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FHI at 25 - Gregson Davis, "Towards the flourishing of 'Transcultural Humanities'"


Gregson Davis

This spring, FHI 25 kicks off with a series of conversations engaging some of the most significant humanities scholars of our time - all formerly or currently affiliated with Duke - to historicize the University's significant investment in the humanities in the 1980s, reflect on what such investment made possible alongside national and international developments in the field, and propose future directions of humanities scholarship and teaching within and beyond Duke. My vision of "Transcultural Humanities" was initiated during my timely introduction to the idea of cultural relativism as an undergraduate at Harvard in the late 50s. Courses I took from visiting professors in cultural anthropology that systematically dethroned the primitive/civilized dichotomy led me to nurture a life-long critique of the Eurocentric ideology embedded in the education system of colonial societies. My fulcral engagement in the so-called "culture wars" at Stanford in the decades of the 80s allowed me to implement this intercultural perspective in my research and collaborative teaching in the fields of Classics and Comparative Literature. During my decades-long career at Duke, where I did administrative service as chair of the Classics department and, above all, as Dean of Humanities, I was strategically placed to contribute to the inauguration and success of the Franklin Humanities Institute and to promote interdisciplinary studies inspired by a progressive "transcultural" orientation. Gregson Davis, Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, is Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at Duke University. His primary appointment is in the Department of Classical Studies where his research and teaching are focused on Latin literature of the Late Republic; he also holds a secondary appointment in the Program in Literature, where his special research interests are in francophone and anglophone Caribbean poetry. He taught Classics and Comparative Literature at Stanford University and at Cornell University before joining the Duke faculty in 1994. His published monographs include: Polyhymnia:The Rhetoric of Horatian Lyric Discourse (Berkeley 1984); Aimé Césaire (Cambridge 1997); Parthenope: The Interplay of Ideas in Vergilian Bucolic (Brill 2012); Journal of a Homecoming/Cahier d'un retour au pays natal (Duke University Press 2017). Breakfast at 9 am, lecture at 9:30 am RSVP at


Humanities, Lecture/Talk