From auctoritas to the author to authoritarianism, the question of authority – whether grounded in epistemological expertise, juridical power, rhetorical persuasiveness, creative innovation, divine decree, or political charisma – is inextricable from humanistic inquiry and critique.
Themes & Fellows Archive
Considerations of corruption have a long lineage in philosophical, theological, critical, and political thought.
Thinking skin calls upon cultural horizons, religious traditions, flesh, haptics, signs, texts, images, biopolitics, screens, sounds, and surfaces.
In celebrating the foundational role of the humanities in Cornell’s history, the Society wishes to reflect on the importance of time to the shaping of traditional disciplines while also opening the question of time to emergent areas of interdisciplinary study.
From the earliest writings on poetics to more recent theories of mood, affect, and feelings, how might sensation shape the aesthetic experience? How have theories of the sensing body and the sensational shaped the performing and the visual arts?
What does it mean “to be occupied” or “to be in the time of occupation”? The Society wishes to open the question of how occupation has shaped the humanities in relation to patterns of thought and artistic representation. Equally important is how historical events of occupation, as well as the establishment of intellectual professions and institutions, have relied on or shaped the humanities.
The Society wishes to open the question of how risk shapes the humanities and how the humanities might dialogue with broader biological, ecological, economic, and technological approaches to risk.
Representations of sound abound in visual, textual, and aural realms. Storytelling, poetry, music, theater, oral histories, political speeches, and noise find their way in and out of texts, images, and recordings as various kinds of sound travel through different media.
2010-11: Global Aesthetics
The Society wishes to open the question of what constitutes an “aesthetic” approach to culture, politics, community, and being. The humanities have a long tradition of situating aesthetics in relation to the judgments of sentiment and taste, the pleasure of imitation, the force of the sublime, and the theory of interpretation.
The Society for the Humanities invites scholars to reflect this year upon the theme of “Networks/Mobilities” in order to further understanding of historical and contemporary flows of peoples, materials, images, and ideas across physical and virtual boundaries
While well-established as a subject of literary, historical, political, and aesthetic analysis, water also traverses emergent fields of inquiry such as ecopoetics and ecopolitics, ancient studies, critical geography, mapping and cartography, environmental humanities, oceanic studies, indigenous studies, and studies of diasporic arts and cultures.
The humanities have long distinguished between a capacity for reason and a capacity for creative thought and expression. That human beings experience a tension between the ordered, calculative, disciplined dimensions of knowledge on the one hand, and expression and improvisational, spontaneous, intuitive dimensions on the other is a common assumption.
2006-07: Historicizing the Global Post-modern
Have the historical conditions that produced a global discourse of the post-modern been decisively transformed? If we can speak of a post-modern moment that enabled humanists to engage critically the enlightenment logic of western modernity, then now is the time to historicize the logic attributed to the post-modern itself.
2005-06: Culture & Conflict
If culture itself has come to be thought of as a fraught and contested field, then analyzing relations between culture and conflict raises questions of extraordinary significance for scholars in the humanities and related disciplines.
While interest in the "task of the translator" may be taken to indicate a mode of self-consciousness specific to our times, it has also situated "translation" at the center of a widening scope of inquiry.
2003-04: The Secular & the Sacred
The interaction between the secular and the sacred poses complex historical and theoretical problems. One might posit the secular as a specific modality or orientation with a problematic relation to the sacred and religion.
2002-03: The Idea of a University
In the thought of John Henry (Cardinal) Newman and others, some relation existed, however abstract, between the university as an institution and the universe as a structured set of knowable objects. For them, the university existed to provide something approaching a comprehensive knowledge of the world. Today few would subscribe to this idea of the university.
With the literal meaning of “scattering” or “dispersion,” the term “diaspora” has shared prominence in recent critical and historical discourse with concepts such as “hybridity” and “borderlands.” The process of dispersion denoted by the term exists in some degree of tension (possibly creative tension) with notions of place, home, sovereignty, fixity, national, and perhaps even disciplinary identity.
Ideas and histories of cities have provided the architectonic framework for politics and polity as well as for trade, commerce, and commodity. We invite scholars to research and discuss the history and theory of the "city," whether as a singular idea or place or as a hybrid notion and space.
1999-2000: Points of Contact
The point of contact (cultural, intellectual, religious, political, economic, linguistic, sexual) generates a rich and vexing complex of issues across the humanities.
1998-99: The Virtual
The focal theme, “The Virtual: Old and New,” encompasses the history, practice, and theory of the “virtual” in the humanities. Studies can range from historical analysis of philosophical, literary, and artistic concerns with “idea,” “dream,” “imagination,” “utopia,” “verisimilitude,” “image,” “ideology,” and “imagined communities” to research in recent theories and technologies of digital and cyborg culture.
1997-98: Trauma & Psychoanalysis
While psychoanalysis has played a pivotal role in theories of literature, film, visual culture, and gender, it has been strongly criticized for indifference to, or bias regarding, matters of history, race, class, and sexual difference.
1996-97: Mapping & Remapping the Disciplines
The university still divides areas of study according to disciplines defined in relatively restrictive terms, although this conception of humanistic study has been insistently challenged.
1995-96: Self, Subject, Agent
These "key words" suggest problems in modern thought and culture that connect in many ways with past phenomena, notably through secularization or displacement of religious notions such as "soul."
1994-95: Multicultural Perspectives
How does multiculturalism alter more traditional conceptions of the humanities and the place we ascribe to our scholarship in a politicized world?
1993-94: Texts & Contexts Revisited
With the expansion of the notion of "textuality" has come a reconsideration of the problem of contexts, including, for example, contexts of production and reception in the aesthetics of reception, new historicism, and cultural studies.
Some objects, such as grails, relics, jewels, tulips, spices, and drugs, have been the focus of extraordinary desires and have transformed the political economies and cultural histories of the world, in ways not easily explained by their literal value.
1991-92: The Politics of Identity
Scholars in a wide range of disciplines, working from a variety of perspectives, are now engaged with questions surrounding what might be called the "politics of identity": the status and consequences of various attempts to develop or define ethnic, gender, national, and racial identities.
1990-91: Mass Culture
In America today the most prominent and widely disseminated cultural products fall beyond the scope of humanistic disciplines as traditionally conceived: films, videos, television programs of all sorts, rock music, popular dance, sport, new architectural design, advertising, journalism.
The two hundredth anniversary of the French Revolution provides an opportunity to probe the legacy of that revolution as well as the more general problem of revolutionary change in society, culture, and the arts.
During the past decade feminist scholarship and theory have enriched the humanities by exploring fresh areas of research and addressing new questions within existing disciplines. They have also challenged the bases on which those disciplines are traditionally conceived, especially the assumption of neutrality and universality in humanistic scholarship.
What role do distinctions between races play in cultures? To what extent is our conception of the humanities based on assumptions of racial superiority?
1986-1987: The Humanities & Science
Recent work from a variety of perspectives leads to the conclusion that scientific inquiry is not the formal, presuppositionless inquiry, immune from cultural influences, it is sometimes taken to be.
1985-86: Non-European Traditions in Western Civilization
Many traditions other than the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian have affected the humanities as conceived and practiced in European culture.