A National Arts and Humanities Month announcement

So, I just learned today, half way into the month, that October in the US is National Arts and Humanities month. Who knew?

Well, from now one I will know, and it will be my business to know, because…drumroll please…I have been named the new Director of the Humanities Institute at Rust Belt University.

Our HI was founded in the 80s, but it’s been defunct for about 5 or 6 years now, so I’m essentially presiding over a “reboot,” Humanities Institute 2.0, an HI for the 21st century. I think I’ll take Doctor Who and Sherlock as my models (though with less of Steven Moffat’s disappointing sexism, thankyouverymuch), since the old HI was pretty beloved here and I want both to do it justice, but also to make it new, to make it useful for the humanities at RBU now. I’m meeting with my college’s dean this week to start the ball rolling — including putting together a steering committee, etc.– and I’m going to work on a draft mission statement today. We’ve only got a small budget to start with, so for our first semester of events and activities, I need to keep things realistic as I also seek out other funding. But my general vision for the Institute is one that makes connections: across humanities disciplines (and with those scholars who do humanities-type work in non-humanities departments), of course, but also between RBU and the wider community. I also primarily want the Institute to be an engine of advocacy and support for the humanities, both within the university and in our community.

So, internet hive mind, if your university were just starting up a Humanities Institute, what would like to see it do?

>Man, even the Library of Congress thinks I’m a historian

>I’m back from my conference trip and hard at work on correcting my book’s page proofs and writing my index. It’s a good thing they left me 24 pages for it, because it’s going to be close to that when it’s done. I’ts ridiculously long because I went and wrote a book with overlapping categories of concepts that need separate lists as well as cross-listing. Damn me for being complicated. And can I just say that for some of the index entries I really, really want to say, “see the entire frakkin’ book.” Te-hee!

Anywho, now that I have the proofs, I can see the Library of Congress number I’ve been assigned. And it’s an HQ number, putting me in the cultural history category that is indeed, a major subject of the book. But I think of it as first and foremost about a particular genre of medieval literature. That designation, according to the Library of Congress, however, comes second among all the categories listed. (Well, at least someone doing a search by LC subjects in literature will still be able to find it by the appropriate category.) Maybe being in the HQs will bring me readers I wouldn’t already have — people browsing the shelves in that subject of cultural history — but I’m kind of bummed I’m not with my literature peeps in the PRs.

And I’m having an identity crises. Blog categorizing sites think this blog is a history blog, and now the Library of Congress thinks my book is primarily a work of cultural history. And meanwhile, I’m finding that a lot of what’s been written relevant to my newest project on a certain manuscript and its owners is done by historians. (Hello, Dr. V., there’s a reason why it’s called the history of the book! Duh!) And at this weekend’s conference, the two keynote speakers were both historians, but their work seems awfully close to the kind of stuff I do and think about. Hm. Sure, I do have a new historicist approach to literature, but I thought I was a literature person first.

Maybe I’m the academic equivalent of an adopted kid, and I’m now just realizing that my “parents” aren’t really my parents! This is all rather shocking. I mean, I’m sure my “real” parents, historians, are great people and all — heck, maybe they’re cooler than the literary people I thought were my parents — but who am I?

You know, next time our admins give lipservice to how it’s the age of interdisciplinary work and we need to be doing it (without, of course, any institutional structures to support it), I’m going to pipe up and say, “Well, I’m in an English department, but everyone thinks I’m a historian, so there you go.”

And PS — Just out of curiosity, where do you fall in terms of the “a historian” vs. “an historian” usage?

PPS – This is my 300th post, just so you know.