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2015-2016 Research Theme:

Interdisciplinarity in Historical Perspective

People working in today’s universities frequently emphasize innovative interdisciplinary scholarship, but they often forget that it is the disciplines themselves that are innovations—that it is only from a modern perspective that “arts” and “sciences” are discrete categories. Writers, artists, scientists, and philosophers from earlier periods took interdisciplinarity for granted in ways that seem almost impossible now, from Leonardo da Vinci’s stunning drawings of birds and flying machines to Sir Francis Bacon’s utopian fiction about the institutionalization of experimental science, the “New Atlantis.” This lecture series highlights the foundational connections among natural science, philosophy, arts and letters in early modernity. We also raise the question of how and why these fields diverged: when did natural philosophy forget its philosophical roots? When were the humanities imagined as distinct from experimental sciences? When did poetry part company with physics?

Supported by a generous grant from the Provost’s “Year of the Humanities in the University,” our collaborative research group will sponsor a series of reading groups, seminars, and lectures on this theme.

Upcoming Events




ACC Distinguished Lecturer: Peter Holland

November 19 - 20, 2015

Lecture: "Spinach and Tobacco: Making Shakespearian Unoriginals"

Date: Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 4:00pm

Location: University Club, Ballroom A

Symposium: Shakespeare and the Humanities

Date: Friday, November 20, 2015 – 12:00 pm

Location: Humanities Center, 602 Cathedral of Learning

On November 19-20, as part of the Year of Humanities and the ACC Distinguished Lecturer series, Pitt is honored to welcome the McMeel Family Chair in Shakespeare Studies Peter Holland from the University of Notre Dame. Professor Holland is fascinated by the burgeoning world of Shakespearean spin-offs, mash-ups, dramatizations, and novelizations, not to mention the success authors are having turning cult films into dramas using something approximating blank verse. With hidden codes, unlikely heroes, complex puns, and a gentle pillorying of scholarly efforts, these riffs lend an intriguing dimension to pop culture's engagements with Shakespeare. The talk will address Shakespeare, Popeye, Star Wars, and The Big Lebowski (among other things). The symposium will feature responses by Pitt professors Nancy Glazener and Jennifer Waldron.

This event is also sponsored by the ACC Academic Consortium.

For questions or concerns about the event, contact Dan Kubis at

Visit the Year of the Humanities Website for more infomraiton.