Lecture: Robert Newman

Date(s) - 09/12/2022
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm



Robert Newman, President and Director of the National Humanities Center will present a public lecture on Monday, September 12. It will be held at 4:00 PM in the Education in Zion Theater (B192 JFSB).

Dr. Newman was previously dean of the College of Humanities, professor of English, and associate vice president for interdisciplinary studies at the University of Utah, where he was widely recognized for dramatically increasing support for the college, expanding its programs, and broadening campus diversity. In addition to establishing a new Humanities building on campus, he established the first country’s graduate program in Environmental Humanities and led the creation of the Taft/Nicholson Center for Environmental Humanities in Centennial Valley, Montana. He also has held faculty appointments at the University of South Carolina, where he was chair of the English Department, at Texas A&M University, and the College of William and Mary.

Dr. Newman’s scholarship has focused on twentieth-century English and American literature and culture and narrative theory. He has published six books; over a hundred articles, reviews, and poems; and has given talks throughout the world. He has received awards not only for his scholarship but also for his institutional leadership and teaching. For the past twenty years, he has been general editor of the “Cultural Frames, Framing Culture” series published by University of Virginia Press. Recently, he was celebrated as a Distinguished Alumnus at both The Pennsylvania State University, where he received his BA, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he received his PhD.

Title: Securing the Future of the Humanities

During the past decade, we have seen a precipitous decline in humanities majors and faculty positions not just in the U.S., but globally. Furthermore, democratic institutions increasingly have been imperiled, we are flirting with a global economic recession, civil society has frayed into persistent polarization, and cultural diplomacy has been largely hijacked by nefarious social media outlets whose prevailing mission is less the free flow of information than the absolute control of it.  Proliferating rhetoric concerning the humanities often points to their irrelevance and economic limitations.

The response from humanities practitioners and advocates largely has been reactive and despairing.  While political concerns and interest in the grand challenges of our time have grown in scholarly and pedagogical applications, our methodologies, institutional reward systems, and public postures have not changed very much, further marginalizing aspirational responses and pursuits. What fundamental changes must the humanities make in the coming decade if we are to preserve their value? How might they reassert their prominence at the core of education and reestablish the perception that they underpin and bolster democratic thought and practice?  How might they be brought into conversations about solving perhaps our greatest contemporary challenge, climate change? How do we go beyond frustration and despair regarding impending demise to recover agency and purpose in righteous resurrection?

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