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Geoffrey Harpham, Director, National Humanities Center

Geoffrey Harpham, Director, National Humanities Center


The final word at On the Human belongs to the man best suited for that role, Geoffrey Harpham, director of the National Humanities Center. You can verify the truth of this claim for yourself by turning to his essay, In Praise of Pleasure. “Pleasure” is the perfect book-end to close our multi-year project, a project that began with Geoff’s 2006 piece Science and the Theft of Humanity. There, Geoff suggested controversially that scientists with their modes of empirical investigation and explanation were poaching on turf once reserved for humanities scholars with their methods of literary and historical understanding. Here, Geoff returns to respond to some of the more aggressive “scientistic” claims made in our pages and to celebrate—we won’t provoke further by saying “one last time”—the enduring pleasures of the humanities.

Geoff’s vision in 2004 created the Autonomy, Singularity, and Creativity (ASC) project and his persistent efforts over the years nurtured ASC into a phenomenon of international prominence. On the Human extended the face-to-face ASC gatherings into the virtual world; we held our seminars online. Without Geoff’s guidance and support, OTH could not have carried out its mission. Virtually single-handed, Geoff Harpham stimulated an interdisciplinary dialog as probing and deep as it has been wide and sustained. What a privilege it has been for all of us at OTH to work alongside him.

Geoffrey Harpham is president and director of the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, the only institute for advanced study in the world dedicated exclusively to the humanities. He was trained as a literary scholar, but his work has encompassed a wide range of topics and fields. Among his many books are On the Grotesque: Strategies of Contradiction in Art and Literature (1982); Shadows of Ethics: Criticism and the Just Society (1999); and Language Alone: The Critical Fetish of Modernity (2002). His longstanding scholarly interests include the role of ethics in literary study, the place of language in intellectual history, and the work of Joseph Conrad. He has collaborated with M. H. Abrams on A Glossary of Literary Terms, now in its tenth edition. In recent years, he has become a prominent historian of and advocate for the humanities; The Humanities and the Dream of America appeared in 2011. He has received fellowships from the J. S. Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Please join us in this discussion of the significance and uncertain future of the humanities. We’ll leave the comment section on Geoff’s article open until February 20. After he replies, we’ll deposit all of OTH’s holdings in a permanent archive easily accessible from the NHC website. No one will be home, but the door will be open for you.

Adieu, and thank you.

Updates

Ray Tallis has posted his final reply to commentors on his essay A Suicidal Tendency in the Humanities.


In the News

In the News is a monthly round-up of recent developments in the study of humans, animals, and machines. We provide links to two references for each story: first, to the scholarly record in the professional literature and, second, to a popular media account illustrating how the research is being presented to the public. Compiled by Curtis Tigges. Read more.


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