The Humanities Center
The Humanities Center at the University of Hartford embodies a decades-long commitment to the humanities from UHart scholars in literature, languages, history (including art and music history), philosophy, cinema, rhetoric, creative writing and the communication arts.
The Humanities Center aims to provide greater visibility for the humanities at UHart and to furnish venues for interdisciplinary exchanges across the humanities and the arts, sciences, technology, media, music, psychology, film, philosophy, history, and literature. It was founded in the University’s College of Arts and Sciences through a National Endowment for the Humanities grant.
What We Do
Year-Long Honors Seminars
Each year, the Humanities Center sponsors a year-long honors seminar featuring a topic chosen and taught by a full-time Faculty Fellow. Students of high achievement, from across all programs of study, can apply to take the honors seminar and become a Student Fellow. Student Fellows are eligible to receive a $500 scholarship once accepted to the honors seminar.
Spring Lecture Series
The Humanities Center also sponsors a lecture series that is open to the public each spring and is based on the topic of the honors seminar. Up to four University of Hartford full-time faculty, chosen as Faculty Fellows of the center, speak in the lecture series. The remaining speakers are both on- and off-campus experts on subjects related to that year’s topic.
Honors Seminar Topics
2023-24: Fiction, Fabulation, Futurity
Led by Faculty Fellow and Assistant Professor of Art History Rashmi Viswanathan, this seminar examines how artists and writers have used fictional stories to reimagine the future of human existence in ways that involve new concepts of race, ethnicity, class, sex, and gender. Along the way, students explore how such “reimagined futures” raise questions regarding how we think about these concepts in our contemporary “real world.” To help with this, the seminar focuses on artists and writers who have recreated ideas of place (such as Sun Ra and Gloria Anzaldúa), on novels like Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Octavia Butler’s Kindred, on films and television episodes (such as Whale Rider and the Watchmen), and on an examination of concepts like future urban design and the human body as a cosmos.
Five UHart Humanities Center Faculty Fellows, along with distinguished presenters from other institutions, will speak on selected Mondays from 5-6 p.m. in Spring 2024.
- 2022-23: Decolonizing the University: Ethnic Studies through Time
Faculty Fellow: Karen Tejada, Sociology
- 2021-22: Fearing the Unknown – Irrationality, Anti-Politics, and Conspiracy Theories
Faculty Fellow: Marco Cupolo, Hispanic Studies
- 2020-21: Lights, Camera, Activism!
Faculty Fellow: Mala Matacin, Psychology
- 2019-20: Transversing Gender, Race, and Class
Faculty Fellow: Kristin Comeforo, Communication
- 2018-19: Evidence in a Post-Truth World
Faculty Fellow: Lauren Cook, Cinema
- 2017-18: The Secular and the Spiritual
Faculty Fellow: Richard Freund, Judaic Studies
- 2016-17: Our Monsters, Ourselves
Faculty Fellow: Amanda Walling, English and Modern Languages
- 2015-16: Remembering 9/11
Faculty Fellow: Sarah Senk, English and Modern Languages
2023-24 Faculty Fellows
Amanda Carlson will present “Writing into the Future with African Scripts,” which forms part of her current book project. Her lecture will examine films (such as Black Panther), artworks (such as Wilfred Upkong’s installations), and novels (such as those by Nnewi Okorafor) that incorporate nsibidi, an indigenous African writing system rooted in the Cross River region of West Africa, within broader intellectual movements from Afro-futurism to African Futurism. Here, she will explore how these bodies of work become part of a dialogue about blackness, gender, and the space of Africa and the diaspora. Furthermore, she will speak to why nsibidi offers such a powerful iconography for imagining a future where African knowledge is critically important.
Kristin Comeforo will work on the project “Quarantine Constellations: Queer Resilience, A Covid Love Story, and Critical Nostalgia as a Path towards Futurism and Queer Worldmaking.” This will be a reworking of a critical autoethnography they did during the Covid lockdown that explored this period, juxtaposed with the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and early 1990s, as an experience of “déjà vu all over again” for many marginalized queer, trans-, Black and brown individuals. For the Humanities Center, Professor Comeforo will reimagine this work by leaning more heavily into speculative literary fiction (in the vein of Octavia Butler and Jewel Gomez) as a method that will more tightly tie these past traumas to present realities and point to futures of queer worldmaking that inform, and activate, the present.
Marco Cupolo will present “Autocratic Rises and Falls through the Dictator Novels of Carpentier, García Márquez and Roa Bastos.” Focusing on Alejo Carpentier’s Reasons of State (1974), Gabriel García Márquez’s The Autumn of the Patriarch (1976), and Augusto Roa Bastos’s I, the Supreme (1974), each of which, by focusing on real or imagined dictators, serves as a critical reference within the Latin American genre of dictator novels and contributes to a critical analysis of dictatorial power. Through these narratives on the rise and fall of Latin American autocrats and political leaders, Professor Cupolo will examine how they point to a persistence – and even strengthening – of autocratic tendencies in the present and potential futures of late capitalism.
Benjamin Grossberg will present “Ars Octopoetica: New Poems of Fabulation,” consisting of a “poetic manifesto” that articulates methods based in fabulation, sexual otherness, alienation, and the challenges of intimacy that have long shaped his work, as well as poems from his book Space Traveler and new poems to be completed during the upcoming year. Professor Grossberg’s new poems, which explore romantic engagement with an octopus, are the latest in his expansive oeuvre that speak to the joys of fabulation, speculation, and imagination, all the while juxtaposed with a raw meditation on the queer experience.
James McDonald will work on the project “Marriage and Family on the Final Frontier,” exploring potentially new forms that marriage and family units may take in the future as humankind colonizes nearby bodies such as Mars and the Moon. Based on teaching Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress in a class on science fiction, as well as his class “The Martian Way” (UIST 155) which examines the colonization of Mars from scientific, political and social viewpoints, Professor McDonald will assess various family arrangements present in popular science fiction and consider them for their effectiveness in a “real life” colonial situation where resources are scarce and the risk of mortality is high.
2023-24 Student Fellows
- Andrea Adjei-Frimpong (Nursing, ENHP)
- Rally Bryan (Art History, HAS)
- Julia Cyr (Art History, HAS)
- Kayla D'Auria (English, A&S)
- Angelina Gargano (Hillyer/Art History, HAS)
- Ethan Garstka (Cinema, A&S)
- Kellen Grissom (Art History, HAS)
- Sequoia Hornsby (English, A&S)
- Jenna Kruse (Studio Art, HAS)
- Devin Putney (History, A&S)
- Todd Richard (Music, Hartt)
- Makaila Robinson (Psychology, A&S)
- Teressa Simpkins (Art History, HAS)
- JT Tinelli (Architecture, CETA)
- Arrington Triantris (Architecture, CETA)