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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 Quarterly, Threepenny Review, The Sun, Columbia, Mississippi 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 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 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 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 is a doctoral student in English. Her research interests include early modern drama, queer theory, and embodied practices.
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 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, 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 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 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, 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.