The human fingerprint maps our identity, the ties that bind us, the lingering traces we leave on this earth. As humanists, we explore the durability as well as the fragility of the human condition — opening windows onto worlds near to home and oceans away, worlds we interpret through stories and images, poems and performance, history and narratives, sounds and silence. At Washington University in St. Louis, the Center for the Humanities facilitates the labor of humanists by nurturing innovative research, transformative pedagogy, and vibrant community engagement locally and globally.
Washington University’s Center for the Humanities began as the International Writers Center, which was opened in 1990 under the directorship of William Gass, the David May Distinguished University Professor in the Humanities. Gerald Early, the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters, became the second director of the International Writers Center in 2001. Under the guidance of its advisory board and after seeking input from Washington University faculty, the center expanded its mission to embrace the humanities more broadly. In 2003, the International Writers Center became the Washington University Center for the Humanities, “dedicated to letters and humanistic research and their presence in the public life.” Gerald Early directed the Center until 2013, when he stepped down to focus on other projects. Jean Allman, the J.H. Hexter Professor in the Humanities, was the second permanent director, serving from January 2014 to June 2022. Stephanie Kirk, professor of Spanish, became the center’s director in July 2022.