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The Franke Institute for the Humanities

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The mission of the Franke Institute for the Humanities is to foster the development of innovative advanced research across the various disciplines of the humanities. The Franke Institute is designed to build upon the distinguished tradition of humanities research and instruction at the University of Chicago, to consolidate innovations and experiments that have been pioneered on this campus, and to provide a site for argument over new paradigms for research and teaching in the humanities.

When the Franke Institute for the Humanities was founded in 1990, humanistic learning was going through a period of fundamental transformation that transcended the concerns of any particular department or discipline, and that required a specific institutional site in which research and argument might be conducted. Established by the Humanities Division, the Franke Institute provided a broadly-based intellectual initiative responsive to strongly felt currents in the departments, and in the various collaborative groups that already worked across the disciplines. The Institute was created to be a site not just for the coordination of these activities, but for the active critique of their aims, raising the most fundamental questions about the changing structure of the humanities.

At its founding, the Franke Institute addressed four major transformatory processes at work in humanistic research at that time, which articulated the basic agenda the Institute serves: paradigm change, interdisciplinarity, multi-culturalism, and public outreach. These four processes of transformation certainly do not exhaust the topics which lie within the purview of the Franke Institute. They are not so much "topics" freely chosen as issues for discussion, but are rather an acknowledgement of some common themes that underlie the whole movement that has produced the proliferation of humanities centers and institutes nationwide.

The distinctive role of the Franke Institute is not simply to participate in this movement but to subject it to critical examination, to identify new directions and strategies in the basic patterns of humanistic learning, and to provide leadership in the transmission of cultural values and understanding. The basic goal of the Institute is to open up the humanities to the public and to itself. Interdisciplinarity offers the opportunity of collaboration or at least conversation among historians, philosophers, scholars of law, literature, religion, music, art, and all the media that go to make up the cultural universes we inhabit. It also opens the possibility of collaboration and conversation beyond the academic pale. If academic humanists can be interesting and intelligible to each other, they will be in a better position to address the basic cultural constituencies, both the "general" and "partial" publics, to which they are responsible.

New projects that cross traditional disciplinary and departmental lines
Franke Institute Office Window
Photo Credit: Mai Vukcevich

The Franke Institute for the Humanities | 1100 East 57th Street, JRL S-118 | Chicago, Illinois 60637 | 773-702-8274