Performances, exhibitions, films, discussions, and other events will celebrate the humanities in a year-long special initiative at the University of Rochester. Titled "The Humanities Project," 10 series of programs will emphasize the influence and contributions of the humanities to academic and civic life.
The Humanities Project received support from the Humanities Fund, which was created to support interdisciplinary work by Rochester faculty in philosophy, the arts, languages, and other fields. Several events have already been scheduled, including an appearance by author Margaret Atwood and an exhibition by celebrated artist Carrie Mae Weems. All events will be open to the public
"The arts and humanities enrich the whole human experience," said University of Rochester President Joel Seligman. Seligman committed $100,000 from the President's Venture Fund to create the Humanities Fund in 2006-07. "Not only do the arts entertain us, but they teach us and let us experience and appreciate the diversity of cultures that make up the world."
Emphasizing collaboration across the disciplines, programs will involve University faculty, several institutions in the greater Rochester community, and scholars from other national and regional institutions.
"The humanities have a central role in the academic and cultural life of the University," said Peter Lennie, the Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering. "The Humanities Fund was created to help highlight the vitality and distinction of what is happening here."
The Humanities Project will kick off with a roundtable titled "Women and Music: Looking Back, Looking Forward," at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12, in the Gamble Room in Rush Rhees Library as part of the "Women in Music" series of programs. The series is part of the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies, with support from numerous departments and programs from two units of the University, the College of Arts, Science, and Engineering and the Eastman School of Music, and Rochester Institute of Technology. The "Women in Music" series will include performances and lectures with students and faculty throughout the year. A special program in March will feature Atwood and Cuban-American composer Tania León, who will be setting several of Atwood's poems to music.
The 10 individual projects in the humanities initiative were selected from proposals reviewed by a committee of department chairs in the College. Besides "Women in Music," the projects include "Law and the 'War on Terror,'" which will explore how U.S. and international law are affecting or curtailing daily life; "The Nature and Pursuit of Happiness," which will use perspectives from philosophy and psychology to examine what makes people happy; "The Transatlantic Twenties: Cultural Exchanges and the Making of Modernism," an overview of how European-American contacts between the two world wars influenced modernist culture; and "Religious Transgressions of Modernity," a series exploring how, contrary to assumptions about modernization, different religions have crossed into the public spheres of politics, economics, and science.
Two of the projects will focus on visual art. "Visualizing the Humanities" will feature an exhibition at the University's Hartnett Gallery and a public lecture by Weems, a noted African-American photographer, in February. Memory and melancholia will be the subjects of "Absence/Excess/Loss," which will include installations in the gallery space at the Rochester Contemporary, a community nonprofit arts center.
Other projects are "Lives of Performers," a series of classic avant-garde films from the American underground of the 1960s that are being screened in October at the Dryden Theatre of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film; "History and Philosophy of Physics," a series of lectures by prominent philosophers and historians of modern physics; and "The Future of the Archive in the Digital Age," which will explore how digital technologies are affecting the forms and uses of archives.