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University of Balamand > Spotlights > Assoc. Prof. Peter Williams

Associate Professor Peter Williams

From Sydney to Balamand

A native of Sydney, Australia, Associate Professor Peter Andrew Williams joined the University of Balamand in 2009 prompted in part by a long-standing interest in the Middle East and his preference for small liberal arts universities.

“Pamela – my wife, and I, were interested in working in the Middle East but we did not really know what to expect in terms of daily life.” His Lebanese friends in Sydney put their concerns to rest, and encouraged them to come to Lebanon. He is happy he did.

Born and raised in Sydney, Dr. Williams spent many years in the United States from where he received his MA and PhD degrees, both of them from the University of Washington. His dissertation is titled “A Few Words About Literary Minimalism,” a title very much apropos of its subject matter, despite the fact that the title belies the actual size of the 456 pages long dissertation.

Minimalism, he explains, is a type of literature that is minimal in terms of its structure, and its reference to psychology and history, which, he says, became important and faddish in post-modernist thought. And in the visual arts, he says, minimalism is important because it brought narratives of 'deep structure' and allegory, so central to much modernist art, to an end. In both its literary and artistic forms, minimalism emphasizes surfaces, and a renewed aesthetic of what he terms 'the superficial.'

Prior to joining the University of Balamand, Dr. Williams taught in the USA and in his home country, at the University of Sydney, and at Western Sydney. Now at Balamand he says he also feels he is a member of the community, and is glad that the university has remained “a place left largely untouched by the bureaucratization of large universities in the U.S, Australia and the U.K.”

Dr. Williams likes the hospitality in the Lebanese culture and enjoys spending time hiking, visiting different regions of the country, and “accepting the invitation to have coffee in someone’s house.” Since he has been here, he has had the opportunity to visit other countries in the region too.

He says his philosophy as a teacher is to motivate students to think and to engage with the materials as if they are important to their own lives, and adds that he has a “passion for teaching,” and hopes that this passion is infectious. A strong believer in encouraging students to read and criticize texts, he argues that this is the most effective way of teaching. He currently teaches courses on romanticism, literature and literary theory, literature and film.

He praises the growing quality of research at the University of Balamand and argues that the approach to academics should revolve around a concerted focus on research for the institution to continue to grow, adding that he would like to see more institutional support for research. His own research interests include twentieth-century literature and visual arts, literary theory, philosophy and aesthetics, emotions and the affects. He has always been interested in visual texts, abstract arts and their relationship to ethics as part of his research on cognition – how we understand the world through abstractions.

Author of numerous articles, Dr. Williams is currently completing a book titled: Post-Hermeneutics and the Sensory Topic, forthcoming in Rodopi Press’s ‘Consciousness, Literature and the Arts’ series, 2016.

Dr. Williams has also contributed to the redesigning of the Cultural Studies program and is currently its coordinator. He is pleased with the content of the curriculum so far, which offers greater choice to students and where faculty members have been given more autonomy to teach courses related to their areas of academic expertise and interest. Rather than having to take courses in a sequence, students can now choose four Cultural Studies courses from four different streams, with a range of different courses offered in each stream. Dr Williams hopes the new program will boost students' interest in the very important field of the humanities (we are a Liberal Arts university, after all) and eventually lead to a Humanities minor - or even major. Balamand undergraduates can today choose between courses on history, Christian and Islamic civilizations, philosophy, aesthetics, art and religion, ethics, science and technology, film and theory, social changes in modern times, contemporary challenges for the Arab world, and many more. The new program has proven already to be a success, even though it is in its early stages, meeting with the approbation of both faculty and students.

One other reason Dr. Williams is at Balamand, he explains, is the fact that when he applied to Balamand he also applied to universities in the US. Balamand was the first to offer him a position, so he just went with it. A twist of fate that has proven to be a very good thing for all concerned. ​​​​​
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University of Balamand,
Balamand Al Kurah,

Tel:  +961-6-930250
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