Guidance for Humanities Professors

While research in the hard sciences and social sciences is often naturally collaborative, most professors in the humanities work independently. Yet in recent years, the Aresty Center has facilitated a number of successful projects led by humanities professors. To help prospective faculty envision the form these projects can take, we have highlighted several strong examples.

Example Humanities Research Projects
Type of Project Project Description
Best Practice Research for Departmental Strategy

A Comparative Study of English Majors at Research 1 Universities

Aresty research fellows will gather information about English majors and Honors programs at other Research 1 universities. What are the course requirements? Are there separate Honors seminars? What kinds of sub-specialties do other English departments offer? What kinds of online or hybrid courses do they offer? The Aresty Research Assistant will learn about institutional structures and will make a significant contribution to ongoing changes in the Rutgers English major.

Course Design

Beauty

What is beauty? Why do we care about it? From the school playground to dating websites to the world of advertising, we seem obsessed with what is, and what isn’t, beautiful. Notions of beauty vary from one person to the next; but if we look at historical depictions of the beautiful, we also see that these ideas are to an extent (or perhaps entirely?) culturally and historically determined. Beauty may be a matter of “taste,” but taste isn’t just individual: it can define practices of inclusion and exclusion that decide who does or doesn’t belong to a particular group (such as a social class, or a national or ethnic community). Beauty, then, is a matter of enormous social, political and economic importance. It also affects areas of human thought and activity whose connections to the social realm may be less obvious. A work or performance of calligraphy, musical improvisation, or verse composition may reflect or inspire a sense of beauty.

Recognizing the breadth of these questions, the purpose of this project is to develop and organize the materials for a coherent introduction to beauty as a problem that both connects and distinguishes cultures and intellectual disciplines. One goal of this work is to prepare the materials and scholarly contacts for a course on beauty. The other is to prepare one or more research projects within this area.

Innovating the College and the Community

Social Innovation and Teaching New Ideas

The idea of the project is to have a student or students research new developments in social innovation, especially in the area of the application of newer technologies to impacting both communities and teaching in the arts and sciences. In prior projects I have had students work in teams under Aresty to develop lessons, plans, and sources to teach social entrepreneurship, and that research. We will meet at least bi-weekly to discuss findings, set directions (i.e. new technologies, creative arts integration) and to draft reports on how these technologies and approaches can best be utilized. I am also keen to have students work on a regular basis, weekly, with me as a "brain trust" to decide what sorts of increasingly consumer tech such as kinetic and leap motion, as well as three-dimensional fabrication setups can be acquired as the fundamental basis of creative collaborations, a sort of think tank for the formalized MakerSpaces at Rutgers and the business/ venture work of incubators like the Juice Tank. I plan to be present as the students generate best practices and hope to ultimately connect directly with MakerSpaces & Co.

Digital Humanities

The Neo-Mandic Dictionary Project

Prof. Charles G. Häberl of the Department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures (AMESALL) is preparing an electronic dictionary of the Neo-Mandaic language, building upon his previous published research on the grammar of the same language. Neo-Mandaic is a dialect of Aramaic, spoken today by a small Gnostic baptizing sect that lived primarily in southern Iraq and Iran until the 2003 Gulf War caused most members of this sect to enter a worldwide diaspora. The language is severely endangered, and this project will contribute to international efforts to document and preserve it.

The long-term goal of the project is to produce an online, open access, fully-searchable dictionary of all Neo-Mandaic dialects.