Humanities Center to host event

by Ritika Nandkeolyar | 10/5/00 5:00am

Dartmouth's new Humanities Center, long in planning, will host its inaugural event, a conference on "Global Humanities," on Oct. 20 and 21.

The purpose of the infant Humanities Center is "to bring together the various efforts going on already on campus to the surface and create a sense of intellectual excitement " Associate Dean of the Humanities Barry Scherr said.

"We want to be able to emphasize and promote new interdisciplinary initiatives," Humanities Center Director Jonathan Crewe said, "and find ways to bridge across to the sciences and social sciences, as well as decrease the division between the academic and performing arts."

Although the inaugural event of the center isn't until later this month, the center has already been active on campus and cosponsored events with other College organizations over the past year, Crewe said.

"The purpose of the Global Humanities symposium is to reflect on the current situation and agenda of humanities centers," Crewe said. "Many of the innovations proposed by humanities centers in the '70s and '80s are now fait accompli and done as a matter of course in the academy."

The panelists at "Global Humanities" include directors of humanities centers in Australia, China, Canada, the Netherlands and other parts of the United States.

The creation of a humanities center was first proposed in the early 1980s. However, the project never got off the ground, Scherr said.

At that time, the need for the Humanities Center was partly lessened by the fact that the College hosted the School of Criticism and Theory every summer, Crewe said.

That event brought together between 50 and 80 internationally known scholars and literary critics, as well as several graduate student observers, for six weeks of intense seminars on literature and literary theory. However, about four years ago, this annual tradition ceased.

At about the same time, Scherr created faculty committees which seriously discussed the issue of a Dartmouth Humanities Center. Crewe, who is also an English professor at the College, was involved in these discussions.

Part of the inspiration for creating this center is that most of Dartmouth's peer colleges have similar institutions, Scherr said.

The Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes, an organization of many such institutes, has over 130 members from the United States, Australia, Canada, Europe, China and many other countries.

According to Crewe, the presence of the Center will help Dartmouth hire and retain new faculty. It will eventually be a good resource for faculty in search of funding and support for projects, he said.

However, the center currently faces many challenges -- the most important being finding a physical home.

"It will be both office and social space," Crewe said. "This is in line with the Student Life Initiative plan, we heard that students needed more social space to interact with the faculty."

It is unclear at this point whether that space will be in a new or renovated building, he said. "However, I think we'll be moving in the next three to four years, as the College is really committed to this initiative."

The other major challenge the center faces is funding.

Currently, the center is funded by Mellon Foundation grants and the Dean of the Faculty office. Crewe said he hoped that the center would eventually have its own endowment.

Crewe emphasized that the new center will have many opportunities for students as well. Currently, the center is funding The Dartmouth Contemporary, a quarterly publication of book reviews and literary essays, and "Gaps and Overlaps," a lecture series created by the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Association.

The center will eventually have student interns that will create programming, Crewe said. As well, students are invited to serve on the center's 12-member Student Advisory Committee.

There is also a 12-member faculty advisory committee which includes faculty from social and hard sciences disciplines as well as the humanities.