A graphic with a maroon background overlaid with blue vines, a blue globe, and the words "Humanities Unbound April 11-14"
University Announces First Trinity Interdisciplinary Conference in the Humanities
Mark your calendars for events from April 11-14

Trinity University is excited to announce that it will host the first Trinity Interdisciplinary Conference in the Humanities (TICH) titled “Humanities Unbound” from April 11-14, 2024. Through a lineup of new and well-loved events, the conference will provide a space for scholars, students, educators, and the community to gather to discuss and exchange ideas.

The conference has come together through the efforts of the School of Arts and Humanities, Conferences and Special Programs, Trinity University Press, Coates Library, the Trinity University Humanities Collective, and with guidance from Kyle Gillette ’01, Ph.D., the newly appointed Special Adviser to the Provost for Expression and Civil Discourse. We asked Gillette to share his thoughts on the conference’s theme, key events, and overall significance to the University.

Read more to hear from Gillette:

​“Humanities Unbound” is about humanistic inquiry freed from boundaries that separate disciplines or restrict research to the ivory tower. For example, a scholar of religion might study the significance of sacrifice in particular religious traditions, while a philosopher may ask what sacrifice is or what it means to citizenship. Each will do so through highly specialized fields that have developed through centuries of conversation. Historians, classicists, or archaeologists would use different kinds of evidence and reasoning to contextualize how sacrifice has shaped civic institutions. Scholars of literature, art history, and performance studies may explore how images or narratives of sacrifice play out in various artistic forms. These experts examine different objects and ask different kinds of questions developed through distinct fields of discourse. But they also relate to each other’s deepest stakes. This conference encourages people working in disparate fields to engage one another’s ideas across the boundaries that separate them.

Academic disciplines develop depth and precision from their specialized methods and areas of study, but part of what makes a liberal arts education so meaningful is the connection undergraduate students make between fields. I remember being a student at Trinity, talking to my roommate at three in the morning about the nature of time and how cultures transform. We drew from all kinds of classes: a seminar on poetry of the Harlem Renaissance, one on Taoism and Buddhism, and another on the history of the French Revolution. We were informed by classes outside the humanities, too: human evolution, geology, economics, political science. As much as the classroom, our 3 a.m. conversations teased out the meaning and purpose of our education. That’s true for so many students. That’s why studying the humanities is such a core element of a liberal arts education. During this conference, students, faculty, staff, and the San Antonio public will be able to embrace that holistic liberal arts experience to engage vital questions across disciplines.

​The theme of “Humanities Unbound” also refers to freedom from the boundaries that can limit these disciplines to the academy. Far from esoteric or lofty concerns, the humanities ask questions fundamental to, well, humanity. What does it mean to live a good life? How do different narrative forms memorialize the dead? Why do certain images or tropes repeatedly emerge from separate periods and cultures? How do people communicate across social differences? Where can citizens from diverse backgrounds and experiences find resources to build political trust, to engage in democracy? This conference invites students and faculty to share their humanities work in a public fashion, communicating what’s at stake to a broader community.

And that public access is key. The whole conference, free and open to the public, is bookended with the importance of art, democracy, and access to education. Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street and Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories, starts the conference on April 11 with this year’s Arturo Madrid Lecture, talking about her life among artists in San Antonio. The next afternoon, Dr. Danielle Allen delivers the Flora Cameron Lecture. Dr. Allen is a Harvard University professor of political philosophy, public policy, and ethics; the director of the Allen Lab for Democracy Renovation; and the director of the Democratic Knowledge Project. She will discuss democracy and citizenship in conversation with Dr. Mike Fischer, Trinity’s Janet S. Dicke Professor in Public Humanities. Afterward, Dr. Allen will meet with the student reading group that has been gathering with President Beasley, Provost Mustain, and me to discuss her book Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown V. Board of Education. After two days of interdisciplinary faculty panels on time and space in the humanities and student sessions on a wide range of topics, we’ll have a panel about the importance of the freedom to read featuring First Lady of San Antonio Erika Prosper and moderated by San Antonio Express-News columnist Cary Clack (this event is co-sponsored by Coates Library and the San Antonio chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women). The play Fefu and Her Friends by María Irene Fornés, which runs throughout the conference, involves seven women planning a salon event to raise money for arts in education. Democracy and access to education lie at the heart of this conference. And, as Dr. Allen’s work shows, those two things go hand in hand.

It's more important than ever for universities like Trinity to be a beacon for education’s value, not only to prepare students for careers of the future but also to critically assess society and reimagine possibilities. Not only to hone expertise but also to think and talk across differences. As such, the university is a crucible for democracy. Humanities and interdisciplinary connections are fundamental to that mission. At Trinity, students learn not only how to meet challenges but also to discern lives of meaning and purpose, individually and in relation to one another. Thinking across the humanities helps the whole community reflect on the past and imagine the future.

Each of the conference’s student presentations and faculty roundtables contributes to that mission. The first faculty panel, on Saturday morning, explores “Humanities Time: death, dying, and mortality” from different disciplinary perspectives. The second, on Sunday, explores “Humanities Space: the architecture and material culture of humanist inquiry.” Each student session explores ideas across disciplines and puts them into conversation.

In my new role as Special Adviser to the Provost for Expression and Civil Discourse, I work to facilitate discussions that shed light on vital questions and communicate across different ways of seeing the world. I hope this conference, like Trinity’s Autumn Festival of the Arts, sparks meaningful conversations far beyond the walls of the University—even at three in the morning.

Mark your calendars for the conference’s lineup of events:

Thursday, April 11

Arturo Madrid Lecture Series presents Sandra Cisneros, “Keeping San Antonio Lamé: My Life Among los Artistas”
7-8:30 p.m. | Laurie Auditorium

Friday, April 12

Flora Cameron Lecture Series presents Dr. Danielle Allen in conversation with Dr. Mike Fischer 
5-6 p.m. | Laurie Auditorium

Fefu and Her Friends by María Irene Fornés, directed by Dr. Rachel Joseph 
8-11 p.m. | Stieren Theater

Saturday, April 13

Faculty-Led Interdisciplinary Roundtable Discussion, "Humanities Time: death, dying and mortality"
9:30-11 a.m. | Mabee Auditorium (Dicke Hall 104)

Student Presentations Concurrent Sessions 
11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.| Dicke Hall classrooms and seminar rooms

San Antonio Book Festival
9 a.m.-5 p.m. | Central Library and UTSA Southwest Campus

Fefu and Her Friends by María Irene Fornés, directed by Dr. Rachel Joseph 
8-11 p.m. | Stieren Theater

Sunday, April 14

Faculty-Led Interdisciplinary Roundtable Discussion, "Humanities Space: the architecture and material culture of humanist inquiry”
9:30-11 a.m. | Mabee Auditorium (Dicke Hall 104)

Student Presentations Concurrent Sessions 
11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.| Dicke Hall classrooms and seminar rooms

Don’t Mess with (Books in) Texas with First Lady of San Antonio Erika Prosper, moderated by San Antonio Express-News columnist Cary Clack
2-4 p.m. | Chapman Auditorium

Fefu and Her Friends by María Irene Fornés, directed by Dr. Rachel Joseph 
2:30-5:30 p.m. | Stieren Theater

All these events are free and open to the public. For more information on these events, visit events.trinity.edu/tuhu.

For 150 years, Trinity University has transformed challenge into boundless opportunity. Join the force in motion at www.trinity.edu.

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