Edward Baron Turk


Edward Baron Turk (born September 29, 1946) is a prize-winning American author, arts critic, and educator.  He has held professorial positions at Yale University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Columbia University (School of the Arts), and the Institut des Etudes Politiques (“Sciences Po,” Paris).  He writes mainly on the culture of France – especially its theatre, cinema, and literature – and on Hollywood film.

Life and career

Born and raised in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, New York, Turk is a son of Sam Turk (d. 1974), who was a jazz and supper-club saxophonist, and Elsie Rose Turk (b. 1922).  His early education took place at Public School 193, Andries Hudde Junior High School, James Madison High School (class of 1963), and the Juilliard School of Music, where he studied classical piano with Henrietta Wendt.  At the start of the 1960s he entertained as a vocalist and pianist with combos in several Catskill Mountain summer resorts.

After graduating with a B.A., summa cum laude, from Brooklyn College in 1967, Turk, the recipient of a Woodrow Wilson Graduate Fellowship, earned a Ph.D. in French literature from Yale University (1973).  Yale then appointed him as Assistant Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in French.  His initial training in film studies took place in 1975-1976 at the University of Paris-VII (Jussieu) and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.  In 1978 he joined the humanities faculty of MIT as an Associate Professor of French and Film Studies, and from 1982 to 1985 he headed MIT’s Foreign Languages and Literatures Section (the programs in French, German, Russian, Spanish, and English as a Second Language).  At MIT, where he was promoted to Full Professor in 1990, Turk was a principal architect of the Ivy League-MIT-University of Chicago-Stanford University Consortium on Language and Teaching and of the MIT graduate program in Comparative Media Studies.  In 2005 he was awarded an endowed MIT chair, the John E. Burchard Professorship of the Humanities. 

Turk retired from MIT in June 2012.  As part of a public celebration honoring his career in October 2011, he delivered a talk titled “Valedictory Thoughts of an MIT Humanist,” in which he described the importance of a deep engagement with the liberal arts in light of the increasingly market-driven turn of pre-professional undergraduate education.  (See http://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2012-edward-turk-valedictory-thoughts-mit-humanist)

Since leaving MIT, Turk has continued with his research and writing, and has been teaching at universities in New York City and in Paris.