A body of myth has grown up around Roberto M. Unger, assistant professor of Law, in the five years he has taught at the University.
The stories range from the mundane--that so many people enrolled in his undergraduate course this spring causing it to be moved from Harvard Hall to Sanders Theater--to the unbelievable--that he was discovered by a Law School professor while lecturing on street corners in his native Brazil with a podium strapped on his back.
Although Unger's friends discounted both stories yesterday, Unger himself would not comment in any way on his personal plans or his past life.
The Law School granted Unger tenure last month, and although Albert M. Sacks, dean of the Law School, said yesterday he isn't sure whether Unger, age 29, is the youngest person ever tenured at the Law School, Sacks said that he is "certainly one of the youngest."
Duncan Kennedy, assistant professor of Law who also recently received tenure and who has been an associate of Unger's for several years, said yesterday that Unger came to the Law School as a graduate student after he received an undergraduate degree in law in Brazil, and began teaching at the Law School after he received his masters there.
"His style of teaching is certainly unusual, but he isn't eccentric," Kennedy said.
Unger said yesterday he will take next year off on a recently-awarded Guggenheim fellowship, to study contract law and "broader things connected to it."
One law student who asked not to be identified said yesterday that one of the problems with Urger's course on contracts last year lay in Unger's theoretical interests.
"He gave a lot of his theories about society and never got really down to the nitty-gritty," the student said. "And when anybody asked a question, he just repeated what he'd said the first time, only more vehemently."
Lectures Without Notes
Students in Unger's undergraduate course, Social Sciences 101, "Social Theory," contacted yesterday, were more impressed with Unger's teaching.
One student said that Unger, who lectures without notes, "generally speaks way over my head, but I really like listening to him."
Stories about Unger's lectures also circulate, including one about a recent lecture in which he suggested many intellectuals have refused to become involved in the real world. Unger ended the lecture ten minutes early, because, he said, it was his birthday. The class stood up and sang "Happy Birthday" to him