Over the past four decades, Center lunches have offered a wonderful occasion for those who love the humanities to meet and discover their shared passions, and it's not uncommon for those kindred spirits to form deep and lasting relationships. Probably none, though, can match William and Jean Anne Leuchtenburg, who met and fell in love at the Center forty years ago when he was a Fellow and she was a new member of the NHC staff.
The NHC has launched the first in a new series of online courses for teachers exploring “Digital Literacy in the Classroom.” In this five-week online course, educators will explore digital literacy through a humanities lens, considering how media has evolved in the digital age, how its messages shape our citizenry, and how this understanding can be effectively conveyed in a classroom setting.
A one-day symposium for educators exploring the complex landscape of the Transatlantic Slave Trade through archival investigations. Using source documents and artifacts from the National Archives of the United Kingdom, participants learned hands-on strategies for unpacking the layers of this global system.
The NHC Board of Trustees has selected Ben Vinson III, provost at Case Western Reserve University, and New York businessman Joshua Ruch as board chairman and vice-chairman, respectively. Trained as a historian with a focus on colonial Mexico, Dr. Vinson has been a member of the Center’s board since 2013 and was a Fellow at the Center in 2005–06. Mr. Ruch has been a trustee of the NHC since 2010 and is cofounder and chief executive officer of Rho Capital Partners, an investment and venture capital management company based in New York and Palo Alto.
Successful DH initiatives must be carefully conceived and managed over time to realize their scholarly potential. This day-long conference focused on planning, logistics, and long-term maintenance of digital humanities projects.
Free speech, unfettered inquiry, civility, trigger warnings, safe spaces, academic values. These terms increasingly fill headlines reporting on debates and incidents occurring on today's university campuses. What constitutes a healthy university environment and what currently threatens that health? What role should the National Humanities Center play in this significant, and often contentious, conversation?
The National Humanities Center, New America, and The Tech Museum of Innovation recently presented a provocative conversation and a series of short presentations that explored the state of the humanities in the digital age—a time in which technological tools are both advancing scholarship and becoming key subjects of critical inquiry about their impact on society.
The trustees and staff of the NHC mourn the passing of Steven Marcus, one of the Center’s founders, on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. He was 89. Steven was instrumental in the conception and realization of the Center, and his intellectual leadership and continuous devotion helped nurture and guide the Center for most of the past 40+ years. Beyond his importance to the Center, Steven Marcus was an influential literary critic and professor at Columbia University where he taught from 1956 until 1994. His work on nineteenth-century literature and culture, including over 200 publications, continues to shape thinking in the field.
This panel discussion, held April 19, 2018 at the New York Public Library, is part of the Humanities Moments project, an initiative created by the National Humanities Center to explore the intersection between the humanities and transformative moments in our individual and public lives.
The National Humanities Center is pleased to announce the appointment of 38 Fellows for the academic year 2018–19. These leading scholars will come to the Center from 15 US states, as well as from Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Jamaica, Mexico, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. These newly appointed Fellows will constitute the forty-first class of resident scholars to be admitted since the Center opened in 1978.
The humanities and sciences are often viewed as distinct and separate areas of inquiry. Yet whether we study history, chemistry, philosophy, or physics, our overarching methodology is similar in that it involves gathering data and constructing narratives—i.e. telling stories. A way of framing our overlap is by seeing the humanities and sciences as (1) guided by evidence, (2) subject to interpretation, and (3) open to revision. This one-day symposium on April 7, 2018 was an opportunity for humanists and scientists to come together to explore our commonalities and learn from each other.
The NHC is pleased to announce a $1,147,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a new initiative to provide residential fellowships for a dozen scholars from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) over the next three years. These fellowships will allow four HBCU scholars per year to pursue individual research projects and take part in the Center’s intellectual community.
The Teagle Foundation recently named Andrew Delbanco from Columbia University as its president beginning July 2018. A noted literary scholar and social critic, Delbanco has twice held fellowships at the National Humanities Center (1990–91; 2002–03) and served as a trustee of the Center from 1996 until 2006 when he was made an emeritus trustee. Delbanco has been a member of the Teagle Foundation board of directors since 2009 and has served as chair of its program committee since 2014. In 2012 he received a National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama.
The staff and trustees of the National Humanities Center mourn the passing of Corbette Capps, the Center’s longtime building engineer, on February 28 after a brief illness. Capps was hired in 1978 to help care for the distinctive Archie K. Davis building he had helped construct and in the course of the next thirty-one years became, himself, a memorable fixture in Center life. Affable by nature, he took particular care to assure that the Center remained a welcoming and friendly environment for scholars, colleagues, trustees, and visitors. Beloved by Fellows and staff, one of the Center’s studies was dedicated to him upon his retirement in 2008.
Earlier this month the Trump administration released its budget for the 2019 fiscal year and again proposed the elimination of funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). This proposal comes despite the fact that funding for the NEH and NEA only represents .02% of the federal budget and that grants from the two agencies provide vital support for the work of scholars, teachers, and public institutions in all fifty states. To help ensure that members of Congress know about the important work being done in their own communities with the support of the NEH, the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) is again organizing a gathering of advocates in Washington March 11-13, 2018.
In September 2017, the National Humanities Center convened a group of leaders from some of the nation’s leading external fellowship programs and funders to discuss issues surrounding the evaluation of fellowships and fellowship programs. In addition to a robust discussion about best practices, challenges, and future collaborations, it was felt the next phase of a national conversation might focus on how universities themselves are evaluating humanities research. This panel, with academic leaders from Texas universities, was the first gathering in this effort.
How do scholars become fascinated by their subjects? How do the processes of research, analysis, writing, and teaching change their perspectives of the world? This series, presented in partnership with the Chapel Hill Public Library, explores these questions through public discussions with leading scholars from the NHC. These informal dialogues will highlight the personal aspects of scholarship—how scholars became interested in specific fields of study, what fuels their passion for their subjects, about the larger questions that intrigue them, and the influence their scholarship has on their ways of thinking about and living in the world.
Since the publication of her first novel nearly fifty years ago, Lee Smith has established herself as a preeminent voice of the South through her award-winning and critically acclaimed fiction. Last year, with her very first work of nonfiction, Dimestore: A Writer's Life, Smith shared her own story, from growing up in a small coal-mining town in the Appalachian Mountains to becoming a writer and raising her family in North Carolina. Widely praised by critics across the country, Dimestore not only offers insight into the making of a great American writer but opens up a conversation about life in small towns across the nation.
Tera Hunter and Andreá Williams, “African American Marriage in the Twentieth Century: A Conversation”
For centuries marital status has been an important social marker, providing access to a variety of legal rights and contributing to a sense of social stability. Further, since marriage has been seen as fundamental to preserving social and familial norms, it has been considered a central element for ensuring socioeconomic success and social respectability among African Americans and others. Two of this year’s Fellows will discuss the fraught history of marriage and marital rights for African Americans—as well as the ways cultural expectations about marriage have shaped the lives of African American women over the past century—with Tania Munz, vice president for scholarly programs at the Center.
As they are usually understood, the designations “nuclear wasteland” and “pure wilderness” are opposites; when they converge into nature reserves on the sites of decommissioned nuclear weapons lands we often describe this circumstance as “paradoxical” or “ironic.” Peter Galison argues that the categories of wastelands and wilderness are far from opposites; that their relation is more intriguing (and disturbing) than a binary of purity or corruption. Removing parts of the earth in perpetuity—for reasons of sanctification or despoilment—alters a central feature of the human self, presenting us in a different relation to the physical world, and raising irreducible ethical questions about who we are when land can be classified, forever, as not for us humans.
“Digital Humanities” appears to name a set of approaches to computational scholarship in the liberal arts. But what if the most interesting and important thing about digital humanities isn’t the object or approach, but the ideas and motivations behind the establishment and pursuit of DH in the first place? DH represents a rare and overdue tactical approach to humanities research in the contemporary university and there is much to learn from how it has approached the actual reality of contemporary scholarly life in the humanities. Unless scholars learn those lessons, digital humanities won’t be able to grow into more general approaches for humanities scholarship, teaching, research, and management—the future of which might have nothing to do with computers at all.
The Creative Coalition and the National Humanities Center Join Ovation’s Stand For The Arts Coalition
Ovation has announced that The Creative Coalition and the National Humanities Center are joining its Stand For The Arts coalition to raise awareness, protect access and encourage action on behalf of the arts and culture. “The arts and humanities are integral to a healthy society and contribute in innumerable ways to helping us all lead more fulfilled and productive lives,” said Robert D. Newman, president and director of the NHC. “We are pleased to join the other outstanding organizations and leaders working to advocate for the arts and humanities across the country.”
Literature, unlike the other arts, has no material content. The pictures are made on the mental retina. When we imagine a color, do we think of a piece of language that spells out the name of the color or does a physical (or quasi-physical) event take place in the brain? This lecture traces out the moments at which two great colorists, Marcel Proust and Lady Murasaki, summon color into being both in the worlds of their respective novels, and on the “mental retina” of the reader. Using contemporary neuroscience as well as classic experiments on the imagination from cognitive psychology, the lecture examines the phenomenon of color threads, the background colors against which our imagination carries out its acts of image-production, and the unexpected relationship between color and mortality.
On September 1, 1939, the British government launched a program ominously codenamed Operation Pied Piper, whereby thousands of children were evacuated from the cities to the countryside. This operation brought class conflict into the foreground, laying bare the drastic inequalities of British society, but also provided the foundations for the development of child psychoanalysis. This talk by Maud Ellman examines the impact of the evacuation crisis on psychoanalytic theories of the child, comparing these to the depiction of children in wartime fiction.
North Carolina: The New American Heartland is a multi-dimensional initiative—highlighted by a three-day gathering which took place on September 27–29, 2017—enlisting scholars, artists, journalists, educators, policy experts, activists, community leaders, and others to critically consider North Carolina’s role as a bellwether for the nation. Through the lenses of food, music, and storytelling, the conference provided a forum for examining the state’s complex and myriad cultural identities and for exploring how the arts and humanities can help us better understand and face our shared challenges.
Rachel Jones Schaevitz is a filmmaker and scholar whose work focuses on using media and the humanities to enact social change. She earned her doctorate in media and communications from Temple University, where her research explored how moving images are capable of transcending differences in language and culture. She currently teaches and works with Carolina Public Humanities, creating opportunities to share the work of humanists with the broader public. Join Rachel on September 28, 2017 for a discussion of her work as a filmmaker and media researcher. She appears as part of the Conversations with Scholars series presented by the Southwest Regional branch of the Durham County Library and the National Humanities Center.
AN OUTRAGE is a documentary film about lynching in the American South. Filmed on location at lynching sites in six states and bolstered by the memories and perspectives of descendants, community activists, and scholars, this unusual historical documentary seeks to educate even as it serves as a hub for action to remember and reflect upon a long-hidden past. On September 19, 2017 the National Humanities Center hosted a public showing of AN OUTRAGE. After an introduction by documentarians Lance Warren and Hannah Ayers and a screening of the film, panelists led an in-depth discussion about the key issues facing educators as they engage with this content in their classrooms.
How do scholars become fascinated by their subjects and what is it like when they make a new discovery? How does the process of research, analysis, writing, and teaching change their perspectives of the world? Join Professor Jocelyn Olcott of Duke University on September 21, 2017 for a discussion of her new book and about her journey as a scholar of transnational women’s history. Olcott appears as a part of the Conversations with Scholars series presented by the Southwest Regional branch of the Durham County Library and the National Humanities Center.
Leaders from fellowship granting and funding entities gathered for a summit to discuss fellowships and fellowship programs on September 13 and 14, 2017 at the National Humanities Center. This meeting follows a similar gathering in Washington, D.C. in December of 2016 organized in response to growing concerns expressed by many in the humanities about expectations for assessment of research and accountability imposed through sometimes ill-fitting metrics.
Members of the Center’s 2017–18 Teacher Advisory Council gathered for a two-day orientation and planning meeting on September 7 and 8, 2017. Selected from schools in twelve states, the Teacher Advisory Council is a 14-member board that supports the Education Programs of the National Humanities Center for a one-year term of service. Chosen to represent multiple disciplines in the humanities, these teacher leaders accept an active role in the development, evaluation, and promotion of NHC materials and projects.
The National Humanities Center has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in support of a new program designed to improve teaching about the Vietnam War. The grant, totaling $158,283, will help fund a two-week, interdisciplinary institute for high school teachers to be held at the NHC next summer. The summer institute is one of several initiatives currently underway at the National Humanities Center to promote a deeper understanding of this complex period in Cold War-era history.
The National Humanities Center announces the appointment of Tania Munz as VP for Scholarly Programs, effective August 1, 2017. Munz comes to the Center having most recently served as VP for Research & Scholarship at the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, MO, where she oversaw the library's fellowship program and managed its collection of over half a million monograph volumes and more than 48,000 journal titles. She previously held research and teaching positions at Northwestern University & the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin.
Please join us June 10 & 11 for DataRescue RTP, an event organized by DataRescue Chapel Hill and the NHC. DataRescue RTP aims to preserve online government data related to housing and education programs. We are focusing on datasets identified as being at high risk for removal from online public access. While the Internet Archive has preserved copies of many government websites, it is unable to archive datasets. DataRescue events are a key piece in ensuring that these datasets are copied. The Internet Archive, DataRefuge and a consortium of research libraries hold these copies and keep them available for public access.
The staff and trustees of the National Humanities Center mourn the passing of their colleague Anthony E. Kaye on May 14 after a long illness. He had served as the Center’s vice president of scholarly programs since July 2016.
The National Humanities Center is pleased to announce the addition of three new members to its staff: Olympia Friday, Lynn Miller, and Julie Ungaro. “Olympia, Lynn, and Julie are not only seasoned professionals but warm and interesting people whose skills and knowledge are certain to make the Center an even stronger institution,” said Robert Newman, President and Director of the Center.
Popular sources present the Vikings as ruthless warriors yet also take great pains to portray their decorated weapons, jewelry, clothing, houses, and ships—that is, their art. In this talk Nancy Wicker will discuss the patrons who sponsored that art, the artisans who made the objects, and the men and women who used the works, at home in Scandinavia as well as across the diaspora where Vikings raided, traded, and settled, from the North Atlantic to Russia and beyond.
The National Humanities Center announces the appointment of 34 Fellows for the academic year 2017-18. These leading scholars will come from 14 states, Greece, and the United Kingdom. Chosen from 630 applicants, they represent humanistic scholarship in English language and literature; environmental studies; European languages and literature; history; history of science; medieval studies; music history and musicology; philosophy; religion; sociology; South Asian studies; and theater, dance, and performance studies.
As part of her ongoing effort to chronicle African American literary culture at the turn from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, Elizabeth McHenry has been focusing on African American bibliographies, which emerged as experimental knowledge structures that provided ways of mapping and making sense of an emerging and rapidly evolving canon of “Negro literature.” These bibliographies were not just “lists,” but exploratory documents, where black intellectuals thought critically and advanced arguments about the boundaries and contours of black literature and authorship.
The National Humanities Center will host the Triangle Digital Humanities Network Spring Colloquium on April 7, 2017. The event will bring together digital humanists from the Triangle area to make connections and to learn about digital research currently underway in local graduate programs. The event will feature brief research presentations by area digital humanities graduate students and information about ongoing collaborative digital projects being conducted by the Center.
Spring 2017 America in Class® Webinars to Feature Sessions on Islam in America, John F. Kennedy, the Poetry of Rita Dove, More
The National Humanities Center has announced its program of spring 2017 professional development webinars for humanities teachers covering a wide range of topics including the cultural history of Islam in America, television and the presidency of John F. Kennedy, understanding the Black Lives Matter movement in its historical context, the poetry of Pulitzer Prize winner Rita Dove, and cultivating philosophical thinking with students.
Spring 2017 Events Include Second Conference on Rock ‘n’ Roll, Talks on Shakespeare’s Othello, Oysters, Viking Art
The National Humanities Center has announced its schedule of public lectures, exhibitions, and other events which touch on a wide range of topics. Events include lectures on Shakespeare’s Othello, portrayals of slavery and freedom across the Atlantic world, the history of the industrial oyster, and Viking art.
National Humanities Center to Partner with Vietnam National University to Develop Digital Learning Resources
The NHC will partner with Vietnam National University in developing digital instructional resources that allow for a deeper understanding of the American Vietnamese War. This initiative, supported by a $175,000 grant from the Fostering Innovation through Research, Science, and Technology Project for Vietnam, will bring together a team of Vietnamese and American educators, scholars, and technology experts to create digital tools that examine the political, social, cultural, economic, and historical complexities surrounding the conflict.
The National Humanities Center and the Durham Veteran Affairs Health Care System are seeking participants for a new program for military Veterans and their families in eastern North Carolina. “Reading Our Stories: Exploring the Veteran’s Experience through Literature,” will give Veterans an opportunity to more deeply reflect on their service—what it means to them and to the country—by examining and discussing literary texts. Groups will meet in Raleigh, Durham, and Greenville beginning in January 2017.
This talk explores connections between Shakespeare and freedom dreams in the African Diaspora. It first outlines a tension between the ways that “Shakespeare” and blackness have been valued in the 400 years since Shakespeare’s birth. It then gives examples of the ways that black writers and actors in the early twentieth century used Shakespeare when grappling with constructions of blackness and race in the United States.
This talk will explore the writings, drawings, paintings, prints, and sculpture produced by African, African American, African Caribbean, and Black British women and men, enslaved and free, living and working across the Black Diaspora over the centuries. Living and dying against a white racist backdrop that sought to destroy Black bodies and souls, they generated alternative art-making traditions and experimental writerly practices that constitute nothing less than “declarations of independence.”
The second installment of the public program Novel Sounds: American Fiction in the Age of Rock and Roll will be held at the Center on Friday, March 3, 2017. In conversations among another remarkable group of musicians, novelists, and scholars, we will explore the surprising reciprocity between the apparently irreverent form of rock and roll and serious literature. Novel Sounds II features panels on rock music’s roots in the ballad tradition as well as the influence of rock culture on contemporary fiction.
From the 1840s to 1910s, oysters flourished in the polluted estuaries of America's industrial cities. Their rise and collapse are equally astonishing. Today, oysters are once again on the menu. But what was once a staple of the urban working poor, grown within the city, has become a luxury, produced in rural places. The rise and fall of oysters is a microcosm of changes in food production and consumption in the modern era. It can teach us what people ate, where food was produced and how the city became a place solely for consumers.
Mark Twain called Joan of Arc, in complete seriousness, “the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced.” Joan Hinde Stewart will discuss the historical Joan—her origins, clarity of purpose and gruesome death at the age of nineteen—along with the ways in which she has been imagined across the centuries and the myths that have grown up around her.
Robert D. Newman, president and director of the National Humanities Center, will be giving talks and appearing in public forums throughout the fall of 2016 in venues from Charlottesville, Virginia to Shanghai, China.
Over the past fifty years, folklorist William Ferris has documented Southern culture, compiling a remarkable archive of images and stories from the South’s most accomplished writers and artists. In 2013, he shared his collection in the acclaimed book The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists and his images have been subsequently featured in an exhibit of the same name, which travels this fall to the NHC. In his talk, Ferris will discuss these distinctive figures whose work has informed American notions of the South and Southerners.
The National Humanities Center announces a new public program entitled Novel Sounds: American Fiction in the Age of Rock and Roll, to be held at the Center October 14-15, 2016. This conference provides a forum for examining rock and roll as a literary form of expression crucially shaping our national heritage. Panelists will explore the surprising reciprocity between the apparently irreverent form of rock and roll and serious literature. Although the birth of rock dates to the mid-1950s, Novel Sounds examines the relationship as it has been developing since the emergence of the ballad form itself.
“The Haitian Atlantic” discusses eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Afro-diasporic writing and art about the Haitian Revolution. By exploring a broad range of engagement with the Haitian Revolution from writers living in the Atlantic World, Marlene Daut reveals a traveling language of Haitian revolutionary thought to be central to the development of not only Afro-diasporic anti-slavery activism, but a broader transatlantic abolitionist literary culture that reveals itself to have been shaped in many ways by imagining Haiti.
On Monday, June 13, 2016, the National Humanities Center and Flyleaf Books were pleased to present best-selling author David Denby. Denby is a staff writer and former film critic for The New Yorker, and his reviews and essays have appeared in The New Republic, The Atlantic, and New York magazine (where he was film critic from 1978 to 1998), among other places.
The Center announces the appointment of Anthony E. Kaye as Vice President for Scholarly Programs, effective July 1, 2016. Robert D. Newman, President and Director, pointed to Kaye’s vision and energy as qualities that distinguished him: “Tony has a wonderful sense not only of what the Center means to scholars and their research but also an appreciation for the possibilities generated by its intellectual community.”
On March 31, 2016, William “Bro” Adams, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, spoke at length to Fellows and Trustees of the Center about the state of humanities research, teaching, and public engagement in the United States. Reflecting on the NEH’s founding in 1965 and the work it has supported ever since, he also discussed the challenges facing humanists and the liberal arts, in general, in the twenty-first century.
Among all the classic Broadway shows of the 1930s, a fair number stand out by engaging directly with the New Deal politics of a turbulent decade. Why did the likes of George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart take this leftist turn, and how should one read the great American songs that emerged?
On Thursday, April 21, NHC President and Director Robert Newman will join Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC to give a talk on “Humanities Moments and the Heroic.” Newman will discuss the humanities’ role in a well-rounded education, their importance inside and outside the university setting, and the contributions that they make to addressing important challenges of the twenty-first century. Given the ever-increasing emphasis on science and technology, what role do the humanities play in helping us confront the challenges we face in our modern world — globalization, climate change, terrorism?
Following a nationwide search, the National Humanities Center has named Andrew T. Mink as its new Vice President for Education Programs. He will succeed Richard R. Schramm, who is set to retire in July. Mink will lead the Center’s efforts to strengthen humanities teaching at both the collegiate and pre-collegiate levels, which combine live webinars, interactive classroom lessons, and extensive digital archives of primary source materials.
The National Humanities Center announces the appointment of 37 Fellows for the academic year 2016–17. These leading scholars will come to the Center from 17 states, Argentina, South Africa, and the United Kingdom; they constitute the thirty-ninth class of resident scholars to be admitted since the Center opened in 1978. Robert D. Newman, president and director of the National Humanities Center, said, “This tremendous group of scholars is conducting interesting and important work across a range of humanistic fields. We are delighted to provide them support and look forward to their arrival.”
The National Humanities Center has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in support of a new outreach program for military veterans. This initiative, “Exploring the Experience of War,” will give veterans in North Carolina the opportunity to reflect on their own service by examining and discussing literary texts. It will be conducted in partnership with Chaplain Services of the Durham Veteran Affairs Medical Center.
The National Humanities Center has announced the selection of fourteen highly qualified educators from across the country as members of its inaugural Teacher Advisory Council. These teachers, from school districts in twelve states, will work with the Center’s education program staff in piloting, evaluating, and promoting resources and programs that complement its nationally recognized teaching and professional development materials.
On Tuesday, February 9, NHC president and director Robert D. Newman joined Lloyd Kramer from UNC-Chapel Hill and Victoria Gallagher from NC State University to discuss the humanities’ future as part of a town hall meeting. The event, held at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC, and moderated by retired philosophy professor Clay Stalnaker, drew an engaged crowd who challenged the participants about role of the humanities in an environment that has become increasingly concerned with financial outcomes from academic activities, technologically-focused, and oriented toward the concerns of the individual rather than the common good.
The Andrew Cayton Memorial Fund has been established to support the critical work of humanities scholars at the National Humanities Center, where Drew was a Fellow during the 2012–2013 academic year. Specifically, this fund will support the Center’s annual webinars in early American studies, enriching the work of high school teachers across the country, but with an audience now expanding to include community college teachers and adult education generally. The Fund is made possible by generous contributions from Drew’s friends and associates.
National Humanities Center President and Director Robert D. Newman was the featured guest at an event held January 14, 2016 at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, NC. Newman discussed the ways the humanities give meaning to our lives, shape historical events, and help address the most complex challenges of modernity.
Humanities moments are the unexpected miracles that provide meaning, sharpen purpose, and offer depth — profound pauses in the otherwise frantic and self-absorbed scurrying that characterizes our gettings and spendings. When the personal harmonizes with the collective, the anomalous with the essential, humanities moments occur. When we recognize their exquisite and resounding centrality, we better understand the foundation of the democratic society of which they are a product.
In imperial China, eunuchs were household servants of the emperor, their duties generally limited to cooking, cleaning, and other mundane chores. At times, however, they became influential members of the government, their power even eclipsing that of officials and the emperor himself. In this lecture, Norman Kutcher will examine and reflect on specific emperors’ relationships with their chief eunuchs, using these case studies to explain the complex dynamic that could sometimes arise between emperor and eunuch.
From The Jazz Singer to the carving of Mount Rushmore to Charles Lindbergh’s first transatlantic flight: 1927 invites reflection on the intersections and serendipitous synchronicities of one eventful year. Was the world flapping its way into Depression, or did modernist advances still offer hopes for the future? Join NHC Fellows and friends for a multimedia exploration of this rich cultural and artistic landscape. This event will include a variety of short talks on cultural, political, and historical topics as well as selections of music, film, and literature that capture this vibrant moment in the modern era — between the World Wars and before the approaching worldwide depression.
This lecture will illuminate the field of international possibility seen by a leading fraction of young Americans in the 1920s. It offers a counter-narrative to the well-worn account of American “expatriates” who succumbed to the seductions of Paris and soon returned home chastened. A far larger stratum of would-be writers lived outside the United States without desire to be “expatriates,” found vocations in journalism, brought the world home to American audiences, and allowed these international ventures to shape their lives.
Janice Radway, “From the Underground to the Archive in Ten Years: Girl Zines, the 1990s, and the Challenge of Historical Narration”
In the early nineties, a certain cohort of dissident, non-conforming girls turned to self-publishing to express their deep dissatisfaction with conservative reaffirmations of normative femininity. Calling themselves “Riot Grrrls” after several influential all-girl punk bands, they crafted handmade publications known as “zines” in order to voice their disaffection and to think through alternative ways of being in the world. These young women quickly caught the attention of the mainstream media and a range of academics and librarians alike. Within ten years, at least three major collections of girl zines had been collected at places like Smith College, Barnard College, and Duke University. This lecture explores the significance of girls’ self-publishing efforts, the complex reasons for their zines’ quick assimilation into legitimate cultural institutions, and the political benefits and drawbacks to this kind of memorialization.
Mary Elizabeth Berry is the Class of 1944 Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley and the first recipient of the Founders’ Fellowship at the National Humanities Center. An authority on the history of pre-modern Japan, she has been working on a project examining the remarkable changes in Japanese life that occurred in the midst of the Tokugawa shogunate (1603–1868). She sat down with us this spring to share a bit about her research.
At a recent dinner with Center Fellows alumni, President Robert D. Newman recounted several “humanities moments,” including Kurt Vonnegut’s response to the 1973 burning of his book Slaughterhouse Five by school officials in Drake, North Dakota.
The soldier monuments that began to proliferate across northern and southern communities during the 1860s differed sharply from antebellum American commemorations. The emergence of this cultural form partly reflected patterns of recruitment and death in the Civil War. Local memorial initiatives also expressed competing ideas about the legacies of the war and the extent to which military service constituted a model of citizenship.
At its recent meeting, the Board of Trustees of the National Humanities Center elected two new members, J. Porter Durham, Jr. and Joan Hinde Stewart. Durham is Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel of Global Endowment Management, LP, in Charlotte, NC. Prior to joining the company in 2007, he was director of the education division and staff counsel at The Duke Endowment. Joan Hinde Stewart is President of Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. Before assuming that role in 2003, she was Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and professor of French at the University of South Carolina.
At a celebration October 22, 2015, Robert D. Newman was installed as the sixth president and director of the National Humanities Center. In his inaugural remarks, titled “Humanities Moments and the Heroic,” Newman shared his vision for the Center as the premier destination for humanities scholars, a national leader in the effort to strengthen teaching, and a vital resource for all who seek greater understanding of themselves and the world in which they live.
A delegation from the Counselors’ Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China visited the National Humanities Center the afternoon of October 20. After a tour of the Center’s award-winning building, the group joined Elizabeth Mansfield in the main conference room for a presentation on the mission and history of the Center. Delegates expressed appreciation of the architecture, with Director-General Zhang Yantong observing that the open, light-filled, and friendly character of the building mirrored the Center’s mission in support of free and open inquiry.
Participants in the 2015 Scholarly Communication Institute gathered at the Center recently for an evening reception and short program. They were joined by Fellows, local scholars and librarians, and others interested in enhancing digital access to scholarship in the humanities. Center director Robert Newman delivered opening remarks on the importance of openness and innovation in humanities research. Don Waters, senior program officer at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, delivered an address that highlighted the need for diverse models for assessment, access, and preservation of digital scholarship.
China has a distinguished modern history of supporting its national heritage of traditional medical knowledge. In recent years, research has focused on traditional medicine of the minority nationalities of China. This “multicultural” process expresses particular features of Chinese state power as it engages and manages local variation. And it reveals many forms of life that escape nation-state projects. This discussion considers the relations in practice between grassroots medical institution-building and the healing powers that both inform it and evade it.
Friends, current research Fellows and members of the Center staff gathered recently for the annual National Humanities Center Patio Party. President Robert D. Newman, who joined the Center in July of this year, addressed the group with brief but timely remarks entitled “The Uncomfortable Responsibility of the Liberal Arts.”
Richard Schramm, longtime vice president for education programs at the Center, has announced his retirement effective July 2016. Schramm joined the NHC in 1984 and has been instrumental in developing the Center’s innovative approach to professional development programs for teachers, which links scholarship to improved teaching and provides teachers with new materials and strategies to make them more effective in the classroom.
Led by renowned digital humanities pioneers Willard McCarty and Matthew Jockers, this innovative program in Digital Textual Studies combines hands-on technical explorations with wide-ranging philosophical and theoretical discussions. Fifteen scholars from around the globe are participating in the institute, representing a range of humanities disciplines, including classics, history, law, literary studies, philosophy, and sociology.
The National Humanities Center (NHC) has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in support of the Center’s residential fellowship program. The $272,700 NEH grant, along with $126,000 in matching funds from NHC donors, will be used to support the work of scholars conducting advanced humanities research at the Center over the course of the next three years. “The NEH has been a tremendous partner, not only in supporting our fellowship program but in education and public outreach,” said NHC president and director Robert D. Newman.
The GlaxoSmithKline Foundation has awarded the National Humanities Center a grant in honor of the Center’s former president and director W. Robert Connor. The $50,000 grant will provide for the development of asynchronous, online, self-paced professional development modules for teachers of American history and literature.
On April 16, 2015 over 150 trustees, Fellows, and friends gathered to honor Geoffrey Harpham on his approaching retirement as president and director of the National Humanities Center, where he has served since 2003. Evening celebration were highlighted by remarks from Duke University President Richard Brodhead and reflections from Geoffrey Harpham on his tenure.
With sadness, the trustees and staff of the National Humanities Center note the passing of trustee emeritus Meyer H. (Mike) Abrams on April 21, 2015. He was 102. One of the Center's cofounders, Abrams was a towering figure whose contributions to the humanities were vast. We are grateful for his scholarly imagination, leadership, and dedication which have helped make the Center a vital institution for nearly 40 years.
The National Humanities Center announces the appointment of 37 Fellows for the academic year 2015–16. Chosen from 537 applicants, these leading scholars will come to the Center from 11 states, Australia, Germany, the People’s Republic of China, and the United Kingdom.
Ordinarily, the two cerebral hemispheres of the brain are joined by a large fiber pathway. In a “split-brain” surgery, this pathway is cut. Afterwards a split-brain subject may behave as if she had two conscious minds, one in each hemisphere. Many philosophers and neuropsychologists have argued that in fact she does. If that’s right, however, then why doesn’t anyone view a split-brain subject as containing or consisting of two persons, each with her own rights and responsibilities? In her talk, Elizabeth Schechter argues that self-consciousness provides the answer.
Stunning personification of triumph and icon of world art, the great Winged Victory (Nike) of Samothrace in the Louvre Museum has long captured the admiration and imagination of the world. Recently, to mark the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the Nike, Bonna Wescoat and her team renewed investigations of the statue and its precinct in the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. In her lecture, she shares results of their new research on the design, setting, and history of this extraordinary monument.
By 1832 Shakespeare’s biographers had already concluded that “among the very few facts of his life that have been transmitted to us, there is none more clearly proved than the unhappiness of his marriage.” Anne Hathaway was eight years older; her premarital pregnancy led to a shotgun wedding; Shakespeare’s dying bequest of a “second-best” bed confirmed his loathing for her. But is this case closed? Lena Orlin discusses new ways of thinking about Shakespeare’s marriage.
The first of the National Humanities Center’s summer institutes in digital humanities, devoted to digital textual studies, will convene for two one-week sessions, first in June 2015 and again in 2016. The objective of the Institute in Digital Textual Studies is to develop participants’ technological and scholarly imaginations and to combine them into a powerful investigative instrument. “Our summer institutes in digital humanities are designed for ambitious scholars who want to learn how computational methods or digital technologies might enhance or even completely reshape their scholarship,” says Elizabeth Mansfield, NHC vice president for scholarly programs.
In this lecture, legal historian Kunal Parker ranges over four centuries of immigration and citizenship law and canvasses the histories of immigrants, Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, women, and the poor, exploring the American legal tradition of not only excluding and removing those from other countries, but also of rendering foreign their own populations.
The NHC Board of Trustees has elected philanthropist and financial services veteran Patricia Morton of Charlotte, NC, as its new chairman. She is the first woman to hold the position and the first North Carolinian since William C. Friday. Morton has served on the NHC board since 2004 and co-chaired the Center’s recently concluded capital campaign that raised over $19 million.
Historians tend to focus on two questions about American tax politics: how much and how progressive (or regressive). But because the U.S. political system is designed to emphasize geography more strongly than class interest or political ideology, the history of federal taxation is best understood in geographical terms. Most generally, it is a story about redistribution from the South to the Northeast through the nineteenth-century tariff and from the Northeast to the South through the twentieth-century income tax. After reviewing the familiar story of tariff struggles, this lecture focuses on the lesser-known sectional politics of the income tax.
The National Humanities Center announces the appointment of Robert D. Newman as its next President and Director. On July 1, 2015, he succeeded Geoffrey G. Harpham, who led the Center since 2003. “Robert Newman intends to continue and enhance the role of the Center as a leading voice nationally in support of the humanities,” said Center trustee William Jordan.
"The Roosevelts: An Intimate History" chronicles the lives of Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of the most prominent and influential family in American politics. This seven-part, fourteen-hour documentary from filmmaker Ken Burns follows the Roosevelts for more than a century, from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962. Special guests: John Kasson and William Leuchtenburg from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The National Humanities Center has received the 2014 Primary Source Award for Teaching from the Center for Research Libraries for its interactive America in Class® Lessons. The award recognizes faculty, researchers, and others in the academic community who incorporate primary source materials like historical documents and literary texts into classroom instruction in innovative ways. In presenting the award, the CRL described the America in Class Lessons as "an innovative program that embodies an impressive combination of timeliness, collaboration, convenience, and educational excellence."
The Center is pleased to announce the launch of a four-year project that will bring three scholars each year from leading universities in Greater China for residential fellowships, beginning in fall 2014. Supported by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation and four partnering universities, the Chinese Scholars Program will give selected scholars an opportunity to spend a year in the rich and productive environment of the National Humanities Center.