Contemporary thinking in fields from political ethics to psychology has been shaped by the writings of Thomas Aquinas. But Aquinas’ model of the mind—of how we perceive and contemplate the world—has been ignored or misunderstood by contemporary scholars. Fellow Thérèse Cory is working on a new book on Aquinas’ account of the intellect and the philosophical traditions from which it emerged. In this podcast, Cory reminds us why Aquinas’ relevance extends across disciplines and centuries, and discusses how, over the years, Aquinas has been extracted from his historical context; she advocates putting him back into conversation with his scholarly influences.
Known for its functionalist structures and unadorned style, the Bauhaus school formally ended in 1933. Still, its influence continues to this day, informing design choices in a wide variety of fields—from architecture to typography, fashion to household items. In this podcast, Fellow Elizabeth Otto maps the aesthetic and intellectual lineage of Bauhaus, paying special attention to the many figures—especially women—who’ve been overshadowed by more celebrated colleagues. With attention to questions of gender and sexuality, Otto also explores how the legacy of World War I complicated ideas of masculinity in Germany during this era, inflecting the idea of the “artist engineer.”
In the seventeenth century, the notion of the infinite universe was so controversial that believers could be burned at the stake. Today, however, the concept of infinity is commonplace, integrated into science and math curricula, and used as a metaphor to describe the inconceivable. In this podcast, Fellow John H. Smith traces the shifting understandings of the infinite across the long eighteenth century. His project ultimately locates the infinite at an interdisciplinary crossroads, demonstrating the interconnectedness of the sciences and the humanities.
Georgia’s antebellum state capitol, Milledgeville, was also home to the state mental hospital, an institution founded in 1842 which eventually became the largest asylum in the world. Fellow Mab Segrest is at work on a project considering how the hospital’s history reveals the relationships between psychiatry and white settler colonialism. In this podcast, she discusses the social function of mental hospitals in the South. At the nexus of U.S. psychiatry and the emergence of racism, the history of the Milledgeville asylum has broad and urgent implications for today’s mental health facilities and their treatment of patients.
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. Robert D. Newman, president and director of the National Humanities Center, said, “These scholars are conducting vitally important work across a wide range of humanistic fields. We are delighted to provide them support and look forward to their arrival.”
Legalized slavery has been abolished around the world, yet human trafficking remains a significant problem. Though slavery may not take the exact forms it did in the nineteenth century, approximately 45.8 million persons in 167 countries endure modern forms of slavery. Fellow Laura Murphy, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Modern Slavery Research Project at Loyola University New Orleans, is currently at work on a book about the way survivors of forced labor have mobilized the discourse of slavery in the twenty-first century to reinvigorate their struggles for freedom. In this podcast, she discusses the generic conventions of the slave narrative and how they complicate our notions of what it means to be free.
First emerging in the Italian Renaissance, the sonnet was used to document and address a problem, such as the pain of unrequited love. Under the shadow of slavery and then Jim Crow, African American poets from Phillis Wheatley to Natasha Trethewey have adopted the sonnet’s 14-line form to poetically register political protest. Fellow Hollis Robbins is currently at work on the first book-length examination of the African American sonnet tradition. In this podcast, Robbins draws on examples from writers such as Claude McKay and Gwendolyn Brooks to explain how the formal qualities of the sonnet— structured around an argument—exemplify what W.E.B. Du Bois famously called “double-consciousness.”
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.