How America Invented the Humanities
Geoffrey Galt Harpham, President and Director, National Humanities Center



About the talk
Although the humanities have long been associated with the global heritage of human creative activity, Harpham makes the case that the concept of the humanities—as a collection of academic disciplines—is a recent invention, of the American academy, during the post WWII culture of the United States. A central element in liberal education for a growing population, the humanities were also understood as a means of advancing American values and interests. How does this context of emergence effect the character of humanistic study today?



The School is delighted to welcome Geoffrey Galt Harpham to the MIT campus.  
Harpham is president and director of the National Humanities Center, the only independent institute for advanced study in the world dedicated to the humanities. Under his leadership, the Center has sponsored a major initiative bringing humanists and scientists together to assess the impact of recent empirical work on our understanding of the human. He is the author of nine books, including The Ascetic Imperative in Culture and Criticism; (1987); One of Us: The Mastery of Joseph Conrad (1996), Shadows of Ethics: Criticism and the Just Society (1999); and The Humanities and the Dream of America (2011). He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. 


National Humanities Center

Geoffrey Galt Harpham