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Robert Penn Warren Center partners with Humanities Tennessee

Humanities Tennessee and the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt have a long history of successful collaborations. We have done a number of programs together over the years, including a series of public lectures, coordinating meetings of public humanities personnel in the region, and programming around joint invitations to various chairs of the National Endowment for the Humanities to visit our region.  

In 2010 at the Southern Festival of Books, the Robert Penn Warren Center collaborated with Humanities Tennessee to host a series of theme-based discussion sessions related to the topic "Building Community in the 21st Century—Perspectives on Civility and Democracy." Sessions included:

  • "A Conversation on Civility and Democracy" with Howard Baker, James Leach, and John Seigenthaler
  • "American Grace: How Religion Divides Us and Unites Us" with David E. Campbell and Robert Putnam
  • and "The Taste for Civilization: Food, Politics, and a Civil Society" with Janet Flammang

In 2012, the collaboration continued with new sessions on the theme of "The Civil War and Emancipation: Conflict and Reckoning" in recognition of the sesquicentennial of the U.S. Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. The sessions were held in conjunction with the Warren Center's Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar on the theme "The Age of Emancipation: Black Freedom in the Atlantic World" and also inaugurated a statewide project of Humanities Tennessee entitled Civil War, Civil Rights, Civil Discourse. Sessions included:

  • "Why Do So Few Blacks Study the Civil War?" with Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • "The Emancipation Proclamation and James Bladwin: A Twentieth Century Disquisition on Equality" with Dr. Michael Bertrand
  • and "1861: The Civil War Awakening" with Adam Goodheart

A Vanderbilt faculty member moderated each of the sessions, enhancing the visibility of Vanderbilt scholars in our region, and the sessions provided rich content for Festival attendees.  

For the 25th Anniversary of the Southern Festival of Books, we plan to continue this partnership with a new series of discussion sessions related to a theme on medical humanities. 

The Robert Penn Warren Center, established in 1988, promotes interdisciplinary research and study in the humanities and social sciences. Because cooperative study in higher education is crucial to the modern university and the society it influences, the Center is designed to intensify and increase interdisciplinary discussion of academic, social, and cultural issues.

Humanities Tennessee, incorporated in 1973, is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities and seeks to engage the public actively in the humanities and to make the humanities an integral part of community life in Tennessee. The organization brings the humanities to Tennesseans through statewide programming in literature and language as well as community history.