Interdisciplinary Idealism: The Role of the Humanities in Capstone Projects

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA), April 12-15, 2018
contact email: 

Capstones are an established part of undergraduate curricula. Often a requirement in degree programs, these investigative and research-based projects stress relevance and practicality. They are, thus, often promoted as necessities; they demand critical thinking, clear analytic writing, methodological application, and for those projects collaborative in their structure, teamwork and negotiation. Capstones encourage inventive and imaginative thought, reinforcing activities we associate with what we might call the ideal “humanist” – philosophically and ethically engaged, socially aware, and community minded. However, in our justified enthusiasm for and promotion of capstone projects, we less frequently and less precisely discuss their limitations and the reductive effect such interdisciplinary endeavors can have on the humanities. Consequently, the tendency in today’s undergraduate curricula to marginalize the humanities complicates and challenges claims about their crucial contribution to interdisciplinary projects. When we insist that the humanities function in the temporal world that capstone projects highlight, do we relegate the humanities to, perhaps even redefine them as, the overly utilitarian and pragmatic? In seeking commonalities, do we diminish important distinctions between the humanities and other disciplines integral to collaborative projects? More broadly, how do we as faculty within those different disciplines construct integrative student projects without compromising our particular disciplinary values? This roundtable solicits presentations about these questions as well as others regarding curriculum design and the politics in the interdisciplinary and the collaborative.

Please submit 300 word abstracts by September 30th through the NeMLA portal at