The University Record, April 2, 1996

Institute for the Humanities announces theme 

From the Institute for the Humanities

Faculty and graduate students can plan now for the 1997&endash;98 year when the Institute for the Humanities takes up the theme of the "Narrative."

According to the theme statement, which defines the wide scope of projects the Institute will begin seeking next fall, "narratives help people give structure to their worlds and find meaning in their lives. All religions have sacred stories, and narratives of the past often including both myth and history provide many cultures with the fundamental stuff of their identity." Projects might develop from the study of biography and autobiography, comparisons between ancient narratives and the modern novel, and new ways to interpret legal studies, art history, and philosophy. While some may think of narrative purely in terms of written text, James Winn, director of the Institute, urges candidates to think more broadly. Many cultures use dance and visual representation to tell their stories. Non-representational arts, such as abstract painting and instrumental music, may also prompt audiences to use the language of narrative to explain what they have heard or seen.

Winn also notes that narrative has become a hot topic among scholars in many fields. While literary scholars say for malist narrative analysis is no longer fashionable, some are integrating the study of formal properties with questions about how audiences receive, understand, misunderstand, and use narratives. Similarly, while many historians are suspicious of the inevitable distortions produced by shaping the past into a narrative, others have strongly urged a return to narrative history.

The Institute for the Humanities awards year-long fellowships to Michigan faculty and graduate students who take an original, interdisciplinary approach to the year's theme. Applications will be available in May for the next year's study of the "Narrative." For further information, call 936-3518 or send e-mail to humanities.institute@umich.edu.