Rehumanizing the University: New Perspectives on the Liberal Arts

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Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere, University of Florida

View lectures from this series online.

General Objectives of the Series

Scholars in the humanities have traditionally offered critical perspectives on cultural and historical change. Of late, however, the humanities themselves have faced opposition from skeptics who question the value of a liberal arts education, the contents and goals of humanistic inquiry, and the place of university museums and collections in academic research and curriculum. This attack on the meaningful contributions of universities to American public life has led to self-conscious reflection on the part of humanities scholars about their roles and responsibilities in interpreting, adapting to, and, in some instances, effecting social change. This discussion has become particularly important in the shifting educational landscape caused by diminished state resources and universities’ consequent reliance on private fundraising and entrepreneurship. In this environment, scholars in the humanities disciplines have courageously addressed the ethical implications commercial intervention in academic inquiry and queried the intellectual responsibilities of higher education, especially in light of the increasing diversity of the student body and internationalization of the curriculum at many universities. The contributions of the humanities disciplines demonstrate that a critical assessment of current and future dilemmas facing universities, aided by the lessons learned from past encounters, will help institutions of higher learning better weather this time of radical metamorphosis.

For 2011-2012, the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere at the University of Florida has organized an eighteen-month-long speaker series that tackles some of the historical and contemporary tensions in the intellectual life of universities, and points to the way their relationships with the surrounding communities, from local to global, will develop in the future. Invited speakers will address, from a variety of disciplinary perspectives in the humanities, critical issues raised by ethnic and religious difference, cultural change and globalization, and the introduction of market forces into the halls of higher learning. Some of the topics to be addressed will include racial and ethnic integration, the place of women at institutions of higher education, global aspects of university’s resources and outreach (including through its museum collections), and the role of language and religion and art in a secular university setting. The ultimate goal of the series will be to provide a critical reading of universities’ contributions to academic advances and public life so that we can make sense of the complex issues that are integral to their future evolution. Invited speakers will contemplate and contextualize the hallmarks, aims, artifacts, and outcomes of a liberal arts education.

This series of twelve lectures is co-sponsored by the UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere (Rothman Endowment), the Harn Eminent Scholar Chair in Art History Program, the UF Honors Program, the Alexander Grass Chair in Jewish History at UF, the UF International Center, the UF Office of Research, UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the UF Center for Jewish Studies, the UF Libraries, the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, the UF France-Florida Research Institute, the Hyatt and Cici Brown Endowment for Florida Archaeology, the UF Department of History, the UF Department of Classics, the UF Department of English, the Marston-Milbauer Eminent Scholar Chair, the Albert Brick Chair in English at UF, the UF African American Studies Program, the UF Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research, UF College of Design, Construction and Planning, and the Alachua County Library District.

Events in this Series