Martha Nell Smith Delivers Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Lecture

October 8, 2010

Professor Smith addresses hundreds of students concerning the value of the humanities to academia and our communal history.

Thursday, September 30th 2010, the department was aflutter with activity.  The celebration was in honor of Professor Martha Nell Smith, as she delivered her Distinguished Scholar-Teacher lecture, entitled “The Humanities Are Not A Luxury.”  The lecture was a reflection on what teaching, research, and writing in the humanities means for higher education, democracy, and our collective future.

Now in its 32nd year, The Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Program annually honors a handful of faculty members who demonstrate excellence in both teaching and scholarship.  This honor certainly befits Smith and her years here at Maryland.  Smith is both a professor and Founding Director of MITH (the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities).  She has published five books and numerous articles thus far.  Through her literary seeking, Smith has contributed to Feminist, Queer, and Textual  criticism and theory, and made great strides in making those contributions accessible in the era of digital media.  In that vein, Smith is the Coordinator and Executive Editor of the Dickinson Electronic Archives, at UVA’s IATH (Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities).  She is also on the board of numerous digital literary projects.  

Professor Smith has won numerous awards for her past scholarship and innovations, and yet according to her, “Receiving this Distinguished Scholar-Teacher award means more to me than all of the other fellowships, grants, and awards I've received because the DST guidelines recognize what has been essential to my work--research is teaching, inheres in teaching, and the two cannot be separated from one another.  Much of my research has been in physical archives with dusty, detritus-ridden manuscripts yet I've always brought the fruits of that research into the classroom.  In fact, wanting to share with others my discoveries in special collections that so few ever see is what prompted me to build the Dickinson Electronic Archives and help found the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH).  For the DST award, research and teaching work cannot be separated, and they are both services to our knowledge building, and that's more than proper.  They are indivisible.  I am deeply honored and humbled by this award, and, with Walt Whitman, remind that she ‘who most honors my style learns under it to destroy the teacher.’"

Throughout her lecture, Professor Smith was gracious and seemed jazzed to be addressing such an enthusiastic crowd.  She was warm, funny, and above all, impossibly smart.  Smith made profound historical connections between the humanities and their perceptions over time, musing upon the generative and integral nature of the humanities in academia.  Smith iterated the vital nature of humanities studies for our university, our collective histories, and our society to a packed audience in Ulrich Recital Hall (Tawes).  Over 200 people filled the seats, crowded the aisles, and shared the perimeter of the stage with Smith. 

After the lecture concluded with rousing applause, a hungry audience climbed the stairs to a fresh, stunningly colorful banquet prepared by our own Isabella Moulton.  The event lingered in more ways than one.  Attendees were both satiated and inspired to leave Tawes with a renewed sense of literary, scholarly, and creative purpose. 

Thank you and congratulations to Professor Martha Nell Smith!

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