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Welcome from the Director

Joan Rubin
Joan Rubin, Director

The University of Rochester Humanities Center, located in a welcoming new space on the second floor of Rush Rhees Library, is dedicated to exploring the varied dimensions of the human experience. We are committed to values that lie at the heart of humanistic inquiry: critical thinking, reasoned discourse, diversity, civility, empathy, and compassion. Our primary mission is to serve the needs of a democratic citizenry through scholarly reflection, inclusive exchange, and collaboration across disciplines in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. Whether you are an anthropologist or a literary critic, a musicologist or a historian, a faculty member, graduate student, or undergraduate, you will discover among Center participants a shared engagement with the practices, ideas, beliefs, and art forms that people have created over time to understand and express the human condition.

Founded in the spring of 2015, the Humanities Center has an annual theme that governs its Lecture Series and its program for internal and external fellows. Our theme for 2017-18 "Memory and Forgetting" encompasses topics ranging from the soundscape of museums to the permeable boundary between documenting and imagining the past.

A bi-weekly lunchtime seminar for fellows, faculty affiliates, and graduate students is the venue for lively conversation about the participants’ work in progress, enhancing the prospects for interdisciplinary collaboration. On the alternate weeks, we sponsor informal conversation for "Fellows and Friends." Working groups, small gatherings of students and faculty to discuss matters of common interest, are among our central activities. These include: "Science, Technology and Culture," a Classics reading group for undergraduates, the Writers’ Lounge to support creative writing, and groups exploring Victorian culture, gun violence, and the digital humanities. We welcome new working groups at any time.

The Humanities Project, the Ferrari Humanities Symposium and the Distinguished Visiting Humanist series bring thought-provoking speakers to the campus. The ongoing Digital Humanities lunches organized by the Mellon Fellows in the Digital Humanities allow faculty and graduate students to learn from each other about the new technologies available for humanistic research. At the same time, UR researchers have the opportunity to interact with colleagues from Syracuse and Cornell Universities, as well as several upstate New York liberal arts colleges, through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded Central New York Humanities Corridor, which runs working groups on several topics of interest to humanists.

The Center’s goal of fostering community among those studying the humanities and humanistic social sciences at Rochester extends to UR undergraduates, who have often felt isolated from one another. A regular series of faculty-student discussions concerning current issues and opportunities within and across disciplines is open to all students but is especially useful, we hope, to our Humanities Research and Innovation Grant first-year fellows: students who have received funding as entering first-year students to carry out a humanities research project sometime in their four years here. 

I and my colleagues who comprise the affiliates of the Center (around 180 at this writing) are extremely grateful to Ani and Mark Gabrellian, who have generously endowed the permanent directorship of the Center and created the Hargop and Artemis Nazerian Humanities Lectures to highlight the outstanding research of UR faculty.

Those of us who have pursued careers in the humanities for many years acknowledge that our labor is frequently solitary, and that such solitude is both necessary and productive. Yet when we encounter other individuals with what the historian Robert Darnton once called “the glint in their eyes”—when we recognize in someone else the passion for grappling with the questions that have animated our research and writing—the connection we feel is gratifying and rewarding. The Humanities Center at the University of Rochester is abounding with such connections. I welcome you to join us.

Joan Shelley Rubin
Dexter Perkins Professor in History
Ani and Mark Gabrellian Director of the Humanities Center