Introduction to Public Humanities
This graduate seminar considers some of the big questions in the public humanities, providing a background
that will help students understand the choices made in preserving, interpreting, and presenting art, history and culture. We address these issues by reading and talking about history and theory, and considering case studies to see how theory plays out in practice. We’ll also consider contemporary issues and projects, applying theory and comparing them with historical examples. The course is organized into four parts.
Part 1 addresses the idea of the public. Who are the “publics” in public humanities? What is the relationship that we, as professionals, should have with them? How might we best work with them?
Part 2 considers the subject of much of our work: “the other”; what is our relationship with the
objects of our interpretations?
Part 3 focuses one kind of “other”: the past. How does society decide what’s worth remembering? What role do we, as public humanities professionals, play in shaping, sharing, and interpreting public memories?
And finally, Part 4 considers ourselves, the “experts.” What is the nature of public humanities work? How does the work we do shape us?