College of Arts & Science

The 2018-19 John W. Altman Program in the Humanities


Introducing the 2018-2019 John W. Altman Program in the Humanities

We live in a time of fierce debate over truth and misrepresentation. Allegations of “fake news,” “alternative facts,” and “post-truth politics” have unsettled the sense of a shared reality that seems essential to democracy. Yet democracy also encourages respect for divergent views, and contemporary culture offers extraordinary opportunities for self-representation in memoir, documentary film, and social media. How can we encourage a lively diversity of expression while also resisting spin, deception, and fabrication? This question has troubled democracy from its origins, but it seems increasingly urgent. Now is a crucial time for the humanities to reflect upon their own engagement with truth and to provide the analytical tools and historical perspective to meet the challenges of engaged citizenship.  

The 2018-19 Altman Program invites faculty, students, alumni, and the public to join a yearlong, multidisciplinary exploration of truth-telling and the public sphere. What does it mean to “tell the truth,” and how can we discern it? What is the relation between truth and democracy? Do differing conceptions of truth tear at the fabric of a shared social reality—or make it stronger? How have earlier societies addressed such challenges? Through a series of distinguished lectures, panels, classes, and collaborative research programs, we aim to rethink how and why concepts of truth matter now.

2018-19 Altman Fellows

Theresa Kulbaga

Theresa Kulbaga studies autobiography and memoir, documentary film, and creative nonfiction writing. Her essays on contemporary women’s memoir and transnational feminism have appeared in Prose StudiesJACCollege English, and Western Subjects, among others. She is also the coauthor of recent articles about First Lady Michelle Obama, the neoliberal university, and community literacy. 

Emily Zakin

Emily Zakin studies nineteenth- and twentieth-century continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, and feminist theory. Her current research focuses onthe limits and possibilities of political community. The author of numerous book chapters and articles, she was also a co-founder of the journal PhiloSOPHIA and is the co-editor of Derrida and Feminism: Recasting the Question of Woman (Routledge, 1997) and Bound by the City: Greek Tragedy, Sexual Difference, and the Formation of the Polis (SUNY, 2009).