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WVU Humanities Center announces ‘The Future’ as 2019-2020 Speakers’ Series annual theme

a woman at a podium speaks to a group

The WVU Humanities Center, in partnership with the WVU College of Law, WVU Press and the Appalachian Justice Institute, hosted a discussion with Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll to launch Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy.

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At a time when West Virginia is looking to chart new pathways toward greater prosperity, the West Virginia University Humanities Center has chosen “The Future” as its 2019-2020 annual theme. 

Throughout the academic year, featured speakers will share insights on how humans today and in the past have grappled with their beliefs, fears and fantasies about the future, and how individuals experience the complex and real interactions among people, ideas, technology and the planet.  

Guest speakers include scholars, poets, novelists, historians, musicians, activists and entrepreneurs. Students, faculty, staff and community members are welcome to attend the lectures free of charge.

Discussions will cover how people before the Civil War perceived the future and shaped it, while others will look at whose futures are represented in the present-day. Speakers also will touch on how people look to the past to reimagine the future, how humans interact with nature and technology and what can be done to change the future. 

The series also attests to the significant role and impact that humanities perspectives bring to discussions and applicable outcomes concerning the future.  

“Although often maligned as backward-looking, the research of our 2019-2020 speakers shows that people in the past and present look toward the future in order to understand it, prepare for it, use it as inspiration, and bring it into being,” said Rhonda Reymond, interim director of the WVU Humanities Center. “Our speakers’ work is groundbreaking and provocative, comes from diverse perspectives and represents a variety of humanities disciplines and humanistic inquiry. We are excited to welcome our speakers to campus and have dynamic conversations that examine the construct of the future and what this means for the human experience.”

“The Future” Speakers’ Series will close with a two-day mini-conference in the spring semester entitled, “Speculative Appalachian Futures.” Co-hosted by the WVU Humanities Center and WVU Libraries, the conference will provide a venue for researchers and creative thinkers to collaboratively speculate about rewriting and transcending stereotypes of what it means to be Appalachian and how to create space for greater opportunity for all. Panels and participatory workshops will pose how we can visualize, imagine, create and enact Appalachian futures that speak to the diverse and innovative cultures of the region and bring them to the forefront of discussions of what it means to be Appalachian. 

All lectures are free and open to the public. See the full 2019-2020 Speakers’ Series event schedule and descriptions on the Humanities Center’s Annual Theme page. Upcoming events are listed below.

Monday, Oct. 21
A Reading from His Book, “Southernmost”
Guest Speaker: Silas House, National Endowment for the Humanities Chair in Appalachian Studies and Assistant Professor at Berea College and fiction faculty member at Spalding University’s MFA in Creative Writing
7 p.m., Milano Reading Room, Downtown Library

Monday, Jan. 27
Black Liveness Matters: Karel Čapek meets Blind Tom 
Guest Speaker: George E. Lewis, musicologist, composer, experimental musician and the Edwin H. Case Professor of Music from Columbia University
7 p.m., Bloch Hall, WVU Creative Arts Center

Monday, Feb. 10
Looming Civil War: A History of the Future 
Guest Speaker: Jason Phillips, historian and Eberly Professor of Civil War Studies at WVU
7 p.m., Milano Reading Room, WVU Downtown Library

Tuesday, Feb. 25
Humanities: Engaging with the Past, Present and Future
Guest Speakers: WVU Humanities Center 2019-2020 Grant Recipients
6 p.m., Rhododendron Room, WVU Mountainlair

Tuesday, March 10
Predictive Texts: Logic, Form, and Poetry
Guest Speaker: Johanna Winant, Assistant Professor of English at WVU
7 p.m., Milano Reading Room, WVU Downtown Library

Wednesday, March 25
Feral Atlas: The More-Than-Human Anthropocene
Guest Speaker: Anna Lowenhaupt-Tsing, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz
7 p.m., Room 125, Brooks Hall

Thursday and Friday, April 2-3
Speculative Appalachian Futures Conference
Keynote Speakers:
Crystal Good, poet, activist and entrepreneur
Gina Mamone, entrepreneur, rural activist, artist and editor of “Looking at Appalachia”
Times and Locations TBD, WVU Campus



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