Four University of Hartford professors have been named Faculty Fellows of the Humanities Center for 2018-2019: Robert Lang, Karla Loya, Avi Patt and Beth Richards. Each fellow will be working on a scholarly project related to the 2018-2019 theme of the Humanities Center Seminar, “Evidence in a Post-Truth World,” developed and led by Lauren Cook, Associate Professor of Cinema.
Each fellow will give a talk as part of the Spring 2019 Humanities Lecture Series associated with this theme.
Robert Lang, Professor of Cinema (A&S), will present on the 2013 Alexander Payne film Nebraska in a lecture called “‘I don’t care what you think!’: Traveling Through Trump Country in Nebraska.” Professor Lang sees this film as an allegory of a failed society and the damaged lives in the Great Plain states, a region of the country Trump overwhelmingly won. In his lecture, he will focus on two of the most singular and intertwined features of the Trump era: conspiracy theory and “fake news,” both of which he considers central to Nebraska’s narrative.
Karla Loya, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership (ENHP), will talk on “Teaching in Fear: Academic Freedom and Social Media,” a discussion of the ways in which U.S. college classrooms have changed since the 2016 presidential elections due to an increasingly polarized social climate, a growing disregard for evidence and facts, and the ubiquity of technology. In her lecture, she will explore how these shifts threaten academic freedom and have led to what can be considered “teaching in an era of fear,” where anyone with an electronic device can capture any comment, post it on social media, and create a viral response, regardless of context or merit.
Avi Patt, Associate Professor of Judaic Studies (A&S), will discuss “Confronting Holocaust Denial in the 21st Century,” exploring how, despite the easy availability of more information than ever before, Holocaust denial is on the rise on the internet as well as in European and American political discourse. In his lecture, he will grapple with the following questions: How can we as educators engage students in the process of recognizing denial, while not inadvertently sanctioning illegitimate viewpoints? How do we teach students to recognize fraudulent sources of information? What is the appeal of conspiracy theories that seek to bolster discrimination by questioning the past? In a post-truth world, are there certain truths which cannot be denied?
Beth Richards, Assistant Professor of English (A&S), will focus on the question “Is Persuasion Dead?”, pertinent in today’s world where no one agrees about what information is true or false, validation of evidence becomes increasingly complex, and all appeals are considered gross manipulation. In her talk, Professor Richards will draw upon the contemporary applications of Aristotle’s Rhetoric and examine how persuasion might still be possible in a society where those who hold different perspectives are more prone not to consider their opponents’ side of an argument.
The Humanities Center Honors Seminar is a two-semester course for honors students. The Lecture Series on “Evidence in a Post-Truth World” in the Spring 2019 semester is open to all students, faculty and staff as well as members of the community. Lectures begin at 7:30 in the Mali Lecture Hall (in Dana Hall) and are free and open to the general public. The Humanities Center at the University of Hartford supports interdisciplinary scholarship focusing on the humanities through the arts, sciences, technology, media, psychology, history, film, philosophy, music and literature. For more information, contact Nicholas Ealy, director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.