Humanities Writ Large – A Look Back

Beginning in the 2011-12 academic year, Humanities Writ Large acted on a bold vision to change the way our faculty and students practice and perceive the humanities. Its projects reached all corners of Duke University and directly impacted thousands of graduate and undergraduate students as well as hundreds of faculty. The indirect impacts permeated this university and beyond. Humanities Writ Large:

  • Transformed scholarship and teaching practices: Faculty who engaged in HWL have established new connections across the university, experimented with new forms of pedagogy, and engaged in innovative and connected scholarship. Faculty note that these experiences were often transformative and have changed how they approach other aspects of their work. This is also true for the Visiting Faculty Fellows who have often carried these transformative experiences back to their home institutions.
  • Provided rich student experiences: Students had the opportunity to engage in humanities research early in their Duke career, to work closely with faculty and graduate students, and to explore topics of interest deeply. For some students, these experiences have led them into a humanistic field of study and for others, it has provided a new dimension of understanding to their studies in another field. Graduate students, through the development of vertical integration, have not only contributed to the experiences of the undergraduate students, but have also benefited enormously from the opportunities to engage in innovative scholarship and mentor undergraduate students.
  • Encouraged innovative and connected forms of scholarship: HWL projects produced innovative outputs that have broadened the understanding of what research and scholarship in the humanities looks like. Many of these projects addressed societal challenges and demonstrated the important ways in which the humanities can inform our understanding of current dilemmas.
  • Rooted change within the fabric of Duke University: HWL provided the resources and space to test new ideas. Some of these ideas will not be sustained, nor were they ever intended to be, but have still had the cumulative effect of creating a more innovative and experimental culture. Other ideas, such as the Labs, pSearch, and the creation of the Director of Academic Engagement in the Arts and Humanities position, and investment in Digital Humanities Academic Technology Consultants, will be sustained by the Duke operating budget when the grant ends. Some HWL innovations, such as vertically integrated teams, have become embedded in other university-wide programs such as Bass Connections, Data+, and Story+, shifting the nature of education at Duke.

The University is now moving to experiment with embedding the Lab model of teaching and research into departments, is continuing to bring visiting faculty fellows from Liberal Arts Colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities into partnership with Duke faculty, and is expanding the fellowship model to include faculty at Durham Technical Community College. Please follow our work at