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Poetry and performance, as well as more traditional presentations, comprised the first Rural Humanities Showcase, held Sept. 6 in the A.D. White House.

The nine projects represented Cornell faculty engagement, teaching and research around “rural humanities” – using the tools of the humanities to address both the rural-urban divide and the realities of rural America, particularly in central and western New York.

In addition to supporting new projects, the four-year Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded Rural Humanities initiative in the College of Arts and Sciences also aims to enhance the already existing projects at Cornell, such as those presented at the showcase, and form them into a visible program.

Rural Humanities is “an experiment in expanding the reach of the humanities at Cornell,” Paul Fleming, co-director of the initiative, said in his introduction. Fleming is professor of German studies and comparative literature and the Taylor Family Director of the Society for the Humanities.

“We want to encourage public and engaged projects,” Fleming said, “work which ranges from public-facing scholarship to directly collaborating with community partners in the co-creation of research and teaching agendas.” Those partners, he said, include the History Center in Tompkins County, local libraries, community colleges and indigenous communities. 

The initiative offers a spring seminar and a summer practicum for graduate students and advanced undergraduates, as well as support for faculty outreach in generating new scholarship, said Gerard Aching, Rural Humanities co-director and professor of Africana and Romance studies.

The presentations included a dramatic reading of a scene from “The Next Storm: A Community-Based Play About the Impact of Climate Change on the Finger Lakes.” The project, a collaboration with the Civic Ensemble theater company of Ithaca,is led by Sara Warner, a Stephen H. Weiss Junior Fellow and associate professor of performing and media arts (PMA); Godfrey Simmons Jr., senior lecturer in PMA; and Toby Ault, associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The actors included Cornell students and Ithaca community members.

Poet Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, associate professor of English, shared poetry by artists from Appalachia, where her current project, “Thriving Artists in Appalachia: Teaching at Hindman, Witnessing at Berea,” is focused.

Other presentations included:

For a full version of this story, visit the College of Arts and Sciences website.

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