Dear Alumni and Friends, 

The inherent value of humanistic research and instruction remains a subject of debate in the popular media. I imagine that many of you have felt compelled to defend your own fields of study—or the disciplines of your friends and colleagues—against those who worry about the irrelevance or obsolescence of the humanities.

Rather than lamenting this situation, I eagerly welcome the conversation as an opportunity to articulate and demonstrate the value of foundational scholarship and rigorous inquiry. My work at the University of Chicago is focused on supporting and strengthening humanities scholarship here and throughout the academy. The June 2013 report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, aptly titled “The Heart of the Matter,” presents a compelling case for broad education in the humanities at every level.

The first sentence of the report’s executive summary captures some of the crucial elements in today’s discussion: “As we strive to create a more civil public discourse, a more adaptable and creative workforce, and a more secure nation, the humanities and social sciences are the heart of the matter, the keeper of the republic—a source of national memory and civic vigor, cultural understanding and communication, individual fulfillment and the ideals we hold in common.”

This aspirational assertion is applicable across all subjects in the humanities and humanistic social sciences, and each of the projects and scholars featured in this issue of Tableau bolsters some aspect of its claim. Our faculty members contribute to public discourse, examine the artistry and impact of media, and make literary works accessible across linguistic and cultural boundaries. Our students conduct creative, meaningful research while our alumni nurture appreciation of the classical legacy in a new generation and help to preserve our cultural heritage and to support innovative scholarship. Their work takes place along with many other projects and pursuits that are sustained by the generosity of our most dedicated advocates.

Humanistic scholarship allows us, as human beings within a diverse and shared culture, to mark our progress through history, to understand our collective past, and to chart our future. The humanities are timeless—and as the transitions from one moment of modernity to the next become ever more accelerated, the social value of the humanities has never been greater.

With best wishes,

Martha T. Roth
Dean of the Division of the Humanities

PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRIS KIRZEDER

 


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