The Humanities Institute

Founded in 1986, the Humanities Institute presents a thematic program each semester pursuing a topic related to the humanities. As part of Scripps’ tradition of interdisciplinary education, these programs include conferences, lectures, exhibitions, and film series that bring together prominent and younger cutting-edge scholars.

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Latest Program: Silence

Is silence the absence of sound? Is it the space between words, a pause between heart­beats? Is silence a refusal to speak — or to respond? Is silence collaborative, complicit? Is it pleasant, peaceful? Contemplative? Is meditation a form of silence? Does silence signify absence? Does it entail presence? Does silence make you nervous? Is silence menacing? In fall 2014, the Humanities Institute explores the theory and practice of silence: voluntary and coerced, solitary and communal, literal and metaphoric. What are the politics of silence? How has silence been mandated and inflicted across historical periods and in a range of cultures and geographic locations? How are silence and gender related? Can silence be palpable, visual, deafening, architectural, dynamic? Hush. Let’s think about it.

Calendar of Events

The full calendar for this semester's program is available here.


Coming Soon: Book Reading and Publication Party: "The Silent History"

Eli Horowitz and Kevin Moffett
co-authors of "The Silent History"

September 25, 2014 | 4:15pm
Founders Room, Honnold/Mudd Library

It begins with a statistical oddity: a spike in children born with acute speech delays. Physically normal in every way, these children never speak and do not respond to speech; they don't learn to read, don't learn to write. As the number of cases grows to an epidemic level, theories spread. Maybe it's related to a popular antidepressant; maybe it's environmental. Or maybe these children have special skills all their own.

The Silent History unfolds in a series of brief testimonials from parents, teachers, friends, doctors, cult leaders, profiteers, and impostors (everyone except, of course, the children themselves), documenting the growth of the so-called silent community into an elusive, enigmatic force in itself -- alluring to some, threatening to others. Both a bold storytelling experiment and a propulsive reading experience, The Silent History is at once thrilling, timely, and timeless.

"Brilliant ... A vital work of art." -- The Huffington Post

"Terrific." -- The Wall Street Journal

"Fascinating." -- San Francisco Chronicle

"A sprawling, captivating work." -- Forbes

Eli Horowitz was the managing editor and then publisher of McSweeney's for eight years. He is the co-author of The New World, a collaboration with Chris Adrian, forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The Silent History, a collaborative multi-part narrative he wrote with Matt Derby and Kevin Moffett, was released as an app for mobile devices in 2012, and in book form from Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2014.

Kevin Moffett is the author of two story collections: Permanent Visitors (University of Iowa Press, 2006), which won the John Simmons Short Fiction Award, and Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events (HarperCollins, 2012). He has received the National Magazine Award, the Nelson Algren Award, the Pushcart Prize, and a literature fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts. In 2014-15, Moffett is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Literature Department at Claremont McKenna College. The Silent History, a collaborative multi-part narrative he wrote with Matt Derby and Eli Horowitz, was released as an app for mobile devices in 2012, and in book form from Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2014.

Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby, and Kevin Moffett
The Silent History: A Novel
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014

The novel will be available for purchase at the event.

Co-sponsored by the Claremont Colleges Library

Exhibition: “Prison Obscura”

September 2-October 17, 2014
Clark Humanities Museum, Scripps College
Visit website

Prison Obscura presents rarely seen vernacular, surveillance, evidentiary, and prisoner-made photographs, shedding light on the prison industrial complex. It builds the case that Americans must face these images to grasp the proliferation of the U.S.  prison system and to connect with those it confines. It encourages visitors to ask why tax-paying, prison-funding citizens rarely get the chance to see such images and to consider what roles such pictures play for those within the system. For more on the exhibition and its curator, please visit Prison ObscuraThe New York TimesYouTube, and the LA Times.

Prison Obscura is on view from Monday through Friday from 9:00am-5:00pm in the Clark Humanities Museum in the Bette Cree Edwards Humanities Building at Scripps. Brook will also present “Prison Silences,” a public lecture for the Humanities Institute on October 2 at 4:15 p.m. in Garrison Theater at the Scripps College Performing Arts Center, with a reception to follow from 5:30 to 7 p.m. inside the exhibition.

Prison Obscura is a traveling exhibition curated by Pete Brook and made possible with the support of the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities and Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College, Haverford, PA. Support for this presentation has been provided by the Scripps College Humanities Institute and by the Core Curriculum in Interdisciplinary Humanities at Scripps College.