‘Celebrating the Humanities Day’ April 27

Humanities leaders Franke and Harpham to speak

From literature, philosophy and ethics to history, law and musicology, the humanities are central to our understanding of ourselves, our communities and the larger world around us.


At noon Wednesday, April 27, Richard J. Franke, founder of the Chicago Humanities Festival, will present a lunchtime talk on “Humanities and Civic Involvement” in Room 220 of the Charles F. Knight Executive Education and Conference Center.

The talk will explore the history, mission and continuing development of the Chicago Humanities Festival — an annual citywide event that lasts several weeks — and provide advice about how St. Louis might organize a similar event.

Franke’s visit is presented as part of a larger “Celebrating the Humanities Day,” co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis; the Missouri Humanities Council; and the Center for the Humanities at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Other events will include a talk by Geoffrey Galt Harpham, PhD, president and director of the National Humanities Center. Titled “Melancholy in the Midst of Abundance: How American Invented the Humanities,” the talk will begin at 5 p.m. in the Formal Lounge of the Ann W. Olin Women’s Building.

Franke is past chairman and CEO of John Nuveen & Co. in Chicago, where he was known for incorporating humanities and the arts into the life of the firm. In addition to founding the Chicago Humanities Festival, Franke endowed the Humanities Center at the University of Chicago that bears his name and serves on numerous cultural boards.

As a nationally recognized spokesman for the humanities, Franke was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Bill Clinton and elected into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He has served as a senior fellow of the Yale Corporation and currently serves on the University of Chicago’s Board of Trustees.

Harpham was trained as a literary scholar, but his work encompasses a range of topics and fields. Among his many books are On the Grotesque: Strategies of Contradiction in Art and Literature (1982); Shadows of Ethics: Criticism and the Just Society (1999); and Language Alone: The Critical Fetish of Modernity (2002).

In recent years, Harpham has become a prominent historian of and advocate for the humanities. Under his leadership, the National Humanities Center, which is based in North Carolina, has sponsored initiatives that have encouraged dialogue between the humanities and natural and social sciences. His most recent book, The Humanities and the Dream of America, was published earlier this year.

The Knight Center is located on Washington University’s Danforth Campus, near the intersection of Forest Park Parkway and Throop Drive. The Women’s Building is located a short walk east.

Both talks are free and open to the public but space is limited and RSVPs are requested. To register, call (314) 935-5576 or cenhum@artsci.wustl.edu.