Seminars and Working Groups

The Humanities Council hosts a variety of seminars and conversations, which are announced on this site and on the Humanities Council Calendar. The Council also provides support to groups of faculty who wish to convene for ongoing discussion around a common theme or topic.

Grants are designed to help defray the costs involved in such sessions, including refreshments and clerical assistance. Colleagues who wish to constitute such groups are invited to contact Kathleen Crown, executive director of the Council of the Humanities.

Faculty “Works in Progress” and Book Talks

The Humanities Council will host a new series of faculty lunch talks for the fall—either “works in progress” or published “book talks”—which offer an opportunity for humanities faculty to hear about the work of their colleagues in other disciplines. All events will be held at the Joseph Henry House from 12–1:20 p.m.  Lunch will be provided. Open to faculty, fellows and doctoral students. Space is limited. RSVP to Jeannine Pitarresi.

Past Faculty Seminars

Work in Progress
Marni Sandweiss, History
The Princeton and Slavery Project: Bulletins from the Front

Book Talk
Tim Leonard, Economics and Humanities Council
Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era

Work in Progress
Clair Wills, English and Irish Studies
‘White Strangers’: Writing an Immigrant History of Post-War Britain

Historical Linguistics: Timothy Barnes and Joshua Katz, Classics

This series of seminars convened faculty for an introduction to historical and comparative linguistics, with an emphasis on the older languages and cultures of the family to which English belongs: Indo-European. The first meeting gave an overview of historical/comparative linguistics and Indo-European studies, explaining how the fields developed and how they are practiced now; the second and third meetings presented a few in-depth case studies.

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Legal Cases, hosted by Peter Brooks, Comparative Literature

Faculty seminars with Kim Lane Scheppele, Director of the Program in Law and Public Affairs, in a discussion of the 2005 Aircraft Security Case from Germany; Charles Fried of Harvard Law School, U.S. Solicitor General under President Reagan, 1985-89; and Dirk Hartog, Class of 1921 Bicentennial Professor in the History of American Law and Liberty and Director of the American Studies Program, on slavery and arson in Long Branch, New Jersey.


Behrman Faculty Fellows

Wendy Belcher is an associate professor of African literature

Wendy Belcher is an associate professor of African literature

Princeton faculty promoted to tenure in the humanities are invited to spend two years as Behrman Fellows. The program is designed to recognize exceptional humanists as they enter the ranks of the senior faculty and to provide a forum for conversation and collaboration across disciplines. Fellows receive summer support and come together monthly for lunch-time seminars.

Behrman Fellows for 2018-19
Behrman Fellows for 2017-18
  • Nathan Arrington, Art and Archaeology
  • Elizabeth Davis, Anthropology
  • Donnecha Dennehy, Music
  • Katja Guenther, History
  • Lital Levy, Comparative Literature
  • Federico Marcon, East Asian Studies
  • Sarah McGrath, Philosophy
  • Michael Meredith, Architecture
  • Teresa Shawcross, History
  • Moulie Vidas, Religion
  • Christy Wampole, French and Italian
Behrman Fellows for 2016-17

Behrman Undergraduate Society of Fellows

Juniors and seniors who are committed to the study of humanistic inquiry meet formally once a month during term to discuss and debate matters of common interest in the company of a few members of the faculty and distinguished guests. Additional events are scheduled throughout the year.

2016-18 Director: Gideon Rosen (Philosophy)
Associate Director: Elaine Ayers (History)

2016-17 members

Guests have included:

  • President Shirley Tilghman
  • Professor Bill Bialek (Physics)
  • Professor Michael Cook (Near Eastern Studies)
  • Professor Rubén Gallo (Spanish & Portuguese Languages and Cultures)
  • Professor Bill Gleason (English)
  • Professor Constanze Güthenke (Classics and Hellenic Studies)
  • Professor Maria DiBattista (English and Comparative Literature)
  • Professor Ann Blair (History, Harvard University)
  • Professor Thomas Laqueur (History, University of California at Berkeley)
How to Apply

Students apply in the spring of their sophomore or junior years for membership in the following year. (Applications for 2016-17 are now closed.)



Interdisciplinary Reading Groups


The Council supports a range of discussion groups and workshops. Past initiatives have included the “Classical Literature Workshop” and the “Avant-Garde Workshop.” The Interdisciplinary PhD Program in the Humanities hosts a number of graduate-initiated reading groups.

Current groups are forming in Comparative Antiquity, Textuality and Reading Practices, and Medical Humanities.

Faculty and graduate students who wish to constitute such groups are invited to contact Kathleen Crown,, executive director of the Council of the Humanities, with a proposal.

For more information on funding and logistical support for reading and discussion groups, please get in touch with Council staff.

Reading, Discussion, and Working Groups

Translating Antiquity

“The news in the Odyssey is still news,” the American poet Ezra Pound famously wrote—but how does the news reach us? The history of translation of classical texts is intertwined with the history not just of the text being translated, but also of the languages and cultures it is translated into. How do theories and practices of translation, past and present, impinge on our contemporary engagement with Greek and Roman texts, whether we read them in translation or in the original? How indebted are we to ancient theories and cultures of translation? What, if any, unique problems do ancient texts present for the translator, and what forms may the translation of antiquity take beyond the strictly textual? How does the “classical” become “postclassical”?

Over the course of the year, we will be thinking critically about a variety of issues surrounding the translation, broadly conceived, of ancient works, including: ancient practices of translation; the generative or stunting participation of translation in discourses of nationhood, gender, and race; the trope of the “untranslatable”; the adaptability or transformation of a single work for different audiences (students, scholars, theatergoers); and the pedagogical role of translation.

“Translating Antiquity” is structured as a reading group with once-a-semester visits from authors who will lead discussion of work that is in progress or recently completed. Readings will be pre-circulated. Please come prepared for intensive discussion of the texts. Though we hope for participants’ regular attendance, we encourage everyone in the Princeton community who is interested in a given session’s topic to attend.

Bodies of Knowledge Working Group

The Humanities Council sponsors the new Bodies of Knowledge Working Group whose purpose is to engage faculty, staff, and graduate students in questions around illness, health, and the body from a wide range of viewpoints. In particular, the group hopes to foster intellectual partnerships with those within and beyond the humanities who share a critical interest in exploring and expanding the intersections of medicine, as broadly defined, and the human. This working group is part of a David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Project Grants initiative, which includes a new team-taught course entitled “Medical Story-Worlds.” Meetings will be held from 12:00pm to 1:30pm

If you would like to be included in the list of participants, are interested in presenting your work-in-progress, or have any programming inquiries, please contact Elena Fratto (Slavic) at or Tala Khanmalek (AMS/GSS) at

Postcolonial Humanities Working Group

Faculty, staff, and graduate students are invited to participate in a new Postcolonial Humanities Working Group, sponsored by the Humanities Council. Aligned with Princeton’s commitment to service, the purpose of this new working group is to generate a space for Princeton faculty, staff, and graduate students to analyze recent research from Postcolonial Studies and to collectively brainstorm possibilities for scholars of the humanities in terms of engagement with service, activism, and interdisciplinary research on the repercussions of imperial history.

Read about the 2017-2018 meetings here.

Academic Year 2018-19

The list of Invited Speakers for the 2018-2019 academic year tentatively includes Dr. Jean Comaroff (Harvard University), Dr. John Comaroff (Harvard University), Dr. Reena N. Goldthree (African American Studies), Dr. Gyan Prakash (History), and Dr. Ann Laura Stoler (The New School for Social Research).

The working group will also hold a lunch conversation for the development of collaborative research projects and a second graduate roundtable discussion.

Faculty members, staff, or graduate students interested in joining the Postcolonial Humanities Working Group should email Dr. Dannelle Gutarra Cordero at

Past Reading, Discussion, Working Groups

Graduate-Initiated Reading Groups

American Higher Education: Its History, Culture, and Challenges

This monthly Interdisciplinary Humanities Graduate Student Workshop series will take a long view of American higher education, framing its problems and prospects in historical terms. The workshop is offered to 15 graduate students from across thirteen humanities departments.

Inventory: Literary Translation Project

The group seeks to examine the art and practice of literary translation through collaborative workshops and through the publication of an annual journal.

Theory Reading Group

In this workshop, theoretical texts will be chosen based on their interdisciplinary content and their immediate relevance to the present, within but also beyond the academy.

Contemporary Poetry Colloquium

The Graduate Colloquium on Contemporary Poetry brings together practicing poets and scholars from Princeton and beyond in a series of events aimed at exploring poetry in the present moment.

Intersections Working Group

Intersections is a working group committed to promoting the interdisciplinary study of race, gender, class and sexuality in literature and cultural studies.

Psychoanalysis Reading Group

This is a forum where graduate students and faculty can gather to discuss recent research in the context of the history of analysis, as theory and practice.

Readings in Capitalism and History

At RICH seminars, graduate students have begun to define a global, interdisciplinary vision of the ‘History of Capitalism.’

Reception of Ancient Philosophy

We welcome the participation of philosophers, classicists, historians, Syriacists, Arabists, Hebraists, medievalists, early modernists, and anyone interested in the history of thought—students and faculty.

Decoloniality Graduate Reading Group

This discussion group reads hermeneutically along contemporary ethnographical, anthropological, and theological traditions.

Reading Group of Biographical Writing in Early China

This interdisciplinary project focuses on fundamental questions related to life writing in antiquity (ca. 1000 BCE-220 AD).