Time to get back to the humanities

The Penn Humanities Forum, which is in its third year, is now taking a look at the concept of time, and tomorrow it will feature New York University Dean Mary Carruthers and medieval vocal ensemble Anonymous 4 in an event titled “Time, Space and Memory.”

The upcoming program, cosponsored by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, will discuss how human memory in medieval times was used as a tool for invention and not just as a means of capturing a lost time. The lecture will be followed by a concert, featuring hymns, songs and responses from Anonymous 4’s album, “Legends of Saint Nicholas.”

Forum Associate Director Jennifer Conway said the forum, which assembles lectures and public events yearly under one theme, is needed now more than ever in our increasingly “bottom-line society.”

“What has happened in the last 25 years is that the humanities have become marginalized,” she said. Just look at the number of column inches devoted to all things economic, Conway said, and you soon realize the problem. Scroll down to the bottom of The New York Times’ e-mail update and that’s where you’ll find articles covering the arts.

“They [issues in the humanities] should be as much a part of the discussion as economics and education,” she said.

Conway said the forum attempts to “bridge the divide” between the humanities and the public. “The idea is not to talk down to the public,” she said. “Penn has very important things to say and [they’re] not just abstract. [The forum is] a combination of issues that scholars can bring to the public consciousness that have relevance.”

Holly Pittman, member of the forum’s faculty advisory board, said this year’s topic deserves particular attention considering the dawning of the new millennium..

As the year moves along, the forum will continue to explore time in creative ways. But she added that “not all of [the events]take place in the university but [also] in the Philadelphia area and where we can make collaborative connections we do that.”

Tomorrow’s event is at St. Mark’s Church, 1625 Locust St. Free lecture at 6:45 p.m. Tickets $20, $10 for students for performance at 8 p.m. For tickets, call 215-569-8080.

Originally published on December 13, 2001