The strength and liveliness of education in the humanities at Bryn Mawr has flourished in the presence of its nationally and internationally known graduate programs.
A $441,600 challenge grant awarded to the College in June by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will help the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences offer new opportunities for interdisciplinary study to graduate students in three of its most storied departments: Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology; Greek, Latin and Classical Studies; and History of Art. The grant, which requires the College to raise matching funds of $1.76 million—$135,000 of that before January 31, 2005—will provide an endowment and bridge funding for curricular innovation, graduate fellowships, museum and library internships, and visits by distinguished scholars.
“The three departments together offer a unique perspective on the Western tradition, focusing on the origins, history, and transmission of classical art, literature, and aesthetics from Ur to present-day America,” according to Dale Kinney, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Professor of History of Art. “These departments have always been collegial and have a history of interdisciplinary collaboration. This relationship was formalized in 2001 with the creation of the Graduate Group, whose mission is to offer a form of graduate education that prepares future scholars and teachers to shape the intellectual landscapes of the next generation, without losing the rigor of inquiry and intellectual values that inform the traditional disciplines for which we are already known.” The departments remain autonomous and each continues to offer its own M.A. and Ph.D. degrees.
“One cannot have powerful interdisciplinary work without the participation of strong departments, but interdisciplinary work enhances those departments in turn through intellectual cross-fertilization among scholars, and by making students aware of multiple methods and kinds of reasoning,” says Graduate Group Director Barbara Lane. Professor Emeritus of History and Andrew W. Mellon Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, Lane is the founder and former Director of the College’s earliest and longest running interdisciplinary undergraduate program, Growth and Structure of Cities.
“This breadth is particularly important at the present day, when new theories of interpretation (feminist, semiotic, post modernist) have proliferated in all areas of humanistic study, while at the same time new models of scholarship drawn from geography, economics, environmental studies, sociology and anthropology are becoming ever more relevant to every kind of humanistic study,” Lane says.
The grant and matching funds will support four initiatives, designed to enrich graduate training in the three disciplines represented in the Graduate Group with distinctive multidisciplinary opportunities:
Interdepartmental graduate seminars on shared topics or critical theories.
* Two new fellowships for graduate students who have the skills to work in more than one discipline.
* Internships that partner Bryn Mawr with several Philadelphia-area museums to educate students in the analysis and care of material culture.
* Visits by distinguished scholars whose research embraces multiple areas of specialization.
Among the most exciting joint endeavors are the interdepartmental seminars (GSems), co-taught by faculty in at least two and usually three departments. With a planning grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Group has already developed several successful seminars, including one on Rome as a perduring place and as a leitmotif in Western thought, “Ruin and Recovery,” and one on gender as a critical tool “Gendering the Past” (see sidebar on page 4). GSems offer opportunities for students and faculty to compare the critical approaches and knowledge bases of their home disciplines to those of other, cognate fields.