News & Announcements

  • Award-Winning Congratulations to PHF Alumni!

    The Penn Humanities Forum extends its proud congratulations to Zain Lakhani, Graduate Humanities Forum Chair and PHF Research Assistant, 2012–13, on her Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship for 2015–16 from the Mahindra Humanities Center, Harvard University. And, to our newest Alumni Society members, we congratulate 2015–16 Undergraduate Humanities Forum Mellon Fellows and graduating seniors Abigail Koffler, Kimberly Kolor, Kimberly Schreiber, Shawn Teo, and Melanie White on being elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Kimberly Kolor also received a Fulbright Grant, Boren Scholarship and was named a Dean's Scholar. Abrina Hyatt received the Raymond Pace Alexander Prize, Danielle Kerker was awarded the Bodek Prize for Research on Interracial and Interfaith Relations, and Jose Romero received the 2015 Yardley Prize in Anthropology for his senior thesis. UHF Chair and Mellon Fellow Leah Davidson, a rising senior at Penn's Wharton School, was named a Turner Social Impact Fellow and Wharton Research Scholar. What an amazing group of scholars!

  • Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows Selected for 2015–2016 Forum on Sex

    The Forum is delighted to announce its five new Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows for next academic year, each of whom will be conducting research and teaching as part of the 2015–2016 Penn Humanities on Sex. Congratulations to Kadji Amin, Assistant Professor of Queer Studies, Stony Brook University; Philip Francis, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Manhattan College; Durba Mitra, Assistant Professor of History, South Asia, Fordham University; Sima Shakhsari, Assistant Professor of Women's & Gender Studies, Wellesley College; and Zeb Tortorici, Assistant Professor of Spanish & Portuguese, New York University.

  • M&Ms and the Psychology of Color

    Eat a regular green M&M without knowing anything about those candies and you might expect it to taste like mint, not chocolate. Why? Because color influences taste, but not simply at the level of what your eyeballs process. In fact, the human eye is quite bad at perceiving color. Our sense of color is deeply integrated with our other senses — taste, touch, smell, and memories. For more on how emotions, ideas, and senses influence how we perceive color, listen to Peter Crimmins's February 19 interview on WHYY-FM with Kevin Connolly and Mohan Matthen. Kevin Connolly is an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Penn Humanities Forum this year, doing research on how experience changes one's perception of color. Mohan Matthen is a philosopher of perception at the University of Toronto, visiting the Forum as a panelist in the symposium "Values of Color," hosted by PHF's Graduate Humanities Forum on February 20th.

  • $7.5 Million Gift Creates Price Lab for Digital Humanities

    SAS Overseer Michael J. Price (W'79) and his wife Vikki have made a gift of $7.5 million to Penn's School of Arts and Sciences to build a lab for research in the digital humanities. A centerpiece of Dean Steven Fluharty's SAS Strategic Plan, the new Price Lab will position Penn as a leader in digital humanities research and curriculum and will support a wide range of the most innovative work in history, arts, and culture. It will evaluate, incubate, and support complex interdisciplinary research projects. It will provide a common hub for communication and exchange across the many departments, centers, and schools that will be partners in the digital humanities. It will provide capacity for geographic information system (GIS), mapping, and visualization technologies. It will oversee the development and approval of digital humanities courses and curricula. And it will play an important advisory role in the appointment of newn humanities faculty as well as information technology and library staff, who will add distinguished coverage in both topical areas and in the use of digital tools and methods.

    "This is a huge moment of change and opportunity in the humanities," said Dean Fluharty. "With the digital humanities, we will not only produce new knowledge but new ways of knowing, and new forms to show the outcomes and results. The Price Lab will make us a leader in this revolution."

    James English, director of the Penn Humanities Forum, founder of the Digital Humanities Forum, and Chair of the SAS Planning Committee for Humanities in the Digital Age, says the Price Lab will be "a central place where we can explore exciting new areas of interdisciplinary convergence, using the digital humanities to widen the understanding of what the humanities are and why they matter. It is the next logical step — and a very big one — for the initiative that began with the founding of the Digital Humanities Forum three years ago. Michael Price has done us all an enormous service." For more information on the Price Lab, please see the School of Arts & Sciences announcement, and the February 26, 2015 issue of Penn Current. And here are some of the projects currently underway at Penn in digital humanities.

  • The Language of the State of the Union

    Curious about how often presidents have uttered "freedom," "war," "God," and other seemingly significant words in their State of the Union addresses? Using Bookworm, a special digital text analysis tool, Benjamin Schmidt (Northeastern University) and Mitch Fraas (University of Pennsylvania) examined all 224 State of the Union addresses, ranking how often each president used each word. What certain words reveal—and what they may conceal—may surprise you, according to this interactive chart Schmidt and Fraas published in The Atlantic (1/18/15). Mitch Fraas is codirector of Penn's Digital Humanities Forum and curator of Digital Research Services at the Penn Libraries' Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts.

  • Hiss and Noise Lift Poetry from Cold Storage

    The provenance of poetry recordings is more than meets the ear, according to Chris Mustazza, who wears many hats at Penn, including director of Student Technology and director of Social Sciences Computing. Noise is in fact content, Mustazza believes. With funding from the Digital Humanities Forum and others, Chris has been listening to poetry recordings using ARLO, a machine listening tool that can identify patterns in audio. For more on what this means and why it's important, read Chris's latest post in Jacket2: "The noise is the content." For more information on Chris's work to digitize a collection of poetry recordings he discovered at Columbia University by the likes of Gertrude Stein, Vachel Lindsay, and others dating from the 1930s, see "Read Me a Poem," by Susan Ahlborn, SAS Frontiers, February 18, 2015.

  • Fragile Minds and Vulnerable Souls

    Why were many sexually explicit writings and images that grew as a category of print in 19th-century Germany judged immoral--in fact, dangerous? Because, as Sarah Leonard, Associate Professor of History at Simmons College, reveals in her new book Fragile Minds and Vulnerable Souls (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), among other things they served "nonelite readers and passed through suspect spaces." This work builds on research Leonard began while a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow with the Forum in 2002–2003.

  • Racism's Blind Eye

    The Forum congratulates Jason Sokol, whose book All Eyes Are Upon Us (Basic Books, December 2014) was named one of the best books of the year about the 1960s by The Daily Beast, which calls Sokol an “important new voice in 20th-century history." To finish out the year, the book also landed brilliantly on New York magazine's Approval Matrix for the week of December 29, 2014. Jason is Assistant Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire. In 2008–2009, he was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Forum, conducting research from which All Eyes evolved.

  • DHF Teams with PICS to Offer First Programming Bootcamp for Penn Humanists

    Approximately twenty faculty, graduate students, and staff from Penn's humanities departments participated in a weekend-long “bootcamp” at Van Pelt Library in December to learn the basics of the programming language R. Dr. Emil Pitkin of the Wharton Statistics Department, with roving assistance from Constantine Lignos of CHOP and Katie Rawson of the Library, led the group in using a corpus of the complete works of Shakespeare. Bootcamp participants learned how to write simple code in R, and how to prepare and work with literary data to produce regression analyses and visualizations of word frequencies. This was DHF's first collaboration with the Penn Institute for Computational Science (PICS), which is dedicated to supporting Penn faculty and students' use of tools and techniques of high performance computing in their research. 

    Response to the two-day, six-hour workshop was positive, with requests for more humanities programming bootcamps in future. Watch for news of a planned spring 2015 collaboration between DHF and PICS on the programming language Python for humanists as well as a possible all-day workshop on ggplot 2, the visualization tool for use in the R environment.

  • Naming and Memorializing: The Tivoli Stories

    The Digital Humanities Forum has funded a multimedia installation and social memory project headed by Deborah Thomas, Professor of Anthropology and Africana Studies at Penn. "Tivoli Stories" will create an online platform through which community members can publicly name and memorialize loved ones they lost during the May 2010 state of emergency in Kingston, Jamaica. On May 23 of that year, Jamaican security forces entered West Kingston to apprehend and extradite Christopher "Dudus" Coke to the United States, unleashing widespread violence that killed approximately 80 citizens and resulted in over 500 arrests. The project also raises questions regarding the normalization of this kind of state violence, and about the possibilities for transformation and repair.