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Global Humanities Distinguished Lecture with Doris Sommer (Harvard University)

Doris Sommer

Doris Sommer

The Work of Art in the World:
A Case for Culture

Doris Sommer, Director of the Cultural Agents Initiative at Harvard University, is Ira and Jewell Williams Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of African and African American Studies.
Her academic and outreach work promotes development through arts and humanities, specifically through “Pre-Texts” in Boston Public Schools, throughout Latin America and beyond. Pre-Texts is an arts-based training program for teachers of literacy, critical thinking, and citizenship.
Among her books are Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America (1991) about novels that helped to consolidate new republics; Proceed with Caution when Engaged by Minority Literature (1999) on a rhetoric of particularism; Bilingual Aesthetics: A New Sentimental Education (2004); and The Work of Art in the World: Civic Agency and Public Humanities (2014). Sommer has enjoyed and is dedicated to developing good public school education. She has a B.A. from New Jersey's Douglass College for Women, and Ph.D. from Rutgers University.

Let’s make “Cases for Culture”. We need new hybrid research now that humanities programs and arts institutions grow limp from lack of commitments, a symptom of general indifference to culture. Essays that appropriate the case method to combine scientific measurement with humanistic reflection would respond to anxieties about art’s public value in a world that moves fast hardly pausing to consider the direction. They would track projects that suture a socially disabling gap between productivity and creativity to identify a solid “double bottom line” where economic feasibility meets artistic social contributions.