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Humanities Center
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The Center brings together faculty, students, and the public for study of history, philosophy, the arts, and culture.

The center offers 16 programs to draw faculty and students into mutually beneficial relationships, help them locate common interests, and translate their work across disciplines and to the public. Each year, the center funds, organizes, and helps to coordinate over 100 lectures, readings, workshops, and symposia—all free and open to the public. We also advocate for the central place of the humanities in both the university and wider society, and we foster engagement from the social sciences, arts, and sciences in the belief that the study of human culture is crucial to maintaining a healthy democracy and making a better world.

Established in 2009 with a generous gift from John W. Altman (MU 1960), the center has a five-fold mission:

  • Retain, and energize outstanding faculty;
  • Foster flexible, collaborative inquiry in and beyond the humanities;
  • Cultivate future scholars and leaders;
  • Communicate the richness of human culture to promote more diverse and inclusive social institutions; and
  • Demonstrate the value of the humanities to liberal arts education and society.

Collaborative Inquiry

Our largest offering, the John W. Altman Program, is a yearlong, themed inquiry program that includes a bi-weekly faculty seminar, a series of ten distinguished lectures, an undergraduate fellows program, team-taught seminars, and links to dozens of other courses. Each year, the program brings together ten faculty members, eight student fellows, and ten visiting speakers. Its public events draw 2,000-3,000 people. Recent topics have included: Migrations, Time & Temporality, Truth & Lies, Urban Futures, Medicine & the Humanities, The Anthropocene, and Globalization & Belonging. Popular with faculty, students, and administrators, the Altman Program offers intellectual community and showcases the relevance of humanities scholarship to matters of social consequence. A 2015 external review of the center said “the Altman Program is one of the best imagined, designed and run such initiatives at any university in the world.”

Cross-disciplinary Research

The Humanities Center cuts across disciplinary boundaries to support innovative inquiry as soon as it begins.  The Center coordinates numerous research clusters in which faculty from multiple programs come together to share new work, get valuable feedback, and meet with leading scholars.  Current research clusters include the Early Modern Collective, the American Cultures Seminar, the Visual Literacy Working Group, Possible Futures for Minority Studies, 21st Century Poetics, Gender, Science and Technology, Medical Humanities, and the yearly Altman Faculty Seminar.

The Humanities Center also launches cross-disciplinary working groups designed to advance its own mission.  Currently, a six-member Digital Humanities Working Group is using seed money to develop new digital capabilities on campus, and a ten-member Valuing the Humanities Task Force is developing evidence-based arguments for the undergraduate study of humanities subjects.

Enhancing Undergraduate Inquiry

Long viewed as a “public ivy,” Miami University places exceptional emphasis on engaged undergraduate learning, liberal arts training, and the integration of teaching and research among faculty and students. In concert with this mission, the Humanities Center seeks to be a leader in rethinking the place of the humanities in the twenty-first century university.  Our emphasis on public humanities and cross-disciplinary research is inseparable from our aspiration to be an engine of curricular innovation and humanities programming at the undergraduate level.

The center has launched a new minor in medical humanities, a humanities career initiative, and numerous programs to improve the quality, quantity, and public impact of undergraduate research and creative projects.

  • Geoffrion Family Fellows Program for undergraduates with outstanding promise as future researchers or leaders.
  • Bridges and Student Citizens programs help prepare ambitious, underserved high school students for the rigors of liberal arts education at the college level.
  • Pathways to Research sessions, an Apprenticeship Program, a Research Methods Workshop, a Summer Research Institute, and Humanities Labs all give students extraordinary opportunities to develop their thinking in real-world contexts beyond the scope of most classes.

Governance

The director and associate director of the center are appointed by the dean and share responsibility for planning, academic programming, financial oversight, fundraising, and public outreach.

The steering committee advises the director on matters of funding, selection of the Altman program and its participants, annual financial planning, fundraising, and other aspects of governance. The Steering Committee consists of two Altman Faculty Fellows, who serve during the year of their fellowship; three at-large members, all from different departments or programs, who serve staggered, three-year terms; the director; the associate director; the past director for one year after his or her service; and an ex-officio representative from the Dean’s office.

Faculty associates are the faculty community that constitutes the Humanities Center. All Miami University faculty members (including temporary, visiting, and part-time faculty) with interests in humanities scholarship are members by default.  

Center associates form the wider scholarly community of the Humanities Center. They may include students, other members of the university community, and local or regional scholars interested in an association with the Center.

All events sponsored by the Humanities Center are free and open to the public.

Artistic image of man holding book

 Supporters and Affiliates

OUR PROGRAMS

Collaborative Inquiry
Research Support
Student Excellence

OUR PEOPLE

Humanities Center Staff

Timothy Melley

Timothy Melley is Professor of English and Geoffrion Family Director of the Miami University Humanities Center.  He is the author of Empire of Conspiracy: The Culture of Paranoia in Postwar America (Cornell 2000), The Covert Sphere: Secrecy, Fiction, and the National Security State (Cornell 2012), as well as numerous essays  His short stories have appeared in Story QuarterlyThreepenny ReviewThe SunColumbiaMississippi Review, and Epoch.  They have also aired on Public Radio International’s “This American Life” and received mention in The Best American Stories.  He is the recipient of the Benjamin Harrison medallion and four teaching awards, including Miami's university-wide teaching prize, the E. Philip Knox Award. He is currently writing about the cultural politics of security. 

Pepper Stetler

Pepper Stetler is Associate Professor of Art and Architecture History and Associate Director of the Miami University Humanities Center. She is the author of Stop Reading! Look!: Modern Vision and the Weimar Photographic Book (University of Michigan, 2015). Her essays on early twentieth-century German art and photography have appeared in publications of the Museum of Modern Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as well as numerous journals. In 2016, she received the Crossan Hays Curry Distinguished Educator Award from the College of Creative Arts. Her current research explores the dynamic relationship between photography and architecture.

Stephanie Marlow

Stephanie Marlow earned her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing (2016) at MIami University. Since graduating, she has worked as an Administrative Assistant at an in-home care company and as an Eligibility Referral Specialist with Butler County Job and Family Services interviewing people for SNAP and Medicaid. She has three dogs and two cats. She joined the Humanities Center team in October 2022 and couldn’t be happier to be back at Miami again.

Marisa Watson

Marisa Watson is a Master of Arts student in English and a Master of Science student in Integrated Marketing Communications. Her primary academic interests include 19th and 20th century literature, feminist theory, and medical humanities.

Lauren van Atta

Lauren van Atta is a doctoral student in English. Her research interests include early modern drama, queer theory, and embodied practices.

Humanities Center Steering Committee

Erik Jensen

Erik Jensen, Associate Professor of History, studies modern German and European history, with a particular focus on the society, culture, and politics of the interwar period. His first book traced the emergence of a physical self that subjects came to feel should be constructed in a certain fashion. His current research project explores the complicated choices made by a half-Jewish German woman who survived the Nazi regime in part by participating in morale-building missions on the German frontlines, with the attendant concealment, subterfuge, and invented pasts that such a survival strategy necessitated.

Joseph O'Neil

Joseph O'Neil is Associate Professor of German. He received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Modern German Literature and Culture from Indiana University. He is the author of Figures of Natality: Reading the Political in the Age of Goethe (Bloomsbury 2017) and has translated the work of Jakob von Uexküll and Niklas Luhmann. His current project, with the working title “The Fate of Thersites: Embodying the Political circa 1800,” continues research linking European literature and culture of the late eighteenth century to twentieth- and twenty-first-century political theory. 

Kaara L. Peterson

Kaara L. Peterson, Associate Professor of English, studies Renaissance medical history, art history, and literature. Her most current publications are Humorality in Early Modern Art, Material Culture, and Performance, with Amy Kenny (Palgrave Macmillan), and The Afterlife of Ophelia, with Deanne Williams (Palgrave Macmillan).  Her essays have appeared in English Literary Renaissance, Renaissance Quarterly, and Studies in Philology, among others, and in collected volumes. She recently held a Plumer visiting fellowship at St. Anne's College, Oxford, and is the recipient of an upcoming Burleigh Visiting Fellowship at the University of Cambridge.

Nathan French

Nathan French is an associate professor of comparative religion. He specializes in Islamic law (sharīʿa), Islamic legal theory, Islamic theology, and contemporary Middle East history. His research explores how contemporary Jihadi-Salafi movements, such as al-Qa'ida and ISIS, appropriate and re-interpret Islamic law and theology for their sociopolitical projects. He is presently completing a monograph, "And God Knows the Martyrs: Theodicy, Violence, and Asceticism in Jihadi-Salafism."

P. Renée Baernstein

P. Renée Baernstein is Professor of History and Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Science. She specializes in the history of Renaissance Italy, particularly gender, religion, and family.  She is the author of A Convent Tale: A Century of Sisterhood in Spanish Milan (Routledge 2002) as well as articles in many journals.  She has been a Fulbright fellow, fellow of the American Academy in Rome, Visiting Professor at Harvard’s Villa I Tatti Center in Florence, and recipient of the Ohio Academy of History’s Distinguished Teaching Award.  Her next book, “Strangers at Home,” is about noble women and family politics in sixteenth-century Italy.

Steven Conn

Steven Conn, W. E. Smith Professor of History, joined the Miami faculty in 2015 after spending 20 years at Ohio State. He specializes in US intellectual history and has published 6 books and edited 2 others. His most recent book, Nothing Succeeds Like Failure: The Sad History of American Business Schools, was published in 2019 by Cornell University Press.

OUR PARTNERS

Arthur C. Wickenden Memorial Lectures in Religion
This lecture series, endowed in honor of Arthur C. Wickenden, former Miami University Professor of Religion, features distinguished scholars of comparative religion.

Linda Singer Memorial Lectures in Philosophy
Named for Linda Singer, a member of the Miami University philosophy department until her death in 1990, the annual Singer lectures bring distinguished scholars to address feminist theory, political theory, aesthetics, and social activism.   Previous speakers include Judith Butler, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Marilyn Frye, Elizabeth Spelman, Susan Bordo, Nancy Fraser, Joan Scott, Jane Gallop, Ewa Plonowska Ziarek, and Robyn Wiegman.  

Robert T. Harris Lectures in Philosophy
The Robert T. Harris lectures emphasize social and political theory. They honor Robert T. Harris, chair of the Miami University philosophy department from 1958 to 1969.  Past speakers include Onora O'Neill, Christine Korsgaard, Joseph Margolis, Henry Shue, Jim Nickel, Charles Mills, Linda Alcoff, and Ann Ferguson.  

Grayson Kirk Distinguished Lectures
The Grayson Kirk Distinguished Lecture Series in International Studies was endowed by the Tinker Foundation in honor of Dr. Grayson Kirk, Miami University class of 1924.  After graduating, Dr. Kirk went on to become one of the pioneers in developing international relations as a field of political science and served as president of Columbia University for many years. This lecture series brings in public figures and recognized scholars to address international issues

L. P. Irvin Lecture Series
The L. P. Irvin fund supports regular colloquia and lectures in the Department of French and Italian.  Made possible by gifts in memory of the former Department Chair, L. P. Irvin, they have brought together many internationally respected scholars in the humanities, including Tom Conley, Françoise Gaillard, Jane Gallop, Mitchell Greenberg, Felix Guattari, Denis Hollier, Dalia Judovitz, Jean-François Lyotard, Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, Jean-Luc Nancy, Avital Ronell, Michael Sheringham, Paul Virilio, and many others. Conference proceedings have been published by Minnesota University Press in the U.S. and by FaraEditore in Italy.

Havighurst Center Programs  
The Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies was established through an endowment from the late Walter Havighurst, a longtime Miami University English professor and author.  The center is interdisciplinary, with faculty associates in many departments throughout the University

Center for American and World Cultures
The Center for American and World Cultures serves as a focal point for the study of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, religious difference, and abilities both here and abroad, today, and in the past. The center offers classes, international study experiences, and programs, including regular lectures.

The Penny Lecture Series
The Critical Inquiry: Penny Lecture Series originated in Black World Studies (BWS) at Miami University as a means of exploring issues associated with the black diaspora, social justice, sociology, and gerontology. Annual themes have a social justice focus and feature both Miami University scholars and visitors. Speakers receive a penny as a token recognition of their priceless commitment to a better world.

Mailing Address

Humanities Center
301 S. Patterson Avenue
Bachelor 356
Oxford, Ohio 45056

On Campus Address

Humanities Center
Bachelor Hall 260

Phone Number

513.529.5290

Email

humanitiescenter@miamioh.edu