2020 College Summer Institute

The Place of Water: histories, presence, and futures

From the mighty river that divides a continent to the trickle of a kitchen faucet, from the ancient floods of Genesis and Gilgamesh to the deepest reveries of Moby Dick, water is everything, both source – of life, of myth, of culture – and resource. Our geographies, our economies, our landscapes, our livelihoods, and our very bodies are defined by where it is (or isn’t), where it goes, and what it carries. Natural and manmade alterations in water affect every aspect of the human condition, leading societies toward economic transformations, deadly conflict, mass migration, resettlement, and even extinction. We are utterly dependent on water, yet our relationship with it is capricious and dangerously fragile. Though we seek to control it, it often resists our control, and when the course of water changes, so too, inevitably, our course changes. Likewise, the stories we tell about water and ourselves, for as Melville wrote, “Meditation and water are wedded forever.”

Now, climate change – and its ensuing floods, storms, droughts – is rewriting the relationship between humans and water. Industry, agriculture, and a rapidly urbanizing world pose increasing threats to water quality. Our decisions about how and where to use and control water are influenced by ever-advancing technology and engineering. How do we as scholars, writers, and artists, keep up with this changing narrative? How do we tell a story about water using research tools employed across disciplines?

The 2020 Summer Research Institute offers undergraduates an opportunity to pursue independent research projects on questions about the place of water in society, culture, geography, and economics, using water as a theme to flow across disciplines, to tell new stories. The organizing faculty work in ecocriticism, literary studies, narrative history, biography, creative writing, environmental economics and sustainable development. We welcome students interested in pursuing ambitious research and writing projects from any artistic, humanistic or social-scientific angle, including, but not limited to history, literature, film, art history, philosophy, music, linguistics, anthropology, political science, sociology, the history and philosophy of science, cognitive science, psychology, and social justice. Participating students will partner with Institute faculty mentors on collaborative research work, or pursue independent inquiries relevant to the Summer Institute theme under the guidance of their faculty. Students’ original research may fuel their writing in genres ranging from traditional scholarly monographs to literary nonfiction, from philosophical essays to fiction, poetry and screenwriting. Their research may also furnish significant groundwork for individual BA projects.

Objectives and Learning Outcomes: Students will learn how to conduct original research on a wide array of primary, secondary and reference materials, using tools humanists employ across disciplines. They will acquire expertise in assessing sources, developing robust research questions and topics, and building scholarly arguments and other persuasive works of disciplined imagination out of evidence provided by primary and secondary material. They will hone the skills required to act as contributing partners in collaborative research enterprises, and as independent investigators pursuing original projects. At the conclusion of the 2020 Summer Institute, students will have completed a substantive project that showcases their engagement with research materials, and their critical thinking and writing around the theme of the Institute. A closing symposium and exhibition will afford students the opportunity to present their work publicly.

Apply now for the 2020 College Summer Institute in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.