Magazine article Humanities

Editor's Note

Magazine article Humanities

Editor's Note

Article excerpt

"Innovate or die." It's the kind of future-is-nigh saying our age seems to produce with dulling frequency. You can get it on coffee cups, or on posters to hang in your office and intimidate your employees, who may be thinking instead about their vacation or what to pick up at the grocery store.

How do truly innovative people go about being innovative? I am not in a position to generalize, but I think it worth considering the method of Paul Cézanne, whose Post-Impressionist paintings helped usher in numerous schools of modernism. To what, we might ask, did Cézanne look for inspiration? The answer is the past.

As Nancy Locke writes in this issue, even as a celebrated artist in middle age, Cézanne spent countless hours at the Louvre, looking over and copying Old Masters. I know, what a mossback.

Recently, NEH announced a new effort that looks back to a major goal described in our agency's founding legislation: to engage public understanding of the humanities. The initiative, a creation of NEH's new chairman, William "Bro" Adams, is called The Common Good. Though still taking shape, its first offspring has arrived: the Public Scholar program, which aims to support book projects, in the humanities, that are likely to reach large audiences. One can imagine all kinds of potential applicants, scholars with a knack for writing for general audiences, independent researchers, professional writers who use scholarly methods, and so on.

James Thurber was a professional writer, but something tells me he would not get one of these fellowships. …

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