The Work of Art in the World: Civic Agency and Public Humanities

Guest Author: Doris Sommer

Doris Gazette-1-1The Work of Art in the World is a celebration of art and interpretation that take on social challenges–a text that I hope will steer the humanities back to a productive engagement with the world. The Work of Art in the World is informed by many writers and theorists. Foremost among them is the eighteenth-century German poet and philosopher Friedrich Schiller, who remains an eloquent defender of art-making and humanistic interpretation in the construction of political freedom. Schiller’s thinking informs my call for citizens to collaborate in the endless co-creation of a more just and beautiful world.

In the book, I focus on reformist projects that de640x170velop momentum and meaning as they circulate through society to inspire faith in the possible. Among the cases that I cover are top-down initiatives of political leaders such as those launched by Antanas Mockus, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, and bottom-up movements like the Theatre of the Oppressed, created by the Brazilian director, writer, and educator Augusto Boal. I also offer an overview of Pre-Texts–an international teacher-training program that I created to honor the bond between creative and critical thinking, translating high literacy theory through popular creative practices. Believing that we are all cultural agents, this approach to teaching fosters high-order literacy, innovation, and citizenship through art-making activities that are used as a means for students to gain ownership of classic literature.

About the Author:

Doris Sommer is the Ira and Jewell Williams Jr. Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, where she is Founder and Director of Cultural Agents: Arts and Humanities in Civic Engagement. She is the author of Bilingual Aesthetics: A New Sentimental Education and editor of Cultural Agency in the Americas, both also published by Duke University Press.

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