Hot off the Presses: "The Human Being in American Art: A Transatlantic Book Launch"

We are pleased to announce an unconventional book launch celebrating the publication of Humans, a book about the history and future of the idea of the human being in American Art and Culture.


Edited by Laura Bieger (University of Groningen), Joshua Shannon (University of Maryland), and Jason Weems (University of California Riverside)

Volume 5 of Terra Foundation Essays, Terra Foundation/University of Chicago Press, 2022


Humans are organisms, but “the human being” is a term referring to a complicated, self-contradictory, and historically evolving set of concepts and practices. Humans explores competing versions, constructs, and ideas of the human being that have figured prominently in the arts of the United States. These essays consider a range of artworks from the colonial period to the present, examining how they have reflected, shaped, and modeled ideas of the human in American culture and politics. The book addresses to what extent artworks have conferred more humanity on some human beings than others, how art has shaped ideas about the relationships between humans and other beings and things, and in what ways different artistic constructions of the human being evolved, clashed, and intermingled over the course of American history. Humans both tells the history of a concept foundational to US civilization and proposes new means for its urgently needed rethinking. Authors include Alan Braddock (William & Mary), Jessica Horton (University of Delaware), Michael Leja (University of Pennsylvania), Caroline Arscott (Courtauld Institute of Art), Larne Abse Gogarty (University College London), Jean-Phillipe Antoine (Paris 8 University), and Cherise Smith (University of Texas Austin).


Each of the volume’s authors will speak for five minutes in response to the questions below, before the event opens to audience discussion: What concepts of “the human” are needed now? What does it mean–and what does it take–to be human today? What role can art play in fostering the roles and understandings of the human being necessary now? What can we do now (as scholars, as members of society) to shape humanity for the future?



Wednesday, April 20 at 9:00am to 10:30am

Virtual Event

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