In the spring of 2017, I received funding from the NEH program Dialogues on the Experience of War with project co-director Andrae Marak, Professor of History and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at GSU. Our project, “War, Trauma, and the Humanities,” unrolled over the course of the 2017-18 academic year. The centerpiece of the project was a for-credit class, run under an English programs special topics number, which featured a team of five student-veteran discussion facilitators. The student-veterans were selected in a competitive process and for the six weeks prior to class, the project directors conducted training that introduced some of the humanities materials and offered pedagogical foundations and practice. The Twitter hashtag #ENGL4080 offers a glimpse of project activities, links to related material, and my photos from museums and other cultural heritage sites.
Chicago regional coverage of the project includes articles in the Daily Southtown (4/14/17) and the Citizen Suburban Times (9/27/17), and Dennis Sullivan, author of the April story on the project, visited class in November for a follow-up story in the Daily Southtown (11/10/17). The Michigan State University College of Arts & Letters (10/12/17) published an alumna profile of me that focuses on the project, and GSU’s Angela Denk wrote a profile of the student-veteran team for the GSU Newsroom (10/30/17). The culminating event of the class, open to the public, was recorded in the GSU TV studios on December 4, 2017: click for the 60-minute edit of Veterans Speak: War, Trauma, and the Humanities posted to YouTube. In May 2018, student-veteran team member Victor Garcia gave the central address for the Crete, Illinois Memorial Day observances, an honor he lived up to with an eloquent speech; read more in the Daily Southtown article (5/29/18).
Project co-director Andrae Marak and I were thrilled to be awarded a second grant from the NEH Dialogues on the Experience of War program. We led a year-long series of activities on the theme of “War Memory and Commemoration in the Humanities,” including a for-credit course taught during the fall semester using the same model as the 2017 grant with embedded student-veteran discussion facilitators. We observed the centenary of the end of the First World War with a full day of humanities programming on the Monday after Veterans Day. Held in various locations on campus, the day’s events included a poetry discussion, a panel of student-veteran and student participants from both grant years sharing WW1 text selections and commentary, an open house at the Veterans Resource Center, screening of a documentary film made by a student-veteran, and a guided tour of the veteran art exhibit curated as part of the grant project.
During the spring of 2019, grant-trained teams of student-veterans and students engaged the public through a series of site visits. On February 26, we held an event at Prairie State College, and on March 19 a veterans-only team visited the Benjamin O. Davis VFW Post 311 in Richton Park, Illinois. In April, humanities discussions took place at Purdue University Northwest in Hammond, Indiana, and at the Matteson, Illinois, public library. The format for all of these events was a panel presentation of selected humanities materials, discussion, then audience reading and engagement with several poems, followed by informal conversations and networking. We were pleased and grateful to have some audience members attend multiple events. Photos and other material related to these events can be found on Twitter via the hashtag #ENGL4080.
CONTRIBUTING TO THE CONVERSATION:
In February of 2018, I gave a talk on our grant-project work as public humanities at the University of Washington’s Simpson Center for the Humanities (sponsored by UW Scandinavian Studies and the Fielding Endowment for Norwegian Studies). In May, I was one of two project directors invited to offer “notes from the field” during the public portion of the NEH Dialogues on the Experience of War project directors’ meetings in Washington, D.C., sharing project successes and lessons learned to new grant recipients and a public audience. Project co-director Andrae Marak and I have presented together on our NEH grant projects at two scholarly conferences: we offered a 45-minute roundtable at the World History Association Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in June, 2018, and were part of a panel at the War, Literature & Arts Conference at the Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado in September, 2018. At the January 2019 Modern Language Assocation (MLA) Convention, I presented “Public Scholarship: In Person, In Print,” which drew on the NEH project as an exemplar of what the public humanities can accomplish through direct, in-person engagement.