John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage (sponsor)
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: "cthe other"d; 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, we end the course by considering ourselves, the "experts." What is the nature of public humanities work? How does the work we do shape us? How the course works: there's a book, or several articles, to read each week. You should also keep up with contemporary writing on the web and in popular and professional media. In each class, we'll discuss the reading, and consider contemporary issues that raise some of the same questions. The point of this course is not to critique the literature, but to learn from it. Our goal is to understand the issues in working with culture, and with the public. As you read, and in class discussions, try to come up with a set of rules, concerns, techniques, and considerations for public humanities work. How might what we read be applied to exhibits, collections, and performance, in preserving the built environment, and interpreting the world around us? How do these authors, and the public and professionals they write about, think about culture, the public, the past, the work they do and the institutions in which they work?