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Humanities Conversations Kick Off Jan. 31

January 10, 2007

At a time when many claim that values and technologies have shifted radically, how are the humanities significant? What does a 21st century research university without the humanities look like? Do the humanities have a unique role to play in a university?

Sponsored by the Center for the Humanities and the Department of English, the semester-long Humanities Conversations series kicks off Jan. 31, in MUB Theatre I at 4 p.m. with Patricia Meyer Spacks, past president of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences (AAAS) and co-chair of The Humanities Indicators project.

Traditionally the liberal arts and in particular, the humanities, have been valued as the core of a university education. Humanities scholars and university systems around the globe are grappling with the role of the humanities in an increasingly commercialized education environment where, according to Australian Academy of the Humanities Fellow Ien Ang, “knowledge production is guided by the imperative that it should be useful to someone,” and usefulness is increasingly defined as measurable marketable results that provide an avenue for “wealth creation and societal governance.”

At the same time, workforce experts are decrying the lack of critical thinking, advanced problem solving, and writing and communication skills that are the core result of humanities study. Furthermore, in a complex multicultural society the humanities foster “understanding of different traditions and customs, the importance of tolerance and respect” and “stimulate debate on the goals, directions and values to which our society aspires,” according to Michael Gibbons, secretary general of the Association of Commonwealth Universities. These are the key components in workplace effectiveness and harmony.

In the opening discussion, Spacks, a professor of English at the University of Virginia, will discuss the state of the humanities using data gathered through The Humanities Indicators project.

"People are very eager to document exactly what the nature of the crisis is, if there is a crisis. People still think that the humanities are not in such good shape, but the lack of hard data makes it very hard to think about that in anything but a hand-wringing fashion," Spacks said in the April 14, 2006 issue of Chronicle of Higher Education.

Upcoming programs—panels, featuring UNH faculty and administrators-- will be held at 4 p.m. in the Oak Room of Huddleston Hall:

Feb. 14: Humanities Research in the New Millennium

Feb. 28: Humanities Teaching in the New Millennium

March 7: The Humanities in a Globalized World

March 21: Development Humanities: Outreach, Entrepreneurship, and Interdisciplinarity

April 4: The Humanities’ Future

For more information, contact Natalie Crotty at the Center for the Humanities, 2-4356.

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