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WVU Humanities Center to host ‘Quality of Life’ speaker series

Humanities Series feature

The Humanities Center is focusing its 2018-19 speaker series on "Quality of Life."

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The West Virginia University Humanities Center will focus its 2018-19 speaker series on “Quality of Life,” addressing a tradition as old as the very idea of a university.

The series will illustrate how humanities inquiry stands alongside economic indicators, technological developments and medical innovations in improving quality of life in Appalachia and beyond. The eight events, which will take place at venues across Morgantown will represent a wide variety of disciplines and will explore cultural objects and moments that lend themselves to richer understandings of our world and ways of living in it.

“We want to make clear that the humanities aren’t just ivory-tower pursuits,” said interim director Ryan Claycomb. “Our speakers have something to offer about topics directly relevant to our daily lives: our relationship to the environment, improving our lives during illness, or connecting our values to our sense of well-being.”  

The series begins in the fall semester with an event co-sponsored with the University Libraries’ “Art in the Libraries” program. “Confluences: The Human Dimensions of Water,” a panel presentation, will discuss the issues of human experience involved in West Virginia’s local watershed.  Panelists will include Barbara Howe (History, Emeritus), Nicholas Stump (Law Library), Sharon Ryan (Philosophy), and Stephanie Foote (English).

Novelist Emily St. John Mandel will visit WVU mid-September to discuss her novel Station Eleven, this year’s selection for the Campus Read program.

In October, Humanities Center writer-in-residence Ann Pancake will talk on the values of Appalachia and of academia in “Double Vision.” 

The Center’s final event of the Fall 2018 semester will include a public lecture, “Well-Being as Value Fulfillment” by University of Minnesota Philosopher Valerie Tiberius.

Spring 2019 events begin with a panel entitled “Bodies of Truth: Personal Narratives on Illness, Disability, and Medicine,” focusing on a new collection of works that highlights the role of creative practice in healthcare. 

A pair of events in February revolve around contemporary Appalachian identity. Silas House will give a reading of his new novel, Southernmost. The following evening will feature a screening of the documentary hillbilly, which explores rural identity and poverty in contemporary America, followed by a talkback with House as well as filmmakers Ashley York and Sally Rubin. These events are also part of the Dan and Betsy Brown Lecture Series.

The WVU Humanities Center will also partner with the Morgantown Public Library to highlight recent WVU humanities scholarship on this year’s theme. “Humanities Approaches to Quality of Life” will include recipients of 2018 WVU Humanities Center Research Grants.

Anthropologist Kathleen Stewart from University of Texas, Austin will conclude the Center’s series with a public lecture on “Worldly Thinking,” which ponders our sense of place in an increasingly globalized world. 

The WVU Humanities Center was founded in 2017. The Center cultivates critical humanistic inquiry, fosters collaborative, interdisciplinary, and publicly accessible scholarship and teaches to benefit the common good of the university, the state, and the world. The Center hosts several events throughout the academic year geared toward humanistic inquiry.

For more information on the Speakers Series or on other activities sponsored by the WVU Humanities Center, please email the center at or visit the Humanities Center’s website. All events are free and open to the public, and are available on the Humanities Center’s Events page. Several of the discussions will also be archived on the Humanities Center’s website. 



CONTACT: Ryan Claycomb
WVU Humanities Center

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