Orange Alert

"Silence" is 2019-20 Theme of Humanities Center's Syracuse Symposium


Sept. 17, 2019, by Diana Napolitano


How does a Symposium explore silence?

Through the eye—or ear—of the beholder.

“People experience silence in many ways. It may represent peace and quiet, or—in contexts of inequality—a stifling of voices, or a strategy of resistance,” says Vivian May, director of the Humanities Center and newly appointed director of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-supported Central New York Humanities Corridor. “Silence is a rich concept, approachable from many angles.”

Each year, the Syracuse University Humanities Center in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) hosts the Syracuse Symposium, a year-long series of public events focused around a theme. Previous themes (all chosen by the Center’s advisory board) include Stories, Belonging, Identity and Justice.

Programming for the 2019-20 Syracuse Symposium engages the meaning and impact of silence across perspectives and genres, locally and globally. As notions of social justice and inclusivity continue to be at the forefront of national discussions, students, faculty and community members have the opportunity to engage personally with these same ideas through the Symposium’s more than two-dozen events.

Highlights of fall Symposium programming include:

  • film (Human Rights Film Festival, Sept. 26-28)
  • musical performance (“On the Edge of Silence” with Ensemble/Parallax, Sept. 29)
  • exploring the humanities’ role in understanding health and disability (“TitBits: Breast Cancer Stories,” Oct. 24-26 and “Cripping Graphic Medicine,” Oct. 29)
  • poetry (“What You Have Heard is True,” with Carolyn Forché, Dec. 5).

“The humanities (the arts, literature, philosophy, language, history) give us the keys to interpreting the human condition,” May observes. “For example, when is silence acceptable—and to whom? When is it chosen, or imposed, and why? These thought-provoking questions are timeless—and timely.”

A full schedule may be found here: Events are free and open to the public. Workshops require advance registration, where noted.

The Humanities Center is located in the historic Tolley Humanities Building. It serves the campus community by cultivating diverse forms of scholarship, sponsoring a broad range of programming and partnerships, and addressing enduring questions and pressing social issues.

In addition to the Syracuse Symposium, the Humanities Center annually supports graduate student and faculty fellowships, the Watson Visiting Professorship, a University-wide Books in the Humanities celebration, and many lectures, workshops and seminars. It is also home of the Central New York Humanities Corridor, a dynamic consortium of more than 10 universities and colleges which sponsors innovative research activities across the region.

Contact Information

Diane Drake

Media Contact

Diana Napolitano