NHC Podcasts

NHC Podcasts

The National Humanities Center is a private, nonprofit organization, and the only independent institute dedicated exclusively to advanced study in all areas of the humanities. Through its residential fellowship program, the Center provides scholars with the resources necessary to generate new knowledge and further understanding of all forms of cultural expression, social interaction, and human thought. Through its education programs, the Center strengthens teaching on the collegiate and pre-collegiate levels. Through public engagement intimately linked to its scholarly and educational programs, the Center promotes understanding of the humanities and advocates for appreciation of their foundational role in a democratic society.... Show More

Episodes

Proponents of distant reading practices in which computers are used to analyze vast quantities of textual material assert that their quantitative methods simultaneously complement and complicate traditional literary criticism. NHC Fellow Ted Underwood, professor of Information Sciences and of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and an innovative leader in the use of digital reading practices, is working on a new... Read more

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Founded by freed slaves in the early nineteenth century, the candomblé temple Casa Branca in Salvador, Bahia, was the first Afro-Brazilian place of worship in Brazil. But despite its religious and historic significance, the story of Casa Branca’s origins has remained the stuff of oral traditions until the recent discovery of written documents by NHC Fellow Lisa Earl Castillo. Castillo is working on a new book which situates the tem... Read more

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Between 1891 and 1939 a substantial portion of the land area of states in the American West were set aside for management by the federal government. These so-called “public lands” have been a source of contention ever since, engendering conflict among an assortment of stakeholders looking to use the lands for a variety of purposes—from conservation and habitat protection to mining, grazing, and logging. NHC Fellow Joseph Taylor, p... Read more

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In the popular imagination, computers are not only superior to humans in speed and accuracy, but they do their work free from prejudice, treating users equally without regard to race or gender. NHC Fellow Marie Hicks, associate professor of history at Illinois Institute of Technology, is helping complicate our understanding of how computers shape our world as she works this year on a new book exploring how technological systems in ... Read more

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Poets have long used ekphrasis—the vivid description of a piece of visual art—as a way of exploring the deep complexity of representation, the relationship between the artist and her art, and to make legible things which may otherwise seem inexpressible. NHC Fellow Meta DuEwa Jones is herself a poet and a scholar of poetry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is an associate professor of English. She is cur... Read more

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Traditionally, accounts of the scientific advances of the Renaissance have focused on the contributions of famous individuals like Copernicus whose theories about heavenly bodies radically altered how we understood the arrangement of the universe and our place in it. Increasingly, though, historians have noted striking parallels between the work of figures like Copernicus and their contemporaries in the Islamic world though they’ve... Read more

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Though it lasted for only a brief period, the Ghurid dynasty provides a fascinating lens through which to consider the religious and political forces that shaped Central Asia during the medieval period. NHC Fellow Alka Patel has spent years in the region examining architectural structures and archival materials to help better understand the Ghurids, situated as they were between the Persianate and Indic worlds, straddling and conne... Read more

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In the opening lines of his most famous poem, “To Althea, From Prison,” Richard Lovelace writes, “Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage...” This line expresses a thought common among imprisoned writers across time — that regardless of the conditions of their imprisonment, the human spirit and the poetic imagination cannot be constrained. NHC Fellow Andrea Brady, however, suggests that the relationship between our p... Read more

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Five hundred years ago—in February 1519—Hernán Cortés set out from Cuba with an expeditionary force heading for a confrontation with the Mexica, rulers of the Aztec Empire. Two years later, with the sacking of the capital, Tenochtitlan, the Spanish conquest was complete. Over the course of the following century filled with radical upheaval, demographic collapse, plague, mass migration, economic transformation, and cultural dislocat... Read more

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Since the 1950s, the sounds of Jamaican reggae have drawn global attention to the Caribbean island and its culture. Yet, few critics have examined reggae’s social origins or fully accounted for its phenomenal rise as the music of disaffected youth. Fellow Matthew Smith, professor of history at the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica, is working to situate reggae within the larger social dynamics of post-World War II Jama... Read more

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When we think of slavery in the Americas, most of us generally think of people from Africa and their descendants who were enslaved and transported across the Atlantic to provide labor for the plantation economies of the New World. But recently, historians have begun to reassess the significance of other forms of slavery in the Americas—specifically the enslavement of millions of indigenous people in the Caribbean and beyond. NHC Fe... Read more

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Monuments commemorating historical figures, events, and regimes can be found nearly everywhere, yet we often barely notice them. At other times, though, the histories they represent can inflame passions and the monuments themselves become contentious flashpoints for their communities. NHC Fellow Mia Fuller, associate professor of Italian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, is a cultural anthropologist who has focused... Read more

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Since at least the early years of the twentieth century, scholars have taken an interest in the artistic and intellectual productions of so-called “outsiders,” or individuals whose unconventional perspectives and aesthetic expression have often been assumed to result from serious mental illness. These artistic creations and written works are generally defined by idiosyncratic characteristics; they can seem to be obscure, obsessive,... Read more

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For most of us, learning to read is an important milestone in our intellectual development. This accomplishment is a cornerstone on which our educations and professional lives are built, and one of the primary mechanisms through which we connect with the world. But for some people, specifically those affected by neurological disorders such as dyslexia or dementia, reading can be an experience fraught with challenges. NHC Fellow Mat... Read more

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Aristotle’s thinking on a variety of topics has influenced western philosophy for over two millennia. His writings on ethics, in particular—emphasizing human character and ethical psychology—continue to shape contemporary ideas about personal virtue and moral agency. NHC Fellow Audrey Anton, however, has emphasized the importance of understanding the role that vice plays in Aristotle’s philosophy. In this podcast, Anton presents ... Read more

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With increasing urgency, climate scientists and environmentalists have sought to mobilize public action to address the crisis of global warming. Warning us about the dire need to radically change how we use energy, the ways we grow and distribute food, and many other activities, they’ve described a future in which our planet is increasingly unlivable. But, beyond imaging a world devastated by unchecked greenhouse gas emissions, how... Read more

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As it has taken shape as a distinct field of scholarly inquiry, animal studies has significantly contributed to our understanding of other species and our relationships with them. Drawing on a variety of disciplinary approaches across the humanities and sciences, animal studies has challenged traditional categories that have long gone unquestioned, such as “nature” and “wildness” that not only clarify perspectives on the lives of a... Read more

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Though its viability as a political party was short-lived, the influence of the Federalists extended well beyond the early years of the American republic. After the election of 1800, the party’s fortunes dimmed, and the party dissolved in 1824, but its ideas have continued to shape American institutions and political attitudes up to the present day. NHC Fellow Gretchen Murphy has researched the ways in which women writers have shap... Read more

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Katelyn Campbell, “Giving Value and Thought to the Imaginary” by National Humanities Center

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Matthew Sweet describes stumbling upon a 45 record that altered his perspective on The Beatles. More profoundly, it changed how he understood his place in the world.

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