September 29, 1998
Volume 45
Number 5

Penn Humanities Forum: A Center for New Interactions

Dean Samuel Preston of the School of Arts and Sciences has announced the foundation of the Penn Humanities Forum, a center housed in SAS with a wider mission to collaborate with other schools of the University and with the Philadelphia community in addressing major issues from the humanities perspective.

"The Penn Humanities Forum is the culmination of a long planning process to which Rebecca Bushnell and Gene Narmour made especially important contributions." said Dean Preston. " The Forum will add coherence and excitement to our magnificent teaching and research programs in the humanities. We especially look forward to engaging the Philadelphia cultural community in this important new endeavor. I am delighted that a scholar with Wendy Steiner's vision has agreed to lead this effort."

Along the lines sketched briefly in Penn's Agenda for Excellence, the Forum will enroll scholars and fellows (including leave fellows), showcase the research of students as well as faculty, and develop new seminars and programs while consolidating existing ones such as the Mellon/PARSS series.

President Judith Rodin applauded the formation of the Forum and the choice of its director. "Through the vision and hard work of many, the Penn Humanities Forum--a critical component of the University's Agenda for Excellence--is now a reality," she said. "The humanities are at the very core of Penn's intellectual life and vitality, and I have no doubt that the Penn Humanities Forum will further strengthen our already extraordinary level of scholarship. I am particularly pleased that Professor Wendy Steiner will be the Forum's first director. A world-class scholar and highly respected member of our community, she is ideally suited to lead this exciting academic initiative."

The Forum's Director: Dr. Wendy Steiner is the Richard L. Fisher Professor and chair of English, and she will continue in the role of departmental chair while directing the Forum.

A graduate of McGill who took her M.A. and Ph. D. from Yale, she is a scholar whose work is also well known to the general public. One recent book, The Scandal of Pleasure: Art in an Age of Fundamentalism (Chicago) was on the New York Times list of "100 Best Books of 1996," and in addition to over 50 scholarly articles and reviews she has published over 100 in the general press in the U.S. and England, writing on books, painting, architecture and general culture. She has been on the board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle since 1995, and has also been a consultant to the MacArthur Foundation.

Her latest book, The Fiction of Postmodernity, is volume 8 in The Cambridge History of American Literature, and is to be followed shortly by The Trouble with Beauty: An Essay in Twentieth-Century Aesthetics (from the Free Press and Heinemann). Books issued before Scandal of Pleasure included Pictures of Romance and The Colors of Rhetoric, both from Chicago, and Exact Resemblance to Exact Resemblance: The Literary Portraiture of Gertrude Stein, from Yale. She has edited four other books.

Dr. Steiner taught at Yale and Michigan before joining Penn as assistant professor in 1979. Promoted to associate professor three years later, she was named full professor in 1985 and was awarded the Alan G. Hassenfeld Term Professorship of Humanities in 1988. She has served as Master of the Modern Languages College House, director of the Penn/King's College Program in London, anc chair of the Graduate Group, and Honors Program of the English Department. A winner of Guggenheim, NEH and ACLS awards, she has also given major lectures and held visiting posts in numerous institutions from Berkeley to Tel Aviv.

Associate Director: The Forum's Associate Director is Wendy Steinberg, a writer/editor formerly with the ICA at Penn. Ms. Steinberg is a Mills College alumna who took her M.A. in English at Temple. Her most recent book is Crossing Paths: How Your Child's Adolescence Triggers Your Own Crisis (Simon and Schuster 1994). The Forum will be located in 116 Bennett Hall (phone 898-8220, fax 573-2063). The director and associate director's e-mail addresses are, respectively, wsteiner @english.upenn.edu and ws2@english.upenn.edu.

The Planners: The planning committee that developed the Forum's design included Dr. Sandra Barnes of Anthropology; Drs. Mary Frances Berry, Nancy Farriss and Lynn Lees of History; Drs. Joan DeJean and Lance Donaldson-Evans of Romance Languages; Dr. Joseph Farrell of Classical Studies; Dr. Elizabeth Johns of History of Art; Dr. Mark Liberman of Linguistics; Drs. Eugene Narmour and Gary Tomlinson of Music; and Drs. Wendy Steiner and Susan Stewart of English. In their report, three roles are outlined for the Forum:

  • A role as a center for intellectual exchange-for discussion among humanities scholars; for cooperation between humanities faculty and scholars in the sciences and social sciences; and for exploring connections between these and the professional schools at Penn.
  • A role in graduate and undergraduate education, with seminars and workshops on teaching (including the use of new technologies and cross-disciplinary team teaching), and opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students doing research in the humanities to be linked with fellows and affiliated faculty of the Forum, and to present their own research.
  • A public role, connecting the faculty's and students' work in the humanities with the world at large, through related events and work in Philadelphia cultural and historical institutions, inlcuding libraries, museums, galleries, theaters, music and film festivals.

[Ed. Note: See Benchmarks for more on the Forum.]

Job Opportunities: Positions--and PCs--Are on Market Street

The grand opening of the new Penn Job Application Center was held Wednesday, September 23, at its new location at 3550 Market Street, marking "one of the new directions Penn has embarked upon to recruit high quality applicants," said John J. Heuer, Vice President for Human Resources. "As a result of the rapidly changing job market, Penn must join our competitors in aggressively 'stepping to the plate' to attract and retain quality employees. We have a record number of open positions."

The new center has longer hours than it had at 3401 Walnut (it is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays) and also provides five PC stations with Internet access for browsing the openings and applying on-line-one of the first employers in the area to do so.

The Center also houses skills assessment and training, and is the location of Penn's "sole source" temporary service with Todays Penn Partnership, which helps University offices locate temporary and part-time help. A TPP group including Lora DiSandro, Michelle Llewellyn and others work with Penn's Human Resources team of Gary Truhlar, Alicia Brill and the recruitment staff to fill temporary posts at Penn.


Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 5, September 29, 1998