November 6, 2003

Society for Humanities Gets New Director

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Overlooked amidst the searches for various deans and the University’s president, the Society for the Humanities has quietly transitioned to a new director. Brett de Bary, Asian studies and comparative literature, became the Society’s new director on July 1, replacing Dominick LaCapra, Bowmar Professor of the Humanities and director of the Society since 1993.

De Bary, a scholar of Japanese literature and film, is also former director of the Visual Studies program. Philip Lewis, former Dean of Arts and Sciences, appointed her to a three-year term after his office consulted with the chairs of humanities departments and the Humanities Council, a group elected by the humanities faculty.

“Cornell is exceedingly fortunate to be able to enlist Brett as the director of the Society,” Lewis wrote in an e-mail to The Sun.

The Society’s role on campus is to support interdisciplinary research and teaching in the humanities, with fellowships to scholars both at Cornell and from other universities, all organized around a yearly theme. The Society also administers two programs funded by the Mellon Foundation: three or four one-year postdoctoral fellowships in the humanities, and support for a few graduate students to be Society fellows.

A new Academy for the Social Sciences, expected to be established by 2005-2006, draws some inspiration from the Society.

De Bary hopes to “emphasize the relationship between the humanities and creative and performing arts,” in her capacity as director, she said. De Bary also noted the Society’s role in encouraging “participation in public life” though public culture and art. One of her first initiatives is a program called Musicians Manqu