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Insights into Society and Culture

Pitt Humanities Explore Modern Issues


There is no pressing, real-world question the humanities don't have something to say about, observes John Beverly, Pitt Distinguished Professor Hispanic Languages and Literatures.

Beverley's own work focuses on U.S.-Latin American relations, which require interdisciplinary perspectives in order to be understood; recent research included a presentation on cultural politics and geopolitics of Latin American after 9/11.

Beverley is affiliated with Pitt’s Humanities Center and the journal boundary 2, two focal points for interdisciplinary work at the University. The Humanities Center, directed by English professor Jonathan Arac, sponsors work throughout the humanities and offers opportunities to create a dialogue between humanistic disciplines and the sciences. boundary 2, a journal edited by Arac's colleague in English Paul Bové, approaches contemporary questions of literature and culture through historically informed perspectives that aim to challenge dominant ways of thinking.

Another interdisciplinary unit, the Women’s Studies Program, is at the forefront of gender-related scholarship. The program’s director is Jean Ferguson Carr, an associate professor of English and Women’s Studies who writes and teaches composition, women's studies, history of the book, literacy, and literary studies, focusing on 19th-century American constructions of literacy and letters.

Terry Smith's books, including The Architecture of Aftermath (2006) and What is Contemporary Art? (2009), focus on the ways in which visual culture becomes entangled with politics, economics, and the ecologies of everyday life. "If you are trying to learn the history of art, you are not just looking at works of art, but you are looking at how a work of art is a product of its time, society, culture, and so on. You are interested in its connections," explains Smith, Pitt's Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and a leading global thinker on art and culture.

The artwork of Department of Studio Arts Chair Delanie Jenkins is grounded in a collage aesthetic. Recent works include intaglio and digital prints, time-based image projections, drawing, and sculpture. In 2012, her art was featured in the two-site (Pittsburgh and Valencia, Spain) exhibition Overlapping Memories, an exchange between artists in Spain and the United States working with contemporary collage as a medium and dealing with themes of memory and introspection. The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts named Jenkins its 2007 Artist of the Year.