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Thurs., September 13 — 5:00 p.m.
"Finding Ourselves: The Humanities as a Discipline"
Geoffrey G. Harpham, National Humanities Center

Geoffrey G. Harpham, President and Director, National Humanities Center

Since 2003 Geoffrey Galt Harpham has served as president and director of the National Humanities Center. Trained as a literary scholar, Harpham's work has encompassed a wide range of topics and fields; his enduring scholarly interests include the role of ethics in literary study, the place of language in intellectual history, and the work of Joseph Conrad. Among his many books are On the Grotesque (1982); Shadows of Ethics: Criticism and the Just Society (1999); and The Character of Criticism (2006). He has collaborated with M. H. Abrams on A Glossary of Literary Terms, now in its tenth edition. His most recent book is The Humanities and the Dream of America (2011). The recipient of numerous honors for his research and teaching, Harpham has received fellowships from the J. S. Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In recent years, Harpham has become a prominent historian of, and advocate for, the humanities, speaking to audiences around the world. In his talk he will argue that the humanities are not simply a collection of related subjects, but are bound by a system of "secret rules" that unify all humanistic disciplines and distinguish them from the sciences and social sciences. These unifying principles not only define the methods and assumptions of the humanities but reflect the cultural role that the humanities are expected to play in a democratic society.

» Reserve space for this lecture, Thursday, September 13, 5:00 p.m.

Thurs., October 11 — 5:00 p.m. 
"Engineering, Topography, and Knowledge in Late Sixteenth-Century Rome"
Pamela O. Long, Independent Scholar

Pamela O. Long, Independent Scholar

Pamela O. Long is an independent historian who studies late medieval and Renaissance Europe and the history of science and technology, focusing on craft and practical traditions and their relationships to traditions of learning. Her most recent book, Artisan/Practitioners and the Rise of the New Sciences 1400-1600 (2011) came out of the Horning Visiting Scholar lectures that she gave at Oregon State in April 2010. She is also coauthor and coeditor (with David McGee and Alan M. Stahl) of The Book of Michael of Rhodes: A Fifteenth-Century Maritime Manuscript, 3 vols. (2009) which was awarded the Eugene S. Ferguston Prize from the Society for the History of Technology and the J. Franklin Jameson Prize by the American Historical Association. Long's other publications include Openness, Secrecy, Authorship: Technical Arts and the Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance (2001) winner of the Morris D. Forkosch Prize for the best book in intellectual history and, with Brian Curran, Anthony Grafton, and Benjamin Weiss, Obelisk: A History (2009). This year, working at the Center as the William J. Bouwsma Fellow, Long is working on a cultural history of engineering in the city of Rome between 1560 and 1590.

Long's talk will treat floods and flood control, maps and topography, and the transport of obelisks. She will discuss how projects were thought about and carried out, how conflicts were resolved (or not), how contractors and engineer/architects were chosen, and the contributions of both practitioners and learned people to issues of urban planning, construction, and engineering.

» Reserve space for this lecture, Thursday, October 11, 5:00 p.m.

Thurs., November 8 — 5:00 p.m. 
"The Medieval Church as a School for Scandal"
Dyan H. Elliott, Northwestern University

Dyan H. Elliott, Northwestern University

Dyan H. Elliott is the Peter B. Ritzma Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History at Northwestern University. A historian of Western Europe in the Middle Ages, her interests center around gender, spirituality, and sexuality and the way these three variables interact. She is especially intrigued by how the margins help to define the center of a given society. Elliott's publications include Spiritual Marriage: Sexual Abstinence in Medieval Wedlock (1993); Fallen Bodies: Pollution, Sexuality, and Demonology in the Middle Ages (1999); Proving Woman: Female Spirituality and Inquisitional Culture in the Later Middle Ages (2004; winner of the 2006 Otto Gründler Award); and The Bride of Christ Goes to Hell: Metaphor and Embodiment in the Lives of Pious Women, 200-1500 (2011). Her research has been supported by fellowships from the ACLS, the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), the National Humanities Center, the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, and the Liguria Study Center for the Arts and Humanities in Bogliasco. A Fellow at the Center in 1997-98, Elliott returns this year as the first Kent R. Mullikin Fellow as she continues her work examining the concept of scandal and its practical and ideological consequences for church history.

The term "scandal" is derived from a Greek verb meaning "to cause another to stumble." An act need not be sinful to be considered scandalous: the salient attribute is its ability to occasion sin in another. But whether scandal was wrought by deliberate sin or a morally neutral act, it was an unmitigated evil from the perspective of the medieval church. This lecture examines how ecclesiastical efforts to suppress scandal created a climate of secrecy that was especially prejudicial to the laity. The modern church was heir to this tradition of concealment, rendering the recent spate of cover-ups more comprehensible.

» Reserve space for this lecture, Thursday, November 8, 5:00 p.m.

Thurs., December 6 — 5:00 p.m. 
"Complex Words: History in English Literary Criticism"
Stefan Collini, University of Cambridge

Stefan Collini, University of Cambridge

Stefan Collini is professor of English literature and intellectual history at the University of Cambridge. His research interests include the relation between literature and intellectual history from the late 19th century to the present, including the "question of intellectuals," the relation between academic critics and "men of letters," and the role of cultural criticism, as well as the work of figures such as T.S. Eliot, F.R. Leavis, William Empson, George Orwell, Raymond Williams, and Richard Hoggart. His books include Public Moralists: Political Thought and Intellectual Life in Britain 18501930 (1991); English Pasts: Essays in History and Culture (1999); Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain (2006); Common Reading: Critics, Historians, Publics (2009); and What are Universities For? (2012). He is also a regular contributor to mainstream publications such as The Times Literary Supplement, The Nation, The Guardian, and the London Review of Books. This year, as the Birkelund Fellow at the National Humanities Center, he is working on The Nostalgic Imagination: Literary Criticism in English Culture.

In his talk, Professor Collini will explore some of the ways in which the "close reading" style of literary criticism dominant in Britain and the United States in the middle decades of the 20th century was presumed to be indifferent or even hostile to history. Against this view, Collini will argue for the pervasively historical character of that form of criticism that seemed to concentrate most closely on "the words on the page," and he will use William Empson's neglected book The Structure of Complex Words to show how a focus on the meanings compacted into single words could also be the means to writing "the history of the ethical life" of earlier centuries.

» Reserve space for this lecture, Thursday, December 6, 5:00 p.m.


Thurs., September 20 — 7:00 p.m.
"College: What It Was, Is and Should Be"
Andrew Delbanco, Columbia University

Andrew Delbanco, Columbia University

Andrew Delbanco (NHC trustee emeritus and Fellow 1990-91, 2002-03) is Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities and director of the American Studies Program at Columbia University. One of the nation's leading scholars and social critics, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal "for his writings on higher education and the place classic authors hold in history and contemporary life." This most recent honor is one of many that Delbanco has received for his scholarship and writing which includes six authored books, edited volumes on the works of Abraham Lincoln, Ralph Waldo Emerson and others, and regular essays in The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, and other journals.

About this Conversation

Graduating from college has traditionally been, and for many Americans still is, a much-desired goal. But increasingly the value and make-up of a college education is being questioned. Is college worth the expense? Is a degree needed for success in contemporary America? Should college prepare a student for a job or for a life? Andrew Delbanco addresses these and other timely questions in his new book College: What It Was, Is and Should Be exploring the history and purpose of American higher education and illuminating how tensions between character formation and professional training, as well as those between teaching and research, have shaped our colleges and universities.

This special online conversation is presented as part of the National Humanities Center's America In Class® seminar series.

» Register for this online event.

Beyond Because, 36 x 36, by Nancy Tuttle May
Beyond Because, mixed media (36 x 36)


September 4 December 19
Juxtapositions: Then and Now
Nancy Tuttle May, Durham, NC

Sunday, September 23 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Reception for the Artist

Employing a variety of media and styles, Nancy Tuttle May's work is consistently marked by its ability to arrest the viewer, evoking both a sense of spontaneity and an awareness of the artist's careful control. The collection assembled for Juxtapositions: Then and Now speaks to her persistent desire to connect with her audience and speak to them through color and form.

Lectures and exhibits at the National Humanities Center are free and open to the public. They are supported by the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Educational and Cultural Outreach Endowment Fund.

For more information, please contact Martha Johnson by phone (919) 549-0661, ext. 116 or e-mail

Directions to the Center
National Humanities Center
7 Alexander Drive, P.O. Box 12256
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709-2256 USA
Phone: (919) 549-0661   Fax: (919) 990-8535
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Revised: August 2012