Great New Books in the Humanities: Alexandrian Cosmopolitanism: An Archive by Hala Halim


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“To read Alexandrian Cosmopolitanism is to learn,” panelist Mark Sanders commented, “both as the author instructs and by the reader’s own formation.”

In this lively discussion of Hala Halim’s  recent book, Alexandrian Cosmopolitanism: An Archive (2013) panelists explored themes such as cosmopolitanism and class, eurocentrism, colonial subalternity, and the universalism of Alexandria.  Zachary Lockman posed a question about the strong foreign presence of Alexandria in the Egyptian context and both Helga Tawil-Souri and Karen Van Dyck commented on the impressive archive that Hala Halim has created with this book, contemplating the aesthetics of this archive and its foundational properties. Panelists raised questions about how issues of multilingualism and translation impact the poetry of Cavafy explored in the book.  The book asks the following questions: Was Alexandria ever cosmopolitan? And if it was, is it possible to think of such a thing as Alexandrian cosmopolitanism?  Is there something sui generis about Alexandria’s cosmopolitanism? When, by whom, and why was its cosmopolitanism construed as exemplary?

Apply now to join the leadership team of NYU’s first ever Humanities Ambassador Club for undergraduate students

Ambassadors-IliadAttention NYU Sophomores and Juniors: Apply now to join the leadership team of NYU’s first ever Humanities Ambassador Club for undergraduate students!

With support from the Humanities Initiative at NYU, the club will organize a series of events during the Spring 2014 semester to strengthen the voice and identity of the humanities undergraduate student community, with a special focus on exploring how a humanities education can prepare students for a wide range of successful careers.

Read more and apply:

Application deadline: November 20, 2013

Verdi’s Third Century: Italian Opera Today

An International Conference • New York University
October 9-13, 2013 • Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò and the Humanities Initiative

As we approach the 200th anniversary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), interest in his operas remains undiminished. Verdi’s music continues to travel around the world in live performances and recordings, and new technologies–from the internet to high-definition simulcasts—have made opera accessible to broader audiences. The international conference Verdi’s Third Century: Italian Opera Today will bring together scholars, practitioners, and critics at New York University to discuss the circulation and perception of Verdi—and of Italian opera—in today’s world. A principal focus will be how Verdi’s works have been interpreted, imagined, and appropriated.

A keynote lecture will be presented by Pulitzer Prize winner Garry Wills (Northwestern University). Philip Gossett (University of Chicago), general editor of the Works of Giuseppe Verdi, will deliver a position paper. Speakers and session chairs include over thirty scholars and opera practicioners from the United States and Europe.

Session themes include “Visual Aspects in the Opera House and Beyond,” “Verdi in Production,” “Singers,” “Analyzing Verdi,” “Framing Verdi: Opera and Twenty-First-Century Popular Culture,” “Scores and Editions in Today’s Opera House,” and “Reception, National Identity, and Monuments.”

Verdi’s Third Century: Italian Opera Today  is organized by the American Institute for Verdi Studies and hosted by two of NYU’s key organizations: Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò and the Humanities Initiative.  The program committee of Verdi’s Third Century: Italian Opera Today includes Suzanne Cusick (New York University), Francesco Izzo (University of Southampton and American Institute for Verdi Studies), Roberta M. Marvin (University of Iowa), Hilary Poriss (Northeastern University), Emilio Sala (University of Milan and Istituto Nazionale di Studi Verdiani), and Mary Ann Smart (University of California, Berkeley).

Support for Verdi’s Third Century: Italian Opera Today is provided by the American Institute for Verdi Studies, Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, the Humanities Initiative, the Department of Music, and the Office of the Dean for the Humanities.

View the full program here:

Online registration for Verdi’s Third Century: Italian Opera Today is now closed.   In-person registration will open at 5pm on Wednesday, October 9 at Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, were the first session of the conference takes place that evening.

The Expanded field and other more fragile states of mind


Eve Meltzer reading from her new book, Systems We Have Loved: Conceptual Art, Affect, and the Antihumanist Turn (Univeristy of Chicago Press, 2013)

Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 6:30PM

Eve Meltzer is Associate Professor of Visual Studies at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Art History. Her first book, Systems We Have Loved: Conceptual Art, Affect, and the Antihumanist Turn (University of Chicago Press, 2013) situates the conceptual art movement in relation to the field of structuralist thought and offers a new framing for two of the most transformative movements of the 20th century and their common dream of the world as a total sign system.

“Re-Thinking Literature” Conference hosted by The Center for French Civilization and Culture

New York University’s Center for French Civilization and Culture will host “Re-Thinking Literature,” a conference that will consider the meaning and significance of “literature” today, September 19 through 21 at NYU’s Hemmerdinger Hall, Silver Center (100 Washington Square East [between Waverly and Washington Place]).

In the fall of 1966, Johns Hopkins University hosted “The Language of Criticism and the Sciences of Man,” a conference that drew some of the top French thinkers of the period—Paul de Man, Roland Barthes, Jean Hyppolite, Jacques Derrida, and Jacques Lacan—in a meeting with other European and American academics. The gathering, with presentations primarily given in French, helped launch a re-definition of literature by establishing a theoretical foundation for the written word.

Nearly 50 years later, NYU aims to update the exchanges that occurred in Baltimore, with an eye toward coming to a new understanding of literature. “Re-Thinking Literature” will bring together American and French philosophers, writers, theoreticians of literature, literary critics, and art critics to examine what, in the 21st Century, is understood when we speak about “literature.”

Speakers include: art critic and poet Peter Schjeldahl, poet and author Wayne Kestenbaum, author and playwright Helene Cixous, writer and filmmaker Jean-Philippe Toussaint, art critic and philosopher Boris Groys, Global Distinguished Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at NYU, and philosopher Avital Ronell, a University Professor in the Humanities at NYU.

The conference will go beyond familiar questions– “What is the situation of the writer today? What does literature mean today?”—and delve into today’s post-post-structuralism and what it means in an era when both the publishing industry and the academy are undergoing changes barely imagined in 1966. In doing so, the event will bring together some of today’s top literary minds—as well as philosophers, critics, and practitioners of art—for a series of presentations and exchanges that could also mark a re-setting of how we view the written word.

For a complete schedule of conference sessions, click here. The conference is free and open to the public. Entry is on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, call 212.998.8758.

Between African Americans and Japanese: Traveling Texts

A two-day symposium on the cross-pollination between Japanese and African-American literature and culture

Welcome to the new Humanities Initiative website!

iPad-Mockup-webWe are immensely proud to present a newly-relaunched website for the Humanities Initiative! Built from the ground up, our new home on the Internet has been designed to help you learn about our many events, grant programs, and activities. Among the many improvements, you’ll find a completely new event registration system, high quality photos and HD videos from events from the past few years to browse, and a redesigned way to apply for our funding programs (available soon). Accessibility is key: the new website functions equally as well on a large computer monitor as it does on a small iPhone or tablet.

Our goal with this redesign has been to integrate everything that you might need to know within one website, thereby streamlining the process of applying for Initiative fellowships and signing up for events. You now no longer have to leave to do either, as we’ve built in both applications and event confirmation.

Speaking of events, be sure to check out our new event calendar system! Events are now sortable into various categories (Great Books in the Humanities, Lectures in the Humanities, Digital_Humanities, and Special Events), making the browsing experience smooth and clear. Look out for guest posts ahead of our events this coming year; many of our speakers will be discussing their area of research in this space before they present, giving you an opportunity to learn more about the topic at hand, and interact with our guests before they speak at the Initiative. In addition, we hope to be able to continue the conversations online after the event is over. Don’t forget, you’ll find video of every event right here (in HD) a few weeks following, so you can refer back to the most intriguing moments, and share with friends and colleagues.

In addition, we are relaunching our Twitter and Facebook accounts to provide a more interactive link to the humanities at NYU, within New York City, and beyond. We’ve also retooled our email announcements, with a brand new design.

Take a look around and be sure to let us know what you think about the new Humanities Initiative website! We’re eager to share new content with you going forward.

New 2014-15 Fellowship Applications

wordpress_logoToday, the Humanities Initiative is proud to announce our fellowship programs for the 2014-15 academic year. Each year, the HI sponsors some 25 fellows—both graduate students and faculty—to pursue their research interests in the broad fields of the humanities. We would like to invite all interested students and faculty to apply for this year’s round of fellowships. Read a short synopsis of each program below, and be on the look out for the applications, which will go live during in mid-August.

Faculty Fellowships

The Humanities Initiative offers Research Fellowships to full-time faculty in the humanities and art disciplines, including but not limited to history, art history, music, philosophy, cultural studies, literary and language studies, religious studies, drama and performance studies, cinema studies, and gender studies. They  meet on a weekly basis for lunch with all the fellows to discuss their work-in-progress and that of invited guests, and will participate in Initiative activities.

Graduate Fellowships

Each year the Humanities Initiative generally offers three Research Fellowships to graduate students in the humanities and art disciplines, including but not limited to history, art history, music, philosophy, cultural studies, literary and language studies, religious studies, drama and performance studies, cinema studies, and gender studies. They  meet on a weekly basis for lunch with all the fellows to discuss their work-in-progress and that of invited guests, and will participate in Initiative activities.


The Humanities Initiative makes available a limited number of grants in support of projects with a humanistic focus. As of September 2013, the Grants-in-Aid competition will be devoted exclusively to publication assistance. Funds are limited and awarded on a rolling basis.

Team-Teaching Stipends

This program is designed to foster creative and dynamic teaching across humanistic disciplines and departments, in the interest of generating innovative new courses and teaching formats. This year we will consider proposals from two faculty members with different areas of expertise within the same department. However, all things being equal, preference will be given to those proposals which bring together colleagues and, ideally, students, from different departments, disciplines, and schools. Existing courses may be used for the team-taught initiative, or new courses may be proposed, either to be cross-listed in different departments and/or schools. Funded courses will be offered in spring or fall of 2015.

Research Project Teams

In an effort to build community and foster interdisciplinary exchange on topics with a humanistic focus at New York University, the Humanities Initiative sponsors Research Project Team grants. The Initiative envisions a Research Project Team as bringing together NYU faculty and graduate students in a carefully planned series of meetings on a focused topic in the humanities where interdisciplinary approaches are likely to be particularly fruitful. The Initiative expects that the work achieved by the WRGs will generate new curricular offerings, publications, conferences, or collaborative faculty projects.

Graduate Student Public Humanities Fellowship

The Graduate Student Public Humanities Fellowship was developed in partnership by the Humanities Initiative at NYU and the New York Council for the Humanities to bring humanities scholarship into the public realm, to encourage emerging humanities scholars to conceive of their work in relation to the public sphere, to develop skills for doing so, and to strengthen the community of the public humanities in New York State. The yearlong Fellowship will provide training in the methods and approaches of public scholarship and will support the work of Fellows in exploring the public dimensions of their own scholarship in partnership with a community organization that serves public audiences.

Congratulations Anna Deavere Smith, 2012 NEH Humanities Medalist


The Humanities Initiative cannot be more excited to congratulate actress, playwright, and NYU University Professor Anna Deavere Smith on winning a 2012 National Humanities Medal this week from President Obama, for her years of engaging work in the theater and on the TV screen. She has devoted much of her career to discovering the American psyche through interviews, and relaying her findings through the theater. Her lifelong project On the Road: A Search for American Character has embodied this goal, in which she has interviewed varied people throughout the United States and later personified them herself. Deavere Smith has written numerous plays that center around these topics, including Fires in the Mirror (about the South Bronx and Brooklyn), and Twilight: Los Angeles (about the 1992 Los Angeles riots). Her performances on the television series The West Wing, as national security advisor Dr. Nancy McNally, and currently on Nurse Jackie as Gloria Alkalitus, have won her wide praise. She is also the author of two books.

Deavere Smith, in addition to the 2012 NEH Humanities Medal, is the winner of the 2013 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, has been nominated for Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize, and was one of the MacArthur Fellowship “genius award” recipients in 1996.

For more information, and to view all of this year’s Humanities Medal recipients, visit the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Photo: Getty Images

Congratulations to Sharon Olds, Recipient of 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry


The Humanities Initiative is proud to announce and celebrate the outstanding achievement of NYU Professor of English Sharon Olds, who received the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her collection, Stag’s Leap (Alfred A. Knopf).

The New York Times stated that “the poems in Stag’s Leap were written after the breakup of Ms. Olds’s 30-year marriage in 1997,” and that she had “promised her children, fully grown at the time, that she wouldn’t publish the poems in a book for several years. ‘I didn’t want them to have to be concentrating on Mom’s writing while they were adjusting to the new family pattern of life,’” she told the Times. Catch up on all of this year’s Pulitzer Prize winners here.

In the past, Olds has also been the recipient of many other awards. She has been short-listed for the T.S. Eliot Prize for The Father (Knopf 1992), has received the Lila Walalce-Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award, 1993-1996, and received the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for The Dead and the Living (Knopf 1984).

A heartfelt congratulations to Professor Olds for her recent accomplishment! We look forward to celebrating more successes in the humanities in the coming academic year!

Photo: Catherine Mauger