Course for the fall: Introduction to Public Humanities

Course for the fall: Introduction to Public Humanities

It’s that more-than-half-way through the summer inflection point when suddenly it seems that school starts too soon.


It’s time to think about fall semester.

One of my courses this fall is my usual Introduction to Public Humanities, the seminar for new MA students in the public humanities program, along with a few others who seem to have interesting things to say. At the end of last year’s course I asked the students to fill out a survey on the course. They graded each week and each assignment, on a scale of 1 to 5, and wrote comments. I went back and read these before redoing the syllabus. No real surprises, and surprisingly little disagreement, except in the favorite and least favorite readings category.

Each year I drop the 3 or 4 readings that worked least well, and I’m doing that again, based in part on that survey. I dropped international cultural heritage issues, digital humanities, arts and civic engagement, and slavery exhibitions. I added new topics: public art, contact zones, memorials, and public humanities work. Last year’s course had three big topics: Connecting to Community, Who owns culture?, and Remembering and Memorializing. This year’s course has four: The Public, The Other, The Past, and Experts.

I’ve also changed the assignments. I’ve dropped the video interview with an alumna; any medium is fine now. I’ve gone from three essays to two. And I’ve added something new: each student will take responsibility for the final hour of the course one week. She’ll choose a contemporary topic that our readings might be applied to, find some online readings for the class to consider, and help lead the discussion. Public humanities topics have been everywhere in the news this summer, and it seems foolish not to address them directly in the class.

The syllabus is embedded, below. It’s still a draft, and your comments can help shape it. I’m especially interested in comments from last year’s class, and the incoming class. Let me know what you think!


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