Williams College Appoints Director of Oakley Center

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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Gage McWeeny, professor of English at Williams College, has been appointed as the director of the Oakley Center for Humanities and Social Sciences.

As director, McWeeny will oversee the events and activities of the Oakley Center during his three-year term. The center hosts a variety of conferences, colloquia, reading groups and annual lectures. Along with continuing these events, McWeeny hopes to focus on and think about the arts in relation to scholarly work in the humanities and social sciences during his tenure as director.

He will succeed Morris Professor of Rhetoric Jana Sawicki, who has served as director since 2015.

McWeeny has been a member of the Williams faculty since 2005 and has previously served in leadership roles, including as a member and chair of the Steering Committee. His teaching and research interests include 19th-century British literature, the history and theory of the novel, sociology and literature, as well as contemporary experimental writing and conceptual art. His recently published book, "The Comfort of Strangers: Social Life and Literary Form" (Oxford University Press, 2016), explores 19th-century realist writers, including Dickens, Wilde, Eliot and James, as they reimagined social life and its relation to literary form amidst a newly urbanized society.

"Gathering under one roof a group of scholars trained in diverse disciplines across the humanities and social sciences, the Oakley produces all kinds of energy, which in turn flows out into the classroom, the studio, and publications. It is an ongoing demonstration of the vitality of the liberal arts," McWeeny said. "I love how the Oakley stretches us, challenging people to reach across disciplinary boundaries, as well as illuminating how those boundaries are what make things interesting in the first place."

The Oakley Center was established in 1985 to support research across the humanities and social sciences, with a special emphasis on interdisciplinary work. Since that time, it has come to play a vital role in the scholarly life of Williams College. The center provides a meeting place where faculty and administrative staff can pursue their intellectual and research interests. To this end, the center sponsors many events and programs throughout the year, some exclusively for faculty and staff and others for the entire campus and the wider public.


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