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Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities

2008-09 Seminar: Sustaining the Earth: Public Scholarship in the Arts and Humanities


In the past decade many humanities scholars have taken up the Deweyan notion that democratic self-governance is the application of public knowledge to public problems. Initiatives like Imagining America are calling on humanities faculty and their students to fulfill the academy's civic responsibilities by carrying out research that addresses local needs.

Often called "the scholarship of engagement," "public humanities," or (when pursued by students) "service learning," such projects involve scholars and students collaborating with fellow citizens in their communities to shape the questions, carry out the methods, and reflect on the results of humanistic inquiry. Ideally, such work broadens and deepens deliberations about issues of common concern.

The goal of the Center's 2008-09 programming series is to enable scholars at Iowa State University to engage in the public scholarship of sustainability. Our visiting scholars will lead these closed faculty seminars, as well as give an evening lecture that will be open to the public. Through these lectures and seminars, we will explore contemporary humanistic research on the conceptions, histories, languages and literatures of sustainability. Taking our disciplinary expertise, we will then open conversations about sustainability with Iowa communities, working with citizens to reflect on values, to understand histories, to become aware of diverse ways of speaking about and imagining the future.

2008-09 CEAH Seminarians


  • Nadia Anderson, Architecture
  • Amy Bix, History
  • Kevin de Laplante, Philosophy
  • Monica Haddad, Community/Regional Planning
  • Ulrike Passe, Architecture
  • Stephen Pett, English
  • Sue Ravenscroft, Business
  • Betty Wells, Sociology
  • Clark Wolf, Bioethics/Philosophy


  • Seminar Schedule and Readings


    What Can the Humanities Contribute to Discussions of Sustainability?
    September 18, 2008
    302 Catt Hall
    3:30-5:00pm

    Scott Peters, Associate Professor of Education , Cornell University, will lead this seminar, joined by Frederick Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow of the Leopold Center (below left), and Matt Liebman, Henry Wallace Chair in Sustainable Agriculture (below right).


    Reading: Peters, Scott. 2006. "Changing the Story About Higher Education's Public Purposes and Work: Land-Grants, Liberty, and the Little Country Theater." in Forseeable Futures #6. Position Papers from Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life.

    Scott Peters, public lecture: 8pm, Memorial Union Sun Room
    Cultivating and Sustaining Democratic Publics: Civic Professionalism and the Pursuit of Sustainability in the Arts and Humanities



    Public Scholarship Faculty Seminar: History and Law
    With Ted Steinberg, Adeline Barry Davee Distinguished Professor of History and Professor of Law, Case Western Reserve University

    September 25, 2008
    302 Catt Hall
    3:30-5:00pm

    Reading: Steinberg, Ted. American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006. (Prologue, Ch. 1 and 10.)

    Optional reading:Steinberg, Ted. Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. (optional readings, Ch. 14, 15, 16.)

    Ted Steinberg, public lecture: 8pm, Ames City Auditorium
    Can Capitalism Save the Planet?


    Public Scholarship Faculty Seminar: Creative Writing and Literature
    With Patricia Klindienst, Author, Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature, Stanford University

    October 16, 2008
    Memorial Union, Room 2213 (past the Gold Room)
    3:30-5:00pm

    Reading: Klindienst, Patricia. The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainabilty in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans. New York: Beacon Press. 2006. (Prologue, Ch. 2 and 7; Ch. 3 and 8 optional.)

    Patricia Klindienst, public lecture: 8pm, Reiman Gardens, Hughes Auditorium
    Voices from the Land: Gardens and the Making of Americans


    Public Scholarship Faculty Seminar: Philosophy
    With Andrew Light, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Public Affairs, University of Washington
    co-sponsored by the Bioethics Program October 23, 2008

    October 23, 2008
    Memorial Union, Room 2210 (past the Gold Room)
    3:30-5:00pm

    Readings: Light, Andrew. "The Moral Journey of Environmentalism: From Wilderness to Place." Forthcoming in Pragmatic Sustainability: Theoretical and Practical Tools, ed. Steven Moore, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008.

    Light, Andrew. "Contemporary Environmental Ethics from Metaethics to Public Philosophy." Metaphilosophy Vol. 33, No. 4, July 2002

    Optional reading: Light, Andrew. "Not out of the Woods: Preserving the Human in Environmental Architecture." Environmental Values 14 (2005): 3-20.

    Andrew Light public lecture: 8pm, Memorial Union Sun Room
    Climate Ethics after Bali

    Public Scholarship Faculty Seminar: Rhetoric
    With Tarla Rae Peterson, Boone and Crockett Chair in Wildlife and Conservation Policy, Texas A&M University

    November 6, 2008
    Memorial Union, Room 3512
    3:30-5:00pm

    Reading: Peterson, Tarla Rae.Sharing the Earth: The Rhetoric of Sustainable Development. Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2007. (Introduction, Ch. 2 and 5.)

    Optional reading: Peterson, Tarla Rae. "To Play the Fool: Can Environmental Conservation and Democracy Survive Social Capital?" Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 3:2 (June 2006): 116-140.

    Tarla Rae Peterson public lecture: 8pm, Memorial Union Campanile Room
    One for All and All for One

    Public Scholarship Faculty and Administrator's Seminar: Making Public Scholarship Work for Promotion and Tenure at Iowa State University
    With Gregory Jay, Professor of Literature and Director, Cultures and Communities Program, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

    November 13, 2008
    Memorial Union, Room 3512
    3:30-5:00pm

    Reading: Jay, Gregory. "Service Learning, Multiculturalism, and the Pedagogies of Difference." Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture 8:2 (2008):255-81.

    Optional reading: Adams, Sharon and Gregory Jay. "Service Learning, Multicultural Education, and the Core Curriculum: A Model for Institutional Change." Diversity Digest. 10.2 (2007). Available at: www.diversityweb.org/Digest/vol10no2/vol10no2.pdf

    Gregory Jay public lecture: 8pm, Memorial Union Campanile Room
    Public Scholarship and the Future of the Humanities