speak imaginatively and richly on a range of central social, political, cultural and intellectual issues; his sophisticated and rigorous critique of earlier approaches; his demonstration that a wide range is productive – will continue to be a resource for all of us who work in his and related fields and will provide a model for scholarship in the most widely understood humanities.
Himmelfarb trained generations of Princeton undergraduates and graduate students to think critically about history and ancient religious texts. Many of its graduate students have become major figures in the field and influential advisors to the next generation of graduate students focusing on the religions of Mediterranean antiquity.
She is a member of the American Academy of Jewish Research, the Society of Biblical Literature and the Association for Jewish Studies. A colleague noted that many of his more recent books, including “A Kingdom of Priests: Ancestry and Merit in Ancient Judaism” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006) and “Jewish Messiahs in a Christian Empire: A History of the Book of Zerubbabel” (Harvard University Press, 2017), address consequential issues for the study of Second Temple Judaism, presenting both scholarly readings of texts central to the scriptural canon as well as less familiar texts which, through careful and patient reading, reveal also much about Jewish life in changing social contexts from the Second Temple to the Middle Ages.
Himmelfarb has taught a wide range of courses focusing on topics from ancient Judaism, focusing on the literatures and cultures of the Greco-Roman world, including the undergraduate courses “The Great Books of Jewish Tradition” and “Revelation: The End of the World and The Secrets of Heaven in Ancient Judaism and Christianity”, and the graduate seminars “Ancient Judaism from Alexander to the Rise of Islam” and “Studies in Ancient Judaism: Voyages of ‘Another World in Early Jewish and Christian Literature’.
She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the New Jersey State Council for the Humanities, received a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was appointed as an Old Dominion Research Professor at the Council of the Humanities.
Simon Morrison, a 1997 graduate, is a teacher of music and Slavic languages and literatures and director of the Canadian Studies Fund. He has spent his entire career at Princeton. He is an archival historian specializing in 20th century Russian and Soviet music with expertise in opera, dance, film, sketch studies and historically informed performance. Having gained unrivaled access to repositories in Russia, he unearthed sketches, sheet music, letters, diaries, official documents, contracts, financial records, photographs and other sources previously unknown. linked to the musical life of the tsars to the Soviets.
His expertise as a musicologist extends to opera, ballet, symphonic repertoire, aesthetics, performance studies and popular music, noted a colleague naming Morrison. He is also highly regarded as a scholar of Russian history and literature, with extensive knowledge of Russian culture and politics, past and present. Morrison writes frequently for The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and The London Review of Books.
The colleague also wrote: “A brilliant and extremely conscientious teacher, Simon is famous on campus for his beautifully crafted lectures and extraordinary intellectual range, touching students of music, Slavic [languages and literatures]humanistic studies and the World Seminar.
Morrison is the author of “Russian Opera and the Symbolist Movement», (2002), «The People’s Artist: Prokofiev’s Soviet Years” (2009), “Lina Prokofiev’s Love and Wars” (2013), “Bolshoi Confidential” (2016) and “Roxy Music’s Avalon” (2021). He was commissioned to write a biography of Tchaikovsky by Yale University Press, a book on Shostakovich by WW Norton, and a book on the history of Moscow by Random House. “Mirror in the Sky: The Life and Music of Stevie Nicks » is to be published in October by University of California Press. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, ACLS Fellowship and Alfred Einstein Award (from the American Musicological Society).
He has also produced a substantial body of scholarship dealing with the music and ballet of composers such as Ravel, Debussy and Cole Porter. Much of that scholarship has come to life on stage – with Morrison resurrecting, restoring, re-recording and producing several “lost” and obscure musical and ballet works, creating unprecedented performance opportunities for Princeton students.
Morrison is a sought-after lecturer and lecturer in the public humanities and is frequently interviewed in national and international media – including more recently on the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the arts.
His “Introduction to Music” class has historically attracted 300 to 400 enrollments. He has taught classes ranging from Ballet History to Mmodernism and dance, and Nordic music. He was among the first in the music department to incorporate popular music, jazz, and the music of women and composers of color into its undergraduate and graduate courses that previously included only canonical classical music. He has taught two world seminars in Moscow, the one-year team-taught humanities sequence and survey courses in Slavic languages and literatures, and has collaborated with faculty members in the humanities from journalism to indigenous studies.
Its impact in the classroom can best be summed up by this reflection from a colleague, who witnessed Morrison’s final precept on Goethe’s “Faust” in person, hours before students were sent home in March 2020 due of the pandemic. “Simon asked the students to read the scene of Gretchen’s redemption, dividing the parts. Two young women, together, were the mysterious voice from another world. After reading… we had a conversation about how these texts could help us think about the crisis we were entering. It was a great example of what humanistic education can do.