2023-2024 MHC Annual Symposium theme announced!


“River towns are winged towns.”

“A river is superior to a lake in its liberating influence. It has motion and indefinite length. A river touching the back of a town is like a wing, it may be unused as yet, but ready to waft it over the world. With its rapid current it is a slightly fluttering wing. River towns are winged towns.” 

(Henry David Thoreau, journal entry, dated July 2, 1858)

From the Mississippi to the Rhine to the Yangtze, to the Penobscot, the Earth’s rivers have made possible the transport of goods and people throughout history, and with those goods and
people, culture has also been transported. Rivers make us, and we have in turn made them—through dams, diversion, reversals. The rivers give us a literal and symbolic map of human movement, development, and connection, and thus are an illuminating reference point in our work in the humanities. 

With climate changes affecting those very waterways (see the current work preparing for the future of the Los Angeles River and the Rhine), we can see how the low water levels expose parts of our history, enlarging our sense of how the rivers affect the surrounding land and its people. The 2023-24 annual symposium theme addresses many aspects of how rivers both large and small—and both literal and metaphorical—shape and are shaped by the stories we tell, the art we make, and the ways in which we live alongside them.