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Indiana University Bloomington

Master Classes in the Humanities

Observing Masters of the Craft at Work

About The Series

The Master Classes in the Humanities: The Art of Interpretation is a lecture series at Indiana University, Bloomington, by outstanding scholars from different fields addressed to a broad academic audience. The lectures focus not on the speakers' respective fields of expertise, but rather on the core competence of the humanities: interpretation. 

Interpretation makes objects that appear to be examples of something—a painting, a sonnet, a photographic portrait, a gesture—into exemplars of a larger structure of meaning. This is a practice that has less in common with what is often called method, understood as an algorithmic procedure, and more with the artful skill of a master. 

Rather than presenting a talk about their current area of research, our speakers do something different: they focus on a single object and in a process of careful interpretation and analysis bring to light new zones of meaning.

The lecture series is accompanied by a seminar that gathers a dozen faculty members from multiple departments for meetings with our visitors and intensive discussions of the question of interpretation.

The series had its start in Fall 2010, and a video archive of past lectures can be found here. In 2011-12, the Master Classes project is generously funded by the College Arts & Humanities Institute, the Institute for Advanced Study, and the Provost's Office, all at Indiana University, Bloomington.

All lectures are free and open to the public.

Michel Chaouli (Germanic Studies)
Dror Wahrman (History)