Presidential Symposium 2017


In a demographically plural  society, a twenty-first century education must seriously engage notions of inclusion and diversity for cultural citizens.

The idea of the practical  humanities draws its inspiration from the early modern investment in the collective undertaking among scholars that united knowledge with public and political life. Today, in an increasingly multicultural society, one in which the changing social and political realities posit an intense cultural transformation, education that embraces inclusion and diversity is a requirement for a useful and serious academic enterprise. Specifically, higher education has a responsibility and a mandate to provide the kinds of intellectual experiences that will equip us to be citizens fluent in the cultural currency of race and difference in our times.

The symposium offers a vigorous inquiry into the role of the humanities in modern academic life, centering on race and mediated through Shakespeare, the quintessential figure in the humanities. In light of the recent debates concerning the status and purpose of the humanities in relation to professional preparedness, the symposium will advance a discussion on the idea of the practical humanities. This notion of the practical humanities challenges directly a set of contemporary assumptions about the humanities as impractical by narrowly construed professional outcomes.

Othello and Blackface Podcast

shakespeareunlimited_itunesThis podcast episode, which deals with race, Othello, and how the Elizabethans portrayed blackness onstage, offers a startling, new interpretation of Desdemona’s handkerchief that is changing the way scholars understand the play. Featured scholars: Ian Smith, Ayanna Thompson. Listen to it here.

Contact Info:

Professor Ian Smith
Diane Windham Shaw
(610) 330-5148


Sponsored by the Office of the President