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New Century for the Humanities Celebration launches

Paula Vogel with Mineola Twins cast
The cast of "The Mineola Twins" with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel, M.A. '76, during Vogel’s October 2014 visit to campus.

Starting in February, the College of Arts and Sciences is launching a semesterlong celebration of the arts and humanities with marquee events, a series of speaker presentations and panel discussions, all culminating in the grand opening celebration for its new humanities building, Klarman Hall, on May 26.

“The New Century for the Humanities events will showcase the important work that our arts and humanities faculty are doing to critically engage with the challenges and beauty of humanity,” said Gretchen Ritter, the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences. “We also know that our students’ lives are transformed by their arts and humanities classes, and this series gives us a chance to celebrate that experience.”

The events will highlight emerging areas of research and scholarship in the arts and humanities, showcase the college’s diverse faculty, and explore intersections of the arts and humanities with the sciences and social sciences at Cornell.

Marquee events include:

  • “Eumelio,” a 1606 baroque opera directed by David Miller, a graduate student in the field of music, March 19-20;
  • A conversation with Paula Vogel, M.A. ’76, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and former chair of the Yale School of Drama’s playwriting department, April 12 and a concert reading of Vogel’s newest play, “Indecent,” April 13; and
  • A conversation on creative writing with professors Alice Fulton and Roger Gilbert, as well as featured readings from graduating MFA students.

Although “Eumelio” has been performed a handful of times in Europe, it never has been performed in America, Miller said.

“Putting on a production of such an old opera presents myriad challenges, most of which stem from the dearth of information as to how operas were staged back then,” he said. “By necessity, we end up filling in the gaps in our knowledge with educated guesses.”

The interdisciplinary effort for “Eumelio” includes the Cornell Early Music Lab, Cornell Chamber Singers, the Departments of Music, Performing and Media Arts (PMA), Romance studies, English and Classics and the College of Architecture, Art and Planning. Music professor Neal Zaslaw serves as artistic adviser.

“Paula Vogel is a national treasure,” notes Sara Warner, associate professor in PMA. “She is the first out lesbian – and one of only a handful of women – to garner the Pulitzer Prize for drama. ‘Indecent’ ranks as one of Paula’s most radical and ambitious endeavors to date, and this work will cement her reputation as one of the most powerful and prolific voices of the contemporary American stage.”

A co-production of Yale Repertory Theater and the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, Vogel’s “Indecent" will open at New York City’s Vineyard Theater in mid-May.

The College of Arts and Sciences has launched a webpage dedicated to the New Century for the Humanities celebration. It will feature the events and highlight many of the college’s intersecting arts and humanities research, scholarship and creative works, including sustainability, inequality, mind, new media, sound studies and technology in the humanities.

Key humanities celebration events include:

  • “Big Ideas in the Humanities” panel discussions featuring faculty from across the college representing the diverse approaches to current themes such as migration, technology and sustainability;
  • A “Transformative Humanities” brown bag lunch series, where arts and humanities faculty reveal creative works that have inspired them or changed the direction of their careers; and
  • Small-group discussions about issues raised by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ recent book, “Between the World and Me,” winner of the 2015 National Book Award.

“Many of the subjects on which artists and humanists reflect are timeless, but the constantly changing circumstances of our lives make their reflections timely and ever new,” said Scott MacDonald, the college’s senior associate dean for arts and humanities. “These events highlight the exciting work of Cornell faculty who bring critical perspective to our understanding of ourselves and our world.”

Other humanities and arts events will also take place this spring including a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Society for the Humanities with a lecture by Bro Adams, director of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the 70th anniversary of the Department of Asian Studies.

The Klarman Hall dedication will feature the release of a commemorative poem written by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, associate professor of English; various speakers, performances and presentations; and the installation of a time capsule containing items from faculty, staff, students and alumni.

“Klarman Hall is a promise from the college, the university – and our alumni – that the arts and humanities will remain a central part of a Cornell education and that Cornell will continue to play a major role in humanities education and research throughout the world,” Ritter said.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.

Media Contact

Melissa Osgood