Oxford and Cambridge sharing humanities knowledge

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Last week saw the beginning of the humanities latest initiative: Humanitas.

The initiative is intended to bring leading practitioners and scholars to Oxford and Cambridge to address major themes in the arts, social sciences and humanities.

Humanitas is the creation of Lord Weidenfeld, a British publisher and newspaper columnist, as well as an Honorary Fellow of both St Anne’s and St Peter’s.

Lord Weidenfeld said: “This enterprise means to me the summation of years of endeavours to bring distinguished scholars and eminent practitioners from all over the world, to share ideas and knowledge with students and the general public, at two of Europe’s greatest Universities.”

Oxford’s Humanities Division, and Cambridge’s Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) administer the programme, which is funded by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue with the support of benefactors.

Athol Fugard, South African playwright, novelist, actor, and director, was the first in a line of “visiting professors” to come to the universities.

The visiting Professors are appointed for a given academic year and invited to deliver a series of lectures, followed by a related symposium, masterclass or workshop for graduate students.

In Fugard’s visit, as the first Humanitas Visiting Professor of Drama, Magdalen College Film Society showed his 1977 film-The Guest.

He also gave a lecture on “Defining Moments” in his life and work at Lady Margaret Hall. Fugard said: “I am deeply grateful to Oxford University and Eric Abraham [a sponsor] for this timely and wonderful invitation to launch the Humanitas Professorships at Oxford University. It comes at a time when I have increasingly felt the need to reckon with and map out the fifty-years of playwriting that lie behind me. I will use my time in Oxford to do precisely that.”

Professor Sally Shuttleworth, Head of the Humanities said “The Athol Fugard visit was an extraordinary event. His keynote lecture, on the defining moments of his life and career, held the audience spell-bound. Impassioned, and astute, it gave one of the best insights into the development of a writing life that I have experienced. Athol Fugard’s career has demonstrated the key role theatre can play in bringing about cultural and political change.
Humanitas’ Visiting Professor in Architecture, Lord Foster, will give a lecture on the 29th November, discussing the question: “How do we sustainably accommodate even larger populations in cities in a way that does not recklessly deplete natural resources?”

Other fields included in the Programme are the history of ideas, war studies and terrorism, classical music, economic thought, opera studies, women’s rights, and interfaith studies.