Humanities Center


Welcome from the Interim Director

Joan Rubin
Joan Rubin, Interim Director

The University of Rochester Humanities Center, eventually to be a physical space in Rush Rhees Library, is already building an energetic community dedicated to exploring the varied dimensions of the human experience. Our primary mission is to support scholarly reflection, exchange, and collaboration across disciplines in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. Whether you are an anthropologist or a literary critic, a musicologist or a historian, a faculty member, graduate student, or undergraduate, you will discover among Center participants a shared commitment to probing the practices, values, ideas, beliefs, and art forms that people have created over time to understand and express the human condition.

Founded in the spring of 2015, the Humanities Center has planned a number of exciting events around the theme “Humanities at the Crossroads—Charting Our Future” for the 2015-2016 academic year. The theme enables us to think broadly about what we want our Center to be. To that end, we are hosting lectures and workshops by four current or past Humanities Center directors at other universities who will speak about their research as well as offer guidance for the UR Center. The first of these visitors, the distinguished scholar of African-American literature and culture Gerald Early (Washington University in St. Louis), will present the inaugural lecture on September 24 at 5 p.m. in the Hawkins-Carlson Room of Rush Rhees, followed by a reception in the Welles-Brown Room across the hall.

Alongside those activities, we are making our initial foray into public humanities programming the next month by partnering with a Rochester-area arts agency. Just prior to the Rochester Oratorio Society’s performance of Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” on October 30, the Center will sponsor two panel discussions, a lecture, and a pre-concert talk placing the composer in cultural and musical context. These events will feature faculty from the School of Arts and Sciences and the Eastman School of Music. See our events listings for more information.

During the coming year, the Humanities Project, the Ferrari Humanities Symposium and the Distinguished Visiting Humanist series, now under the umbrella of the Center, will continue to bring thought-provoking speakers to the campus. The ongoing Digital Humanities lunches organized by the Mellon Fellows in the Digital Humanities will allow faculty and graduate students to learn from each other about the new technologies available for humanistic research. Occasional seminars and informal gatherings will enrich intellectual life on campus as well. At the same time, UR researchers will have the opportunity to interact with colleagues from Syracuse and Cornell Universities, as well as several upstate New York liberal arts colleges, through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded Central New York Humanities Corridor, which runs working groups on several topics of interest to humanists.

Beginning in spring, 2016, the Center will fund two internal and two external junior faculty fellows. A bi-weekly lunchtime seminar for fellows, faculty affiliates, and graduate students will be the venue for lively conversation about the participants’ work in progress, enhancing the prospects for interdisciplinary collaboration.

The Center’s goal of fostering community among those studying the humanities and humanistic social sciences at Rochester extends to UR undergraduates, who have often felt isolated from one another. A regular series of faculty-student discussions concerning current issues and opportunities within and across disciplines will begin in the fall. Support for undergraduate research is also planned.

Those of us who have pursued careers in the humanities for many years acknowledge that our labor is frequently solitary, and that such solitude is both necessary and productive. Yet when we encounter other individuals with what the historian Robert Darnton once called “the glint in their eyes”—when we recognize in someone else the passion for grappling with the questions that have animated our research and writing—the connection we feel is gratifying and rewarding. The Humanities Center at the University of Rochester will soon abound with such connections. I welcome you to join us.

Joan Shelley Rubin
Dexter Perkins Professor in History
Interim Director