Spring Faculty Seminar

Each spring term, the week after commencement, we bring one scholar to campus to host our Faculty Seminar, a five-day intensive event featuring advanced readings or film screenings and revolving a particular topic of wide interest that cuts across departments and disciplines. As space permits, graduate students and faculty members from other local institutions may also participate. We advertise and provide information about participating in this seminar through our weekly e-newsletter, which you can subscribe to by providing your name and email address in the "Stay Up-to-Date" block on the right-hand side of our website pages.

Spring 2019 Faculty Seminar

Creativities: Unpacking the Varieties of a Key Normative Ideal

April 29–May 3, 2019 (3:00-5:00 pm)

Led by Eitan Wilf (Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Anthropology), with collaboration from Susan Cohen (Pitt, Business), Aaron Johnson (Pitt, Music), Alison Langmead (Pitt, History of Art and Architecture and SCI), Michael Madison (Pitt, Law), and Christian Schunn (Pitt, Psychology)

Pitt’s Humanities Center is pleased to announce and invite participation in our Spring 2019 Faculty Seminar.  As in previous years, this seminar will give faculty and graduate students an opportunity to think together about an issue of contemporary concern within the humanities.

This year’s visiting fellow and seminar leader, Eitan Wilf, is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  He is a provocative analyst of creativity and the author of two books—School for Cool: The Academic Jazz Program and the Paradox of Institutionalized Creativity (Chicago, 2014) and Creativity on Demand: The Dilemmas of Innovation in an Accelerated Age (Chicago, 2019).

Wilf describes the seminar in the following terms: “Creativity has become a dominant normative ideal in the present historical moment.  Individuals are encouraged and summoned to realize their creative potential; school curricula are evaluated according to whether or not they help them do so; and firms, cities, and nation-states are now seeking the advice of experts in an effort to harness creativity as a capitalist means of production and as a source of value.  On the one hand, these multiple, historically- and culturally-specific instantiations of creativity might suggest that creativity has become a meaningless term, a kind of pragmatically ambiguous master trope that is used to naturalize ideologically suspect positions in different ethnographic contexts.  On the other hand, this multiplicity might provide an opportunity to unpack the specificity and cultural potency of creativity by contrasting and comparing its numerous cultural and institutional instantiations.  Training a focused lens on these two, not necessarily mutually-exclusive possibilities, this seminar will unpack both the varieties and unifying dimensions, as well as the potentialities and pitfalls, of contemporary norms, practices, and meanings of creativity as they find expression in the fields of intellectual property rights, improvised music, business innovation, cognition, and computation.”

A cultural and semiotic anthropologist, Wilf employs ethnography as his principal method of investigation, but his work unfolds at the intersection of a number of fields.  This year’s Humanities Center Faculty Seminar is thus organized around a series of collaborative encounters with Pitt faculty working on creativity from different disciplinary perspectives: Susan Cohen on business innovation, Aaron Johnson on musical improvisation, Alison Langmead on computational modeling of creativity, Michael Madison on intellectual property law, and Christian Schunn on analogy and innovative design.

If you are interested in participating in this seminar, please RSVP to the Humanities Center (humctr@pitt.edu) to confirm.  All are welcome, but these seminars have filled in the past, so an early confirmation is recommended to guarantee your place for the five days.  If you have questions concerning the seminar, please direct them to David Marshall (dlm91@pitt.edu).

A reading group led by the Center’s Associate Director, Dan Kubis, will hold four preparatory discussions through the spring term to begin conversation on the seminar’s thematic.  Graduate students who wish to receive credit for participation in this reading group may enroll in a 1-credit ENGLIT course, “Studies in the Humanities” (ENGLIT 2001), which is cross-listed with Cultural Studies.  Questions concerning the reading group may be directed to Dan Kubis (dankubis@pitt.edu).


Past Faculty Seminars

Spring 2018: Robin Bernstein, Professor of American History at Harvard University, "The Tragedy of William Freeman: A Story of Prison Labor, Mass Murder, and Slavery in the North"

Spring 2017: John Durham Peters, Professor of English and of Film & Media Studies at Yale University, "Atmospheres and Inscriptions"

Spring 2016: Lydia Goehr, Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, “Emancipation Narratives in the Arts”

Spring 2015: Michael Wood, Professor Emeritus of English at Princeton University, led the seminar "Crime and Crime Again"

Spring 2014: Lauren Berlant, George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of English at the University of Chicago, led the seminar "Affects of the Commons"

Spring 2013: Priscilla Wald, Professor of English and Women's Studies at Duke University, led the seminar "Science, Culture, and the Human After World War II"

Spring 2012: Wai Chee Dimock, William Lampson Professor of English and American Studies at Yale, led the seminar "American Literature in the World"

Spring 2011: George Lipsitz, Professor in the Department of Black Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, led the seminar "Music, Race, and Place"

Spring 2010: Bruce Robbins, Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, led the seminar "Rethinking Cosmopolitanism"