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Upcoming Events

Dec 1 -2, 2014
Theorizing Gender and Islam Conference
Dec 9, 2014
Graduate Student Resident Talks
View All Upcoming Events and Details

Director's Letter

August 2014

In 2014-15 the Institute for the Arts and Humanities enters a new phase. We have three projects up and running for the Mellon Foundation’s Humanities Without Walls “Global Midwest” initiative, and we’re looking forward to the first year of the HWW Pre-Doctoral Fellowships, designed to introduce “alt-ac” options to graduate programs by providing six-week summer internships with the Chicago Humanities Festival. Click here for more information on these internships. The IAH can nominate four applicants; the deadline for applications is November 1. We hope that Penn State graduate students will make the most of this unusual and valuable opportunity.

IAH Postdoctoral fellow

Our postdoctoral fellow for 2014-15 is Heather Davis. D. Davis received her Ph.D. from Concordia University in 2011; last year she was a Visiting Scholar in Aesthetics and Politics at the California Institute of the Arts and a Visiting Scholar in the Program in Experimental Critical Theory at UCLA. In 2012-13, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Women’s Studies at Duke University. Dr. Davis’s dissertation was titled “Art That Loves People: Relational Subjectivity in Community-Based Art.” Her current project represents a radically new direction for her work, and seeks to contribute to debates over the role of human activity in the so-called Anthropocene epoch, in which humans have arguably become capable of changing the biosphere as a whole.

That project is titled “Plastic: An Ethology of Oil.” “This interdisciplinary study,” Dr. Davis writes, “will address the philosophic, aesthetic and material fallout of plastic, with particular attention to the transformation of ideas into matter. It draws upon the disciplines of environmental humanities, philosophy, cultural studies, and science and technology studies.” As we look to expand the reach and influence of the Institute, on campus and off, we hope that Dr. Davis’s work will provide a nodal point for faculty and graduate students in the arts, humanities, and sciences.

Film festival
What’s better than the American Library Association’s “Banned Books Week”?

A Banned Books Week that starts off with a Banned Books film festival, of course. On the weekend of September 20-21, we’ll show nine films at the State Theatre– Alexander Nevsky, To Kill A Mockingbird, Fahrenheit 451, The Kite Runner, 1984, Lolita, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Last Temptation of Christ, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. These films will be free and open to the public, so come see them before someone bans them!

Medal ceremony
Our ninth and final IAH Medal ceremony will honor Margaret Atwood, the renowned novelist, poet and essayist.

Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa, and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master’s degree from Radcliffe College.

Atwood is the author of more than forty volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction, but is best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1969), The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Her newest novel, MaddAddam (2013), is the final volume in a three-book series that began with the Man-Booker prize-nominated Oryx and Crake (2003) and continued with The Year of the Flood (2009). The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short fiction) both appeared in 2006. Her most recent volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, a collection of non-fiction essays appeared in 2011. Her non-fiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth was adapted for the screen in 2012. Ms. Atwood’s work has been published in more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian.

Ms. Atwood will visit Penn State on November 12-13, 2014. She will receive the Medal at the State Theatre on Wednesday, November 12 at 7:30 pm, and will offer a Penn State Forum talk the following day, at the Nittany Lion Inn at noon. The Medal Ceremony is free and open to the public. Penn State Forum tickets may be purchased through the id+ office: phone: 814-865-7590 / email: idcard@psu.edu / address: 103 HUB-Robeson Center.

And everything else
Our “Cities” series focuses this year on the Pacific Rim– especially the west side of the rim. As usual, we will be hosting speakers from a wide variety of disciplines, exploring cities from Tokyo to Singapore, via topics ranging from water to bullet trains. Pacific Rim presentations will be held in the Palmer Auditorium on selected Thursday evenings throughout the year– check our website for details.

In its first year, our new Conference Support program is helping Women’s Studies and the Penn State Society for the Study of Religion to host a conference on “Theorizing Gender and Islam.” The conference will take place on December 1-2, 2014; Sa'diyya Shaikh of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Cape Town and Nina Hoel of the Department of Anthropology at the University of KwaZulu Natal will be keynote speakers. Presentations from critical scholars and creative writers in several fields will address the theorization of lived Islam in transnational settings and examine the ways in which experience is constituted through a situated politics of gender, race and sexuality.

And, of course, our Resident Scholars and Artists will be presenting their work throughout the fall and spring– and our eight Graduate Student Residents will offer a symposium on their work toward the end of each semester. So come join us for another terrific year of IAH programming, and help us spread the word about the arts and humanities at Penn State!

Global Midwest

Recently we had the pleasure of announcing our membership in Humanities Without Walls, the innovative 15-member Mellon-funded consortium of humanities institutes throughout the Big Ten, plus the University of Chicago, Notre Dame, and the University of Illinois-Chicago. We are writing once again to solicit proposals for the first HWW initiative, “The Global Midwest.

Each HWW member institute now has $30,000 of seed money to sponsor a project, or an array of projects, that contribute to the understanding of the Midwest in a global perspective. Any and all proposals are welcome; initiatives can concentrate on (for example) the history of immigration in our area, the persistence of “heritage languages” in Pennsylvania, the place of Pennsylvanian labor, agriculture, and industry in the context of global commerce, or the changing landscape of Pennsylvania higher education as a locus for international students.

Funds will be available immediately once the awards are made. These funds are intended to support the development of collaborative proposals for two additional competitions, each of which will draw on $750,000 in consortium funds. Deadlines for these funding rounds are tentatively set for October 2014 and October 2015.

Being Humans

What does it mean, and what has it meant, to be human? What might "the human" mean in the foreseeable and unforeseeable future? These are the questions that animate the arts and humanities– and that will define the work of Penn State's Institute for the Arts and Humanities. Beginning in 2010-11, the Institute will offer programming devoted to exploring the question of "the human" from all angles.

For artists and humanists, these are extraordinary times: as the fate of our planet hangs in the balance, our sense of "the human" is undergoing remarkable challenges and transformations. How should we understand our relation to animal cognition, to artificial intelligence, to the biosphere, to disability, to prostheses, to genetics? What role can we imagine for the arts and humanities in the era of the Anthropocene, when the distinction between culture and nature is being eroded by human cultures that are transforming nature? Can we imagine a form of humanism in which the boundaries of the human are unclear and unstable? Artists, performers, and humanists must be central to these debates– and to every deliberation of what it means to be human.

For artists and humanists, these are extraordinary times: as the fate of our planet hangs in the balance, our sense of "the human" is undergoing remarkable challenges and transformations. How should we understand our relation to animal cognition, to artificial intelligence, to the biosphere, to disability, to prostheses, to genetics? What role can we imagine for the arts and humanities in the era of the Anthropocene, when the distinction between culture and nature is being eroded by human cultures that are transforming nature? Can we imagine a form of humanism in which the boundaries of the human are unclear and unstable? Artists, performers, and humanists must be central to these debates– and to every deliberation of what it means to be human.