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The Center for Humanities and the Arts (CHA) is pleased to announce its theme for the 2008-2009 academic year, “Apocalypse and Transformation”

When Al Gore recently accepted the Nobel peace Prize, he represented himself as a prophet for our age: “Sometimes, without warning, the future knocks on our door with a precious and painful vision of what might be.” Sharing his own vision of coming climate change, Gore called for actions that will prevent calamity by transforming our relationships to one another and to the planet. In a world faced with the potentially disastrous consequences of global warming, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the threat of new and continuing global conflicts in the domains of religion, politics, and economics, talk of “apocalypse” has become widespread, even among those who know little of its religious roots.

The legend of the Phoenix, the story of the mythical bird that dies and rises from its own ashes every five hundred years, suggests that many different traditions share the notion that destruction precedes rebirth. In the west, the notion of “apocalypse,” derived from the Judeo-Christian tradition, has been crucial. “Apocalypse” is a Greek translation of the ancient Hebrew term for unveiling. In his book of Revelation, St. John reveals his vision of the end times, which will bring forth a new age (eon) in which God will transform all creatures. In modern secular discourse, apocalypse has come to mean a vision of the future preceded by destruction. For example, apocalyptic motifs are discernible in G.F.W. Hegel’s profoundly influential theory of history as a dialectical process in which a new stage of development can occur only by both negating and preserving certain aspects of the previous one. Indeed, the history of the humanities as a whole indicates the intellectual and emotional centrality of a narrative of destruction (revolution) and rebirth.

The history of art, music, politics, science, philosophy, and literature are characterized by strife, in which those with a vision of the future call for and bring about the destruction of venerable institutions, practices, and truth. Taking “Apocalypse and Transformation” as its theme for 2008-2009, CHA will engage in an exploration of the interplay between ending and beginning, destruction and rebirth, prevailing chaos and emergent order.

In conjunction with the theme, CHA will conduct a year-long faculty and graduate student seminar, host a series of lectures and public performances, and hold a Spring Colloquium. We invite all members of the CU community to join in an interdisciplinary conversation on the many forms that “apocalypse and transformation” can take in our lives.

CHA solicits proposals for the following:

**CHA Fellowships: Four faculty members and four graduate students will be selected as CHA Fellows for 2008-2009. The fellows will meet together in a year-long seminar and present the results of their work in a Spring Colloquium. Fellows will receive support for their participation in the seminar and colloquium, and for attending presentations made by speakers invited to address the CHA theme. These funds will afford a two-course release for the year ($8600 to departments) plus $1000 in research funding for faculty members, and will provide $6000 in support for graduate student fellows. Funding for the seminar is provided by the Office of the Provost and the Graduate School.

Applications to participate in the CHA Seminar should include a statement of the candidate’s research or creative interests and an account of how the candidate feels these interests would contribute to interdisciplinary discussions of our theme. Applications should also include a current CV (limited to three pages in length) and a sample of the candidate’s work. Applicants should be prepared to arrange their schedules to meet regularly with the seminar; the seminar’s meeting time is Wednesdays 3:00-5:00. Faculty should also include a cover sheet indicating name, position, department, and project title; this sheet should include the following statement signed by the faculty member’s chair/dean: “I understand that, if the applicant receives a CHA Seminar Fellowship, he/she will be released from two courses during the 2008-2009 academic year.”

Questions and topics the seminar might address include:

  • How have 20th and 21st century environmentalists, biologists, and technological innovators used and affected apocalyptic narratives? How will such narratives be altered by the ever-increasing tempo of actual scientific-technological developments and practices? What will be the effect of these changes on traditional social and cultural norms? How might humanists address desires for and fears about a coming “post-human” age?
  • How have political and religious ideologies traded upon apocalyptic themes? Perpetrators of war and genocide may attempt to justify themselves in terms of apocalyptic discourse. What sorts of social-cultural transformations are necessary for people to begin anew after such violence? To what extent are discourses about personal renewal influenced by apocalyptic themes, as in the notion that one must “hit bottom” before recovering?
  • How have previous literary representations of utopia/dystopia influenced contemporary versions, ranging from films such as Blade Runner and Children of Men to novels such as José Saramago's Blindness and Cormac McCarthy's The Road? How do today’s utopian/dystopian narratives influence readings of earlier ones, such as Thomas More’s Utopia or Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing World? In the face of widespread anxiety about the future, what role might artistic and literary representations of positive futures play in transforming dominant practices and institutions?
  • Faced with deconstruction and transformation of traditional canons, practices, and genres, and confronted by a host of powerful and entrancing new media and modes of representation, the arts and humanities in academia may be read as undergoing an apocalypse of their own. Indeed, dystopian visions abound in regard to the future of arts and humanities. How to formulate a positive future for the arts and humanities in academia when subjectivity itself is being transformed by technological innovation and intervention?

**Guest Speakers, Artists, Performers: CHA is interested in hearing from the CU community about distinguished visitors who would contribute to an exploration of our theme.  We envision a series involving 5 to 6 speakers, artists, and/or performers.  In addition, we solicit nominations (including self-nominations) of faculty at CU; one of our colleagues will be selected by CHA’s Steering Committee to join our distinguished guests as part of the CHA Lecture Series.  The selected faculty member will be offered a $500 research stipend to participate in the Lecture Series.  Please send speaker suggestions to Michael Zimmerman.

The deadline for submissions is Friday, February 1, 2008 at 12:00 noon.

Applications and inquiries should be addressed to:

Michael E. Zimmerman, Director
Center for Humanities and the Arts
280 UCB / Macky 201
Tel: (303)492-1931 / Fax: (303)735-2624