Welcome from the Faculty Director…

To a new academic new year, and a new website!  We are thrilled to return to our space in 20 Cooper Square for our sixth year of activities, with two important new members of our staff: Dr. Gwynneth Malin, our new director who joins us from the College of Arts and Science where she was Director for Summer and Study Abroad, and Chris Alexander, who joins us from the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, where he oversaw design and communications for the Office of Admissions.  Denelia Valentin continues as our administrative staff member, and I am very happy to return as Faculty Director .

Among our many highlights in 2012-13: a series of “Great New Books in the Humanities,” starting with Maureen McLane’s inspiring My Poets and continuing with Larry Wolff’s Paolina’s Innocence, Toral Gajarawala’s Untouchable Fictions, Brooke Kroeger’s Undercover Reporting, Molly Nolan’s Transatlantic Century, and Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind. A riveting discussion on “What you can do with an MA in the Humanities” brought in a number of undergraduates deciding on their futures, and our annual authors’ cocktails featuring over 100 NYU authors and their books packed, as always, the house.  Early in the year we featured Marvin Taylor of Fales Library and journalist Cynthia Carr for our annual co-sponsored talk with Bobst Library, and the year drew to a close with a talk on the inspiration for Verdi’s La Traviata and a panel on the new field of “Voice Studies” in which a number of NYU faculty feature prominently, from musicologists to speech therapists to medical school professors.

Thanks to the organizing genius of Prof. Thomas Augst, who served as our Associate Director last year, we also sponsored a popular and wide-ranging series of workshops and talks on the Digital Humanities, which will continue in a less ambitious version this year while Tom is on leave.  Our 2012-13 fellows were also key to a symposium on “When Humanities Falter: Frictions, Detours, Translations,” which posed probing questions on the future and past of humanistic discourses.  We had a toast last October to celebrate our new publication, “The Humanities at NYU: Tradition and Innovation,” in which over thirty faculty and staff working on collaborative and ground-breaking projects in the humanities are featured – and most of them came to give 60-second summaries of their work (and kept to the limit!)  February saw an event that had to be postponed because of Hurricane Sandy, “Scholarly Publications at the Crossroads,” co-sponsored by the Modern Language Association. And in April, we hosted with the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue a panel discussion and performance on “How the Humanities and Arts Make Us Human,” featuring the Reverend Jane Shaw of Grace Cathedral (San Francisco), Richard Armstrong, Director of the Guggenheim Museum, Dean Gabrielle Starr of the College of Arts and Science, actress Anna Deavere Smith, and Prof. Richard Sennett.  All these events brought together individuals whose wide-ranging talents and commitment to thinking about the centrality of the humanities and arts inspired the hundreds of people in attendance – including many students.  We’re grateful to all of those who participated and looking forward to equally inspiring events this year.

And 2013-14 promises to be a good year, as we greet fourteen new fellows to our weekly lunch discussions along with new Research Collaborative and Team-teaching cohorts.  Among our fellows, we have for the first time a Graduate Fellow in the Public Humanities, the result of a new collaboration with the New York Council for the Humanities.  Cara Shousterman is the recipient of this honor for 2013-14, as she works on her project and dissertation, “Speaking English in Spanish Harlem: Language Change in Puerto Rican English.”  We also welcome our postdoctoral fellow Eduardo Matos Martin, who is in the Dept. of Comparative Literature for two years as part of NYU’s Postdoctoral and Transition Program for Academic Diversity.  NYU faculty participants include Thomas Looser (East Asian Studies), Ara Merjian (Italian), Susan Murray (Media, Culture, and Communication), Melissa Rachleff Burtt (Art and Art Professions), Andrew Romig (Gallatin), and Zeb Tortorici (Spanish and Portuguese).  Our graduate students are Ademide Adelusi-Adeluyi (History), Dwaipayan Banerjee (Anthropology), Julia DeLeon (Performance Studies), Jennifer Heuson (Media,Culture, and Communication), Dania Hueckmann (German), and Delia Solomons (IFA).  Their projects range from a study called “Living with Cancer in Contemproary India” to Pasolini’s aesthetics to a cultural history of color television to “the changing face of secular masculinity” in the 8th century. Our “writers’ retreat” will be in early November in Cold Spring, and in the spring all of our fellows will give weekly presentations – and, I hope, be involved in an annual fellows’ symposium.

We will continue to host “Great New Books in the Humanities,” launching 2013-14 with a panel to discuss Emily Apter’s Against World Literature and three other works by comparatists.  We’re in the midst of planning special events for graduate students, and our Authors’ Cocktails. We also hope to become more engaged with undergraduates this year, and welcome your thoughts and advice about how we might do that best.  With the help of a Curriculum Challenge Grant, Prof. Gabrielle Starr and I are teaching here at 20 Cooper Square this fall what I hope will be the first of many team-taught freshman honors seminars focusing on a broad humanities topic. Our course, called “On Being Human,” is designed to introduce students to the nuts-and-bolts of humanistic inquiry – narrative, simile, ekphrasis, dialogue – as well as to the range of artistic and humanistic practices at NYU and in New York City.  We’d like to involve our students and others in a project called “Humanities Undergraduates Ambassadors.”  Finally, we’re working with the directors of some of our global sites about partnering in events for the year, and organizing a series called “Writing Outside the Box.”  Stay tuned!

As we begin a new year in our beautiful home at 20 Cooper Square – with its dedicated seminar room, a research space for our graduate fellows, and offices for Gwynneth, Chris, and Deni, I look forward to learning more about the research and teaching interests of our many humanists at NYU and thinking about their impact on the university and the city. I hope you’ll consider applying for one of our 2014-15 fellowships or our team-teaching grants, or proposing what we’re now calling a “Research Collaborative” – a better name, we think, than “Working Research Groups.”  While we’ve discontinued our grants-in-aid program, we will still be assisting with funding for subventions for book publications.  Browse the new website for information about all of these programs. And if you’ve not yet had a chance to visit us at 20 Cooper, I look forward to welcoming you during the 2013-14 academic year to one of our events – or just stop by.


Jane Tylus