Yale to Explore the Evolution and Future of the Humanities

The Whitney Humanities Center at Yale will hold a symposium on the role of the humanities at Yale and in higher education, March 30 and 31 at 53 Wall St.
The Whitney Humanities Center at Yale will hold a symposium on the role of the humanities at Yale and in higher education, March 30 and 31 at 53 Wall St.

The symposium, “Beginning with the Humanities,” is part of the celebration of the University’s Tercentennial. It is free and open to the public. Schedule.

Established in 1701 as a school to train young men for leadership in the church and public life, Yale’s curriculum originally was devoted almost exclusively to the humanities-by today’s standards, a narrow and unimaginative version of them. Much Latin, some Greek and-for more advanced students-Hebrew were central, along with scholastic logic, ethics, metaphysics, some arithmetic and a little surveying. Over the decades, first the natural sciences, then-much later-the social sciences were added.

Yale has remained, perhaps uniquely among major American research universities, centrally committed to the humanities. “But in today’s culture, dominated by scientific and technological modes of thought, the humanities can survive only by maintaining an informed dialogue with other disciplines,” said Peter Brooks, director of the Whitney Humanities Center and the Chester Tripp Professor of the Humanities. “So our symposium is devoted to ‘the humanities AND…’-the relations of humanistic thinking and interpretation to research paradigms in other fields, including science and social science, law, theology, architecture.”

Yale and its history will provide the starting point for discussion, but the symposium will take a broad view of the past, present and future of the humanities in the American university and in public life.

Participants include philosophers Susan Haack, Martha Nussbaum and Stanley Cavell; historian Edmund Morgan; Kurt Schmoke, former mayor of Baltimore; Catharine Stimpson, dean of the Graduate School at NYU; journalists and social critics Nicholas Lemann, Louis Menand and Daniel Yergin; legal scholars Deborah Rhode and Owen Fiss; literary scholars Barbara Johnson, Jonathan Culler and Wendy Steiner, biologist Peter Galison, political scientists James Farr and Daniel Rodgers, and a number of other distinguished scholars and writers. Participants from the Yale faculty include David Apter, David Bromwich, David Brion Davis, John Demos, Paul Fry, Glenda Gilmore, Geoffrey Hartman, Michael Holquist, Margaret Homans, Rogers Smith and Günter Wagner.

At the symposium, panels will explore “Enlightenments: Defining Moments at Yale,” “The Interpretive Turn: Philology and Criticism,” “Darkness and Truth: Enlightenment and Inequality in the Social Sciences and History,” “Epistemology and Uncertainty in the Sciences and Humanities” and “The Public Face of the Humanities.”

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Media Contact

Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325