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Director's Letter, 2016-17

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The Stanford Humanities Center is a hub for advanced research into some of the most important questions facing humanity today. With over fifty scholars in residencies of various lengths, the Humanities Center supports inquiry into major questions and problems in philosophy, art, literature, music, history, and religion. I’m often asked this question:  But what do you really do at the Stanford Humanities Center? At the heart of many projects the Center supports is ultimately the question: What’s at stake for human beings? Advanced research in the humanities helps us to push beyond what we think we know about topics both ancient and modern; to reframe known problems so that we can approach them in new ways; and to question our presuppositions. By prying open questions about our common humanity, the Stanford Humanities Center contributes to the intellectual vitality of students and faculty across the disciplines, as well as to the community beyond Stanford.
 
The largest campus-based humanities center in the world, the Stanford Humanities Center attracts scholars from around the globe, and at all stages of their careers, from undergraduates to graduate students to postdoctoral scholars to faculty fellows. In September 2016, we welcome our new class of year-long Stanford Humanities Center Fellows. They are working on projects ranging from art in Africa to religion in Iron Age Greece, and from American modernist literature to the definition of noise in urban Taiwan. We will also welcome a group of International Visitors, each of whom will be at the Center for month-long residencies and will offer a variety of lectures and seminars to inspire new collaborations at Stanford. The Hume Humanities Honors Fellowship brings us eight seniors from across Stanford’s humanities departments, each of them writing a thesis guided by a faculty advisor and enhanced by their new scholarly community at the Center. Finally, we welcome the new and returning Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows, who are based in Stanford’s academic departments but join in the daily life of the Center’s intellectual community.
 
In addition to scholars in residence, the Stanford Humanities Center also supports programs that advance scholarly research in the humanities. These include the Geballe Research Workshops, the Manuscript Review Workshops, and the PhD Journalist Program. This fall the Center will also launch the new Stanford Humanities Review, an on-line publication by Stanford graduate students that will feature reviews of new scholarship, videos, and other content aimed at the reading public. 
 
The new academic year will bring several exciting public events. On October 27, 2016, renowned political theorist Quentin Skinner will deliver the Harry Camp Memorial Lecture in Levinthal Hall. Entitled “A Genealogy of Liberty,” the lecture will explore some influential meanings of liberty and their implications for democratic government. This event is free and open to the public. In winter 2017, religious scholar Elaine Pagels of Princeton University joins us for a 10-week Marta Sutton Weeks Visitorship, during which she will offer seminars and lectures to the Stanford community. And in late May 2017, Pulitzer-Prize winning author Junot Díaz will deliver the Presidential Lecture in the Arts and Humanities. Check this website for further details about these and other upcoming events.
 
The Humanities Center enjoys formal collaborations with other centers on campus that enrich the experience of our fellows during their time here. In collaboration with the Cantor Arts Center, we encourage our fellows to give gallery talks on current art exhibitions. We continue our connection with the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA), the digital humanities laboratory at Stanford, and our fellows receive expert guidance on how to create new tools to interpret the cultural record of past and present. The new David Rumsey Map Center allows our fellows to enjoy the rich resources of this major repository for historical and contemporary maps. As always, we are grateful for the enormous expertise that the special subject curators of the Stanford University Libraries bring to our fellows.
 
If you would like to join our mailing list to receive information about forthcoming events we sponsor, as well as our monthly e-newsletter describing humanities research taking place across campus, please click here. 
 
Best wishes to all for a successful 2016-17!
 
Caroline Winterer
Director, Stanford Humanities Center
Anthony P. Meier Family Professor in the Humanities