Dear Alumni and Friends,

When I wrote my column for the Spring 2020 issue of Tableau, we could not have known what lay in store for the Division of the Humanities—and the world.

The shutdown order with the onset of COVID-19 came just as our spring break began. We quickly migrated our teaching to online formats, as students, faculty, and staff became proficient in technologies such as Zoom and Panopto. They carried on with remarkable success in Spring Quarter; one colleague reported that rethinking his courses for online teaching helped him focus more on the tools he was giving students and less on his in-person performance.

Only a few weeks later, the tragic events in Minnesota and elsewhere, including the killing of George Floyd, left us all horrified and outraged. We struggle to know how we can achieve the kind of change that will bring justice and lasting peace to our society, and we seek innovative ideas and inspiration.

In times such as these, humanistic writings from many eras and cultures can offer comfort and enlightenment. I have been rereading Boethius’s seminal treatise from late antiquity, The Consolation of Philosophy, a work on the possibility of happiness in an uncertain world written while the author was in prison and awaiting execution. At the same time, I have enjoyed Loren Kruger’s (English Language and Literature) new book, A Century of South African Theatre (Bloomsbury, 2019), which tells the fascinating story of how the Market Theatre in Johannesburg used live performance to witness against apartheid in the 1980s.

During the spring, we maintained virtual public programming alongside our academic offerings. For the highly successful Berlin Family Lectures, Danielle Allen (Harvard) offered four timely talks on “Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus.” Through the Zoom webinar format, we welcomed a large audience from 34 states and 11 countries. And on June 12, the Humanities Division held its first-ever virtual convocation. Dean of Students Shea Wolfe, Deputy Dean Eric Slauter, and I were happy to be able to celebrate the remarkable achievements of our new graduates.

Throughout these tumultuous months, our friends have remained wonderfully supportive. Randy Berlin, AM’77, endowed a new early-career chair, the Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Assistant Professor of Renaissance and Early Modern English Literature: Masterpieces from 1500 to 1700. Its inaugural holder, Timothy Harrison, is an excellent scholar of Donne, Milton, and Shakespeare. Ted Carlson and Catherine Mouly, AM’76, PhD’86, likewise generously provided the Margaret Deffenbaugh Carlson, AM’43, Postdoctoral Fellowship, and Maurice “Jerry” Beznos, EX’67, and Lois Beznos, AM’66, donated the Julius Rosenwald Postdoctoral Fellowship to help support students hard-hit by the collapse of the job market.

Our faculty, students, and staff look with hope toward 2021, as we persevere in what we do best—unparalleled education and research in the humanities. We wish you all health and safety.

Anne Walters Robertson
Dean, Division of the Humanities
Claire Dux Swift Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Music

Photo Creds: 
Photography by John Zich