The Center for the Humanities promotes the cross-disciplinary, collaborative, and public humanities across and beyond the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We support traditional and new forms of inquiry in the humanities and engage the public through partnerships that broaden the ways that knowledge circulates.
By promoting the university’s own distinguished humanities faculty, the Center helps to promote the humanities as essential to teaching, learning, and research. Through its Focus on the Humanities series (co-sponsored with the Institute for Research in the Humanities), the Center invites professors to deliver public lectures several times a year. From English and African Languages and Literature professor Tejumola Olaniyan on postcolonial Africa's culture and politics, to History professor Mary Louise Roberts on military histories of the dead, humanities faculty continue to prove, again and again, that they can draw a curious, engaged crowd of campus and community members together for stimulating discussions that cut through academic hierarchies, and across disciplinary boundaries.
Each year, the Center places Public Humanities Graduate Fellows in academic or full-year staff positions at established cultural institutions in Madison where they will have the opportunity to use their experience and expertise to develop new programs and expand existing ones. The Center’s Public Humanities Exchange program supports more than a dozen annual graduate research projects, convened outside the boundaries of academia, with partners as diverse as prisons, hospitals, and public schools. For undergraduates, there is the annual Iwanter Prize: a $2000 award to a graduating senior who has demonstrated outstanding humanities scholarship.
The Center’s annual First Book Award provides both scholarly and collegial support for junior faculty members revising their dissertations into that all-important “first book.” 2009-2010 First Book Award recipient Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen saw her book, American Nietzsche, reviewed favorably in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Of the First Book program, Ratner-Rosenhagen said: "As a junior faculty member, receiving an award to foster emerging scholarship at UW-Madison made me feel especially supported by my home institution.”
Recognizing the value of inter-faculty exchange, the Center offers several opportunities for faculty to delve deeply into research, listen, and learn from one another. Faculty Development Seminars are designed to enhance the quality of humanities research at UW-Madison and to promote sustained collaboration and dialogue across disciplinary lines. The Center’s Borghesi-Mellon Workshops workshops enable faculty and graduate students to work together outside of the classroom, in working groups centered on an interdisciplinary topic, broadly conceived, drawn from any period, field, or method of research in the humanities.
The Center’s Humanities Friday Lunches showcase the work of UW-Madison humanities scholars and faculty and offer an informal opportunity for conversation across disciplines. The series is open to members of the UW-Madison faculty, graduate students, and staff. Visiting scholars and fellows are welcome to attend; others should contact the Center to determine eligibility. Lunches are hosted by the Center for the Humanities with thanks to the Anonymous Fund of the College of Letters & Science.
Jacques Ranciere on democracy. Jacqueline Rose on totalitarianism. Catherine Malabou on plasticity and the brain. Debjani Ganguly on the novel in a hypermediated era. The Center sponsors world-renowned visiting scholars whose work is on the cutting edge of humanities research, providing a welcoming, intellectually fertile environment with many opportunities for small discussion groups, shared meals, and one-on-one conversations with faculty and students, as well as evening talks that are open to the public.
This state-wide initiative, begun in 2005, connects UW faculty with high school teachers through the reading of a classic world text over the course of an academic year. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Wu Cheng'en's Journey to the West, and Rousseau's Confessions are just a few of the great literary works taken up by the Great World Texts program. Faculty/teacher workshops throughout the year encourage interaction, on the UW-Madison campus, between high school teachers, their students, and the university community.
Since 2004, the Center has supported a select number of graduate student projects convened outside the boundaries of academia. Each graduate student-led project features collaboration with a community partner. Now known as the Public Humanities Exchange, the program goes beyond volunteerism and the pure research model, to offer graduate students and partners the chance to form mutually rewarding relationships. Partners are as diverse as the community itself, including Oakhill Correctional Institute, Veterans for Peace, Madison’s public high schools, Madison Public Library, the Aids Network, community gardens, hospitals, nursing homes, and many more. In 2016, the Center began supporting undergraduate projects as well.
Our fellowship program provides graduate students in the humanities with professional experience outside of academia. Recipients of the Public Humanities Fellowship will be paired with an established cultural institution in Madison for a nine-month (academic year) residency. These residencies will give fellows the opportunity to use their humanities experience and expertise to develop new programs, expand existing ones, and translate their academic skills into the public sphere.
The Center for the Humanities offers a Graduate Certificate in the Public Humanities to humanities graduate students intending to explore careers outside of academia and trains students who wish to remain within academia to articulate new horizons for their research. The certificate adds a curricular component to the robust public projects already supported through the Center’s Public Humanities Exchange and Public Humanities Fellowship programs.
Humanities Without Boundaries is the flagship public lecture series of the Center for the Humanities, drawing large and diverse crowds for talks throughout the year by artists, authors, poets, filmmakers, food writers, philosophers, theorists, and historians whose work crosses boundaries, elevates discourse, stirs curiosity, and invites audiences to inquire, critique, imagine, and engage on a wide range of topics. We've hosted Theaster Gates, Margaret Atwood, Wendy Brown, Michael Warner, Danielle Allen, and many more.
Humanities Without Boundaries is made possible by the Brittingham Fund, Inc. and the Anonymous Fund of the UW-Madison College of Letters & Science.
Our Focus on the Humanities: Distinguished Faculty Lectures showcase current research by senior faculty in the humanities at UW-Madison, and creates a forum for campus and community members to engage with cutting-edge ideas of historical, political, philosophical, religious, and literary importance.
Focus on the Humanities: Distinguished Faculty Lectures is presented in collaboration with the Institute for Research in the Humanities, and funded through the generous support of the Anonymous Fund of the College of Letters & Science.
Humanities NOW panels are convened to offer thoughtful perspectives from UW humanities faculty on breaking issues of our times. Our discussions offer a rare opportunity for community members and faculty to sift and winnow together, in the time-honored tradition of the University of Wisconsin, offering deeper insights and perspectives not found in general media coverage of disturbing, urgent events.
The McKay Lecture in the Humanities was established in honor of Nellie Y. McKay (1930-2006), Evjue Professor of American and African-American Literature at UW-Madison and pioneer in the field of Afro-American studies. The series is co-sponsored by the Institute for Research in the Humanities.
In addition to our main lecture series, we host and co-sponsor several special events yearly, including annual presentations as part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's common read program, Go Big Read, as well as at the Wisconsin Book Festival, the Wisconsin Science Festival, and the Chicago Humanities Festival.
Sara Guyer is Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Jewish Studies at UW-Madison, where she has directed the Center for the Humanities since 2008. At the Center, Sara has concentrated on imagining a humanities that draws upon the rigors of critical theory, while encouraging established and emerging scholars to help shape public life. She is committed to research and thinking that reaches across institutional lines both within and beyond the university – and includes the sciences, arts, and professions. This emphasis on the public humanities envisions new audiences for research in literature, history, philosophy, and culture and is part of the reinvention of graduate education in the 21st Century. She is President of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI).
Marrion Ladd has been at UW-Madison for twelve years serving in various capacities. Most recently, Marrion worked with the School of Human Ecology, and previously held positions in the Departments of English and Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. Marrion is the Center’s Administrator overseeing all financial, administrative, human resources, and payroll functions. A native of Minnesota, Marrion has three children and resides in Madison.
Emily Clark received her PhD from UW-Madison, where she studied and taught in both the English and Gender and Women’s Studies departments. Her work has been published in journals including Hypatia, Feminist Review, and the Center’s own Humanities NOW blog. Prior to joining the Center, Emily served as Deputy Director of the Center for 21st Century Studies at UW-Milwaukee. She is also a Cleveland native, and LeBron James fan.
Megan Massino received her PhD from UW-Madison, with concentrations in Literary Studies and the History of Science. Her research focuses on mathematic, poetic, and philosophical negotiations of reality and abstraction in the twentieth century. Duringher PhD study, Megan was a Marie Christine Kohler Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and taught courses in writing, literature, new media, and gender studies at UW-Madison and UW-Whitewater. Megan grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and she still misses the mountains and telescopes.
Aaron Fai is a graduate of the creative writing programs at UCLA, UC Davis, and the University of Oregon. He directs the creative writing workshops at The Bubbler in Madison Public Library. He previously worked at the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters and served in Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan.
Jamila Siddiqui is a PhD candidate in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research explores the shifting forms of "place" in higher education from the 20th to 21st centuries. As an advisor at the Center for Educational Opportunity (CeO), Jamila led the design and implementation of a new Second-Year Retention Program. At the Center, Jamila has implemented a Public Humanities Exchange Program for undergraduates, providing guidance and oversight to help UW-Madison undergraduates design and implement community projects that draw upon humanities scholarship and methods.
Ruanda is a third-year graduate student pursuing a M.S. in Urban and Regional Planning and a MPA for Public Affairs. Her coursework has largely focused on housing policy and community development. Ruanda came to UW–Madison from her home state of Arkansas, where she spent four years working in higher education and college admissions at her undergraduate alma mater, Hendrix College.
Melissa Ulbricht received a B.A. in English from UW-Madison and a M.A. in journalism from the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Melissa has over a decade of experience in marketing and communications with a focus on supporting nonprofit organizations that seek to improve the livelihoods of communities.
Emma Sayner is an undergraduate student from Northfield, Minnesota. She is pursuing a double major in History and Political Science; her senior thesis examines the relationship between state politics and Holocaust memorialization in Communist Poland. In addition to her position at the Center for Humanities, Emma is a Writing Fellow with UW-Madison’s Writing Center, and has interned for the Office of the U.S. Senate and the Center for Victims of Torture. Outside of her academic interests, Emma loves to run and travel.
Hannah Widmaier is an undergraduate student from Elmhurst, Illinois. She is a double major in Philosophy and English Literature and is interested in literary criticism and theory, especially aesthetic theory. Hannah works as a Writing Fellow and edits UW-Madison's undergraduate journals for literary criticism and Jewish studies; she is also active in Madison's Jewish community. Hannah hopes to continue her academic work in graduate school.
Associate Professor of Art
Associate Professor of Afro-American Studies
Distinguished Chair in Contemplative Humanities, Center for Healthy Minds
Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History of Science, Medical History, and Environmental Studies
Associate Professor of French
Vilas-Bablitch-Kelch Distinguished Achievement Professor of the History of Science
Merle Curti Associate Professor of History
Professor of English, Emeritus
Professor of Philosophy
Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies
Associate Vice Chancellor of Research and Graduate Education, Professor of Film, Department of Communication Arts
Director, UW-Madison Arts Institute
Associate Dean for Arts & Humanities; Professor of Communication Arts
Established in 1988, the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) serves as a site for the discussion of issues germane to the fostering of crossdisciplinary activity and as a network for the circulation of information and the sharing of resources.
Humanities Without Walls is an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded consortium composed of fifteeninterdisciplinary humanities centers and institutes at Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Pennsylvania State, Purdue, and Wisconsin.
Imagining America is a national consortium of colleges and universities committed to public scholarship in the arts, humanities, and design. Public scholarship joins serious intellectual endeavor with a commitment to public practice and public consequence.
UW-Madison is a member of The Renaissance Studies Consortium at the Newberry Library in Chicago. Funds are available for faculty and students to participate in Center for Renaissance Studies programs, to conduct research on medieval, Renaissance, or early modern topics, and/or to organize class visits to the library.
The UW-Madison Institute for Research in the Humanities sponsors research in the humanities, promotes interdisciplinary understanding of the humanities, and fosters a stimulating research environment of diverse scholars open to learning from each other.
The Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE) serves as the main home at UW-Madison for the "environmental humanities" - fields that concern themselves not just with the mechanisms of environmental change, but with its human meanings. But the humanities have no monopoly on the claim that human culture - including ideas, behaviors, perceptions and values - matter in understanding anthropogenic environmental change. That is why CHE welcomes natural and social scientists as eagerly as it does humanities scholars: we all need each other to do this complicated and fascinating work.
Since 1987, Wisconsin Union Directorate Distinguished Lecture Series (DLS) has contributed to broadening the educational experience of UW–Madison students and the community by bringing the smartest, most engaging, and influential people to campus, to encourage thought-provoking conversations and ideas.
Founded in 1900, the Wisconsin School of Business established one of the first five business programs in the nation. That entrepreneurial spirit remains strong.
Located within one of the world’s leading public research universities, the School is a vibrant community that honors our university’s commitment to research and public service. We believe public research universities hold great untapped potential to address the world’s most complex challenges.
Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID) experiments with new ways of creating unlikely campus-wide interdisciplinary research teams that generate unexpected discoveries. Researchers at WID are dedicated to fundamental discovery, applied research, and new pathways to collaborations that will contribute to improving the health of people and the food supply in Wisconsin and the world. WID is located in the award-winning Discovery Building along with its partners the private, non-profit Morgridge Institute for Research and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
The Wisconsin Book Festival is Wisconsin's premier literary event. Every Fall it draws a local and regional audience of 12,000-15,000 people for four days of author events. It's year-round series of events has drawn more than 20,000 people to an additional 100 events over the past four years. Madison's proximity to Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Iowa City makes it an easy addition to any tour through the Midwest. As the State Capitol and home to the University of Wisconsin, Madison boasts an engaged and active literary community who have shown a dedication to supporting great author programming.
The Chicago Humanities Festival connects people to the ideas that shape and define us, and promotes the lifelong exploration of what it means to be human. CHF fosters curiosity, celebrates creativity, explores the boundaries of contemporary knowledge and culture, and challenges us to see ourselves and the world anew.