Modern and Contemporary Studies Initiative holds inaugural summer institute

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Eight departments in the College of the Liberal Arts hosted the inaugural Modern and Contemporary Studies Initiative (MCSI) summer institute in June. The collaborative project brought together faculty and students from comparative literature; Asian studies; English; African American studies; women’s, gender, and sexuality studies; French and Francophone studies; German and Slavic languages and literatures; and Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, to showcase what these departments do and to build partnerships with other scholars in humanities scholarship across fields and disciplines.

“All these units have strong national and international reputations in the study of literature, art and culture in the 20th and 21st centuries. MCSI is a framework to bring these strengths together, collaborate across disciplinary lines, and highlight an area of excellence in the humanities at Penn State,” said Jonathan Eburne, associate professor of comparative literature and English and the director of MCSI.

The summer institute featured visiting faculty speakers and graduate students from Columbia, Yale, Michigan, Missouri, Rutgers and Loyola, as well as scholars from Croatia and India. The participants were able to share research and examine key issues in modern and contemporary literature, art, culture, and critical thought. Through inter- and intra-disciplinary research, the institute explored the parameters of “expertise” as a measure of humanistic knowledge. In addition, graduate students were given the opportunity to foster mentoring relationships with faculty in their fields.

“The humanities have a long and distinguished history at Penn State, but it's hard sometimes to give this work a face and a story. MCSI is a helpful vehicle for making the humanities visible,” said Eburne.

In addition to hosting a summer institute, the MCSI seeks to foster collaborative scholarly and pedagogical projects across the University, including graduate courses, scholarly journals, a book series, the Modernist Studies Workshop, and the Contemporary Studies Workshop. MCSI will announce details about next year’s summer institute in the fall.

To learn more about MCSI and the summer institute, visit or contact Jonathan Eburne at

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Last Updated July 03, 2017