Victor Bailey
Hall Center for the Humanities

Hall Center lecture to address radical rethinking of humanities doctorate

Fri, 11/02/2012

Russell Berman

LAWRENCE—Russell Berman, Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Comparative Literature and German Studies at Stanford University, will speak at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, in the Hall Center Conference Hall. His lecture, "Is the Ivory Tower an Iron Cage? Redesigning Doctoral Education in the Humanities," will suggest that sweeping reform needs to occur in doctoral education in the humanities for it to remain relevant and useful. The event is free and open to the public and is sponsored by the Hall Center for the Humanities.

Doctoral students in the humanities face numerous challenges upon entering a degree program, including amassing crippling student debt, facing ever-shrinking tenure-track job opportunities and battling a perceived loss of relevance.

Yet this crisis, Berman argues, offers an opportunity to rethink the doctorate, making it more affordable, accessible and relevant than before. Berman suggests that by implementing sweeping reforms, graduates in the humanities can continue to make vital contributions to our culture.

Berman recently submitted a proposal for such a doctoral program at Stanford University, one that calls for a more flexible degree that is based on a student's individual career track. If Stanford accepts his proposal, the degree program will transform radically, resulting in a faster time-to-degree, more prepared students and a final project of wider applicability than the traditional dissertation.

Berman joined the Stanford faculty in 1979. In 1982-83 he was a Mellon Faculty Fellow in the Humanities at Harvard, and in 1988-89 he held an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship in Berlin. In 1997 he was awarded the Bundesverdienstkreuz of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Berman is the editor of the journal Telos and is the former president of the Modern Language Association.

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