Robert E. Proctor
Joanne Toor Cummings '50 Professor of Italian
Joined Connecticut College: 1971
B.A., University of San Francisco
M.A., Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University
• Petrarch • Italian Renaissance humanism • History of the humanities • History of the liberal arts • Italian language and culture
Teaching courses on Dante's Divine Comedy and on the Renaissance in Italy are two of the joys of Robert Proctor's life. He wants to inspire in students a love of Dante's great work and a desire to make Dante's journey through the afterlife a companion in their journeys through this life. He wants as well to introduce students to the beauty of Italy, and to the enduring power of works of art and literature created during the Renaissance.
He has served the College as the Founding Director of The Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts, CISLA, 1989-1995, and as Provost and Dean of the Faculty, 1995-97.
Proctor is interested in the history of education, especially in the history of the humanities and the liberal arts. His book Education's Great Amnesia: Reconsidering the Humanities from Petrarch to Freud, with a Curriculum for Today's Students received the 1990 Association of American College's Frederic W. Ness Award as the book that contributed most to liberal learning. The book was reissued in paperback 1998 with the new title, Defining the Humanities:How Rediscovering a Tradition Can Improve our Schools. He is now writing a book on the Roman origins of the liberal arts tradition.
Proctor has also published numerous articles on contemporary Italian politics and economy. He has lectured extensively on the liberal arts tradition and the humanities, including his keynote presentations "Is There a Place for the Studia Humanitatis in American Education?" and "The Relevance of the Humanities in Twentieth-Century America" presented at the 1993 biennial conference of the National Association for Humanities Education, and the 1992 National Italian American Foundation and the Agnelli Foundation conferences, respectively.
Proctor is a former fellow of Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence, Italy. He is also a former fellow of the National Humanities Institute at Yale University. In addition, he has led faculty seminars on "The Birth of the Humanities in Renaissance Florence" and "From Tradition to Modernity: Perspectives on Modern Global Society" with grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, respectively.
Professor Proctor conducted the first Connecticut College SATA (Study Away, Teach Away) Rome at John Cabot University in Rome in the Fall of 2000, and returned to conduct SATA Rome in 2002. He created and teaches at an intensive Italian language and culture summer program at the Umbra Institute in Perugia, Italy.
View the Italian department website.
"For the first time, in my estimation, has a scholar succeeded in showing the relation of these humanistic studies to the personal and social life of the ancient world and of the Renaissance. He shows, moreover, the educational and historical reasons for their contemporary decline, and he indicates the possibilities of bringing back an effective relationship between what is taught in our colleges and universities and the ethical perspectives of their graduates"
- Charles Trinkaus, a scholar of Petrarch and Renaissance humanism, on Defining the Humanities:How Rediscovering a Tradition Can Improve our Schools