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Research Seminars and Workshops

two fellows looking over a manuscript.UTHC Research Seminars are research collectives organized annually around compelling areas of intellectual inquiry; they address emerging issues and trends in humanities scholarship. Seminars are convened by at least two core faculty members (tenure-stream faculty working on topics central to humanities research) primarily from the UTHC affiliated departments (Classics, English, History, Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Art, Music, and Theatre).  These core conveners take responsibility for organizing the seminar, inviting visiting speakers, and providing opportunities for participants to present work-in-progress.  Seminars meet regularly (at least five times per semester), are open to faculty and advanced graduate students, and typically bring together researchers from different departments and, often, different colleges on the UT campus.  These are not just “reading groups.”  Research seminars should

  • explore issues of central importance to humanities scholarship through readings and invited lectures
  • support collaborative research by inspiring shared research projects and experiential learning
  • rigorously engage participants’ own research work in the form of discussion, evaluation, and critical feedback
  • show promise for material outcomes such as scholarly publication, grants, or other forms of publicly disseminated, peer-reviewed intellectual work. 

All seminars are held in the Humanities Center building.  Funding for individual seminars is competitive and subject to availability.  Faculty should inform their department heads about their intention to propose a seminar before applying.

The deadline for submission of new and renewing research seminar applications is July 1 of the current calendar year.

Current Seminars


Contact | Vejas Liulevicius, History

Freedom From All Sides - Philosophical IssuesFreedom From All Sides - Philosophical Issues

Contact | Jon Garthoff, Philosophy

Gender and Sexuality in Historical PerspectiveGender and Sexuality in Historical Perspective

Contact | Margaret Andersen, History

Late AntiquityLate Antiquity

Contact | Gregor Kalas, Architecture and Design & Jacob Latham, History

Latin America and the Caribbean: Disputed VisionsLatin America and the Caribbean: Disputed Visions

Contact | Rudyard Alcocer, Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures

Middle East StudiesMiddle East Studies

Contact | Erin Darby, Religious Studies

Nineteenth-Century British StudiesNineteenth-Century British Studies

Contact | Nancy Henry, English

Tennessee Workshop in Food, Agriculture, and SocietyTennessee Workshop in Food, Agriculture, and Society

Contact | Tore Olsson, History

The Transatlantic EnlightenmentThe Transatlantic Enlightenment

Contact | Katy Chiles, English


Contact | Charles Sanft, History

Previous Seminars

Contact: Megan Bryson, Religious Studies

Scholars of East Asia are familiar with China's claim to centrality in its name Zhongguo, meaning "Middle Kingdom." China has been an important cultural center in East Asia, and other countries in the region have developed their own cultural, political, and economic centers as well. These centers are defined in relation to peripheries, namely the geographic or metaphorical spaces that lie far from institutional power, such as the far north in Japan and the far west in China. The faculty research seminar "Centers and Peripheries in East Asia" explores how people in East Asia have conceived of centers and peripheries in different time periods and regions. Centers and peripheries – both geographical and metaphorical – lack stability synchronically, in the sense that they are relative and do not have fixed meanings: one person's center can be another person's periphery. They also lack stability from a diachronic perspective in that centers and peripheries change over time. Examining the processes by which people construct centers and peripheries allows us to develop new ways of thinking about what is "central" in the study of East Asia, and to create new kinds of knowledge rather than merely reinforce received knowledge.

For more information about this seminar, click here.

Contact: Jered Sprecher, Art

"Contemporary Arts and Society" is a Faculty Research Seminar concerned with ongoing developments and debates in aesthetics, theory, media, and practice. How do we define the contemporary, and what does it mean to work with cultural materials that have no canon? What art practices and aesthetic theories are unique to our own moment, or distinctive of it, and what is their relationship to the world in the 21st century? What is the relationship between the contemporary and older art categories and periodizations?  The seminar brings together current and future scholars from a variety of disciplines (English, German, Italian, Art and Art History, Cinema Studies, Digital Humanities, and others) to investigate these and other key scholarly questions related to the arts of the present.

For more information about this seminar, click here.

Contact: Ashley Maynor, Library

The so-called digital humanities is a burgeoning and contested field in academia. Lauded as a solution to the "death" of humanities and loathed for its status as an ambiguous buzz word, this seminar seeks, at its core, to shed light on both the term and the contemporary practice of digital humanities scholarship.To this end, we envision our seminar as an opportunity to explore the wide field of digital scholarship, which includes faculty, librarians, artists, technologists, and alternative academics whose collaborations are advancing humanities research into new digital realms. In particular, our inclusion of alternate academics is aimed to address the post-graduation challenges for new PhDs in the Humanities.

For more information about this seminar, click here.

Contact: Jay Rubenstein, History

“Holy War in the Middle Ages” will focus on one of the Middle Ages’ central historical problems: the character of religious violence and its effects on cultural developments in both Europe and the Middle East. Our primary focus will be the crusade movement, which began in the late eleventh century and continued into the fourteenth century and arguably beyond. The Frankish-Muslim wars for control of Jerusalem by itself is a massive topic, but recent crusade scholarship has drawn into its orbit the so-called Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula; wars between Normans, Greeks, and Muslims for control of Sicily; internal campaigns against heresy in Europe; European missionary movements into the Mongol Empire; and religious violence and persecution more broadly construed. “Holy War in the Middle Ages” thus will address the traditional narrative of the crusades (beginning with Urban II’s declaration of war for Jerusalem in 1095 and continuing to the Fall of Acre in 1291) but will add broader theoretical considerations into the mix as well. Our fundamental question will be, "How does war change when God says that killing is not just acceptable but by itself virtuous?"

For more information about this seminar, click here.

Contact: Charles Sanft, History

The University of Tennessee gathers a considerable body of scholars who work with manuscripts in their research. These manuscripts come from many chronological periods and geographical areas, from antiquity to the eighteenth century, from Sinai to Yunnan, and record languages from Arabic to Old English. The Manuscript Cultures seminar is a regular, informal meeting of faculty, graduate students, and guests for presentations and conversation about our ongoing work with manuscripts. Its themes span pragmatic issues of accessing and interpreting handwritten materials; abstract concepts like writing's relationship to power; and questions that pass through and beyond both of these, such as practices of writing, speaking, listening, and reading in the production and dissemination of knowledge. We discuss multilingual manuscripts, excavated materials, religious writings, and the working texts of literary creation. An interdisciplinary group of faculty and graduate students make up the seminar, representing Classics, English, History, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and Religious Studies.

For more information about this seminar, click here.

Contact: Jay Rubenstein, History

For the better part of the last century medieval scholars have, by instinct, challenged traditional borders, both in terms of the geographic scope of their research and their willingness to cross disciplinary boundaries. The faculty research seminar "Medieval Frontiers: Intellectual, Cultural, and Linguistic," continues in this intellectual tradition, seeking to reconstruct the geographic and imaginary worlds that gave form to life in the Middle Ages and led to the construction of the national identities that continue to shape fundamental assumptions about today's world. While addressing the significance of the boundaries that have defined and continue to define peoples, this seminar will also give careful consideration to alien groups, living both within and outside the Christian European world—particularly, but not limited to, Muslims, Jews, and heretics. An awareness of how these groups coexisted and clashed, often violently, with dominant Christian communities, is an essential task in the redefinition of the medieval world and the frontiers that existed both at its borders and within its superficially unified communities.

Contact: Maria Stehle, Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures

The Faculty Research Seminar on Modern Germany and Central Europe draws on UT's cross-departmental strength in German Studies, joining together faculty and graduate students from the German Program, the History Department, and the Department of Religious Studies. The seminar provides an ongoing forum for the interdisciplinary discussion of recent work on German-speaking Europe; its core participants present their own works-in-progress and also bring in outside scholars who are doing research in related fields.

For more information about this seminar, click here.

Contact: Dawn Coleman, English

The Faculty Research Seminar on Religion in North America is a multidisciplinary intellectual community designed to foster scholarship that addresses questions of religion and secularity in North America from 1500 to the present. The group welcomes faculty and graduate students from any discipline in the humanities or social sciences; participants thus far have hailed from Religious Studies, English, History, and Art History. Most meetings focus on the presentation and discussion of a participant's pre-circulated work in progress, with lead discussants beginning the session with prepared remarks. Each semester the group also sets aside a session to discuss a book or series of articles relevant to participants' research interests and hosts a visiting speaker who meets with the seminar and gives a public lecture on some aspect of religion in North America. In Spring 2012, the seminar sponsored Dr. Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Professor and Department Chair of Religious Studies at UNC Chapel Hill and Adjunct Professor of American Studies, who gave a well-attended talk titled, "Saints of Darkness: Mormons, Race, and the Issue of an African American Priesthood."

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