Geoffrey Harpham

Geoffrey Galt Harpham was trained as a literary scholar. He served as professor of English at Tulane University, New Orleans, and president and director of the National Humanities Center, based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, from 2003-2015. In 2015 he became Senior Fellow in the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. Harpham’s longstanding scholarly interests include the role of ethics in literary study, the place of language in intellectual history, and the work of Joseph Conrad. In recent years, he has become a prominent historian of and advocate for the humanities. Under his leadership, the National Humanities Center has sponsored initiatives that have encouraged dialogue between the humanities and the natural and social sciences. He has received fellowships from the J. S. Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Among his many books are On the Grotesque: Strategies of Contradiction in Art and Literature (Princeton University Press, 1982); The Ascetic Imperative in Culture and Criticism (University of Chicago Press, 1987); Shadows of Ethics: Criticism and the Just Society (Duke University Press, 1999); and Language Alone: The Critical Fetish of Modernity (Routledge, 2002); The Humanities and the Dream of America appeared (University of Chicago Press, 2011).

IWM Fellowship
February – March 2019

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Excerpt from Scholarship and Freedom, published in IWMpost 126, Winter 2020



I am undertaking an inquiry into the connection between the concept or concepts of freedom and the practice of scholarship. I will be threading my general arguments about scholarship through detailed studies of three scholars: W. E. B. Du Bois, Bernard Lategan, and Linda Nochlin.