University of Vermont

The Honors College

Honors College Faculty Seminar 2011

TO: All UVM Faculty Members

FROM: S. Abu Turab Rizvi, Dean of the Honors College

SUBJECT: Faculty Seminar, 2011

DATE: March 1, 2011

It is with great pleasure that I announce the eighth Honors College Faculty Seminar, this year titled The Humanities Challenge, to be held August 15-17, 2011. The seminar's coordinators are Andrew Barnaby, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Humanities Center, and Melanie Gustafson, Associate Professor of History. Participants will explore the historical and developing roles of the academic disciplines typically grouped under the term "humanities," consider ways in which humanities-inspired modes of inquiry inform other fields, discuss some of the benefits and limitations related to these modes of inquiry, and examine the impact of humanistic disciplines on public discourse. Seminar participants will also explore various methods of humanistic inquiry by together analyzing a series of texts.

The seminar is concerned with a "humanities challenge" in two competing senses. First, humanities disciplines nurture our sense of the complexity of the world in part by challenging us to see it in new ways. Second, these disciplines increasingly face their own challenges posed by a new skepticism about their social or economic value. The seminar will examine these twin challenges by starting from the notion that the humanities have been at the very core of the educational mission of the modern university. The seminar will consider, on the one hand, the enduring legacy of that mission; on the other hand, it will explore the question of the survival of that mission in the context of new attempts to define it.

The coordinators of the seminar hope to foster a rich and stimulating dialogue among colleagues and to promote a university-wide conversation about the current state of the humanities. They also hope to stimulate a discussion of how ideas, modes of learning, and rhetorical practices associated with traditionally defined humanities disciplines translate into the concerns of other fields and benefit, in turn, from their alternative intellectual approaches. Finally, they hope that the professional activities of seminar participants will benefit from these exchanges. Some guiding questions for the seminar include:

  1. Does a notion of humanistic disciplines developed during an earlier historical period still function in a 21st-century context?
  2. Do humanities disciplines function independently of each other or is it better to see these disciplines functioning together through something we might call interdisciplinarity? Is there anything unique about this concept in a humanities context?
  3. How do the humanities function in relation to other disciplines in the social or natural sciences, in education, business, or medicine? How do these other disciplines function in relation to the humanities, as objects of study or as methodological partners?
  4. In what ways have the humanities been central to the notion of public life and especially to the notion of an educated citizenry idealized as a key to a well-functioning democracy?
  5. If the humanities die, will anyone outside of academia notice?

Presenters and panelists from the UVM community will share their views on these and other related topics.

The seminar will take place over three days according to the following (evolving) schedule. The first day will be devoted to defining the content and methods of the humanities and to the problem with such definitions. It will also begin the group exploration of humanities texts and consider issues related to teaching in the humanities. The second day will explore the humanities in dialogue with other disciplines and practices within and outside the university. It will also consider the role of the humanities in collaborative research. The final day will be primarily devoted to the idea that the study of the humanities is essential to democratic citizenship. Drawing on the activities of all three days, day three will end with a discussion of the future of the humanities.

The seminar will conclude with a dinner at Englesby House.

Faculty members interested in participating in the seminar should submit a letter of interest and a short C.V. (no more than four pages) addressed to Abu Rizvi, Dean of the Honors College, 50 University Heights, by April 4, 2011. Please indicate any experience, special concerns or expertise you would bring to this seminar. The application materials should be sent via email attachment to . Applicants will be notified of selection decisions by April 18, 2011. Please feel free to contact me at 6-9102 or if you have any questions.

Last modified March 01 2011 01:11 PM