1985-86: Non-European Traditions in Western Civilization

The focal theme for 1985-1986 will be non-European traditions in Western civilization. “The West” is an artificial construct, and many traditions other than the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian (the Society’s themes for the past two years) have affected the humanities as conceived and practiced in European culture. The greater Near East has significantly influenced Western civilization, as can be seen by comparing Western writing systems and ideals of school curricula with those devised in Sumer, Egypt, and Babylonia. On the other hand, most European tongues belong to the Indo-European language family, and Europe’s religions, political ideologies, mythology, folklore, and institutions are Indo-European variants. At the same time the economic and political expansion of Europe has brought it into contact with every corner of the non-Western world, occasionally shaking the West’s confidence in its own classical canon.

Examples of topics that would be appropriate for Fellows are:

  • Scholastic, literary, artistic, legal, religious, and scientific sources from outside Europe that have influenced the West, directly or indirectly, from ancient to contemporary times
  • Values within the West – including subversive movements and heterodoxies – that question the authority of both classical and scriptural texts and institutions
  • Episodes of European expansion in which adjustments were made by Europe to the hose cultures, whether in early modern, colonial, or postindustrial circumstances
  • The history of comparative disciplines such as linguistics, comparative literature, anthropology, and folklore that take into account non-European evidence
  • The validity of such distinctions as those between East and West
  • The impact of non-European minority traditions on Western culture and society

Invited Fellows
Carlos Fuentes (novelist and Comparative Literature, Harvard University)
Giovanni Pettinato (Assyriology, University of Rome)
Wole Soyinka (playwright, novelist, political activist and professor, University of Ife, Nigeria)
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Comparative Literature, Columbia University)

Society Fellows
Kwame Anthony Appiah (Princeton University)
Philip Bohlman (University of Chicago)
Barbara Harlow (University of Texas, Austin)
Uday Mehta (Amherst)
F. Jamil Ragep (McGill University)
Jennifer Whiting (University of Toronto)
Alan Wolfe (University of Oregon)

Cornell Faculty Fellows
Bernard Faure (Asian Studies)
Victor Koschmann (History)

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows
Paul Hoffman (Philosophy)
Chandra Mohanty (Women's Studies)
Miriam Silverberg (Asian Studies/Women's Studies)
Sally Banes (Theatre Arts)