Welcome to Making Meaning, a podcast that explores how and why the humanities are an essential part of our everyday lives. In this series, we hear stories from our nation’s humanities councils and leaders across the greater United States about the role the humanities have played during the pandemic and are playing in our recovery. Listen to the trailer in English and in Spanish translation. All episodes become available on Tuesday, November 9, 2021, wherever you receive your podcasts.

Episode 1: The Humanities in Times of Crisis

Poet, writer, and physician Dr. Rafael Campo reads his poem “The Doctor’s Song” and talks about the healing power of the humanities. Dr. Gioia Woods, chair of the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies and professor of humanities at Northern Arizona University, unpacks The Pandemic Stories Project, a reading, discussion, and oral history program she created to document the impact of COVID-19 in her rural community.

Guest Bios:

Dr. Rafael Campo teaches and practices medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.  Author of eight highly acclaimed books, he is the recipient of many honors and awards, including a Guggenheim fellowship, an honorary Doctor of Literature degree from Amherst College, a National Poetry Series award, and a Lambda Literary Award for his poetry; his third collection of poetry, Diva (Duke University Press, 2000), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.  His work appears in numerous anthologies, including in the Best American Poetry and Pushcart Prize series, and in periodicals such as American Poetry Review, The Hudson Review, The Nation, The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, POEM (UK), Poetry, The Poetry Review (UK), Salon.com, Slate.com, The Threepenny Review, and elsewhere. His collection of poems Alternative Medicine was the subject of feature stories on NPR, PBS NewsHour and the CBC’s Sunday Edition radio show. His poetry has been translated into Spanish, French, Italian, German, Chinese, and Turkish. He currently serves as Director of Literature and Writing Programs of the Arts and Humanities Initiative at Harvard Medical School and Poetry Section editor for JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

Learn more about Dr. Rafael Campo’s work and poetry on his website, watch his TEDx talk, and read the Poetry Section he edits at the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Gioia Woods earned her PhD in English with an emphasis in American and Environmental Literature from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1999. She is the chair of the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies and professor of humanities at Northern Arizona University (NAU) where she teaches classes in environmental humanities; race, ethnicity, and gender; and cultural studies. Her ongoing scholarship and publications are in American and comparative literatures, ecocriticsm, and mid-twentieth century cultural production.  Since 2013, Dr. Woods has directed the Summer Sustainability Program in Siena, an interdisciplinary faculty-led program designed to explore the relationship between nature and culture in Italy’s Tuscany region. Dr. Woods is the Past President of the Western Literature Association, a former board member and project leader for Arizona Humanities, and a recent Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Milan. Since 2017 she has served as the NAU Faculty Senate President.

Explore the Pandemic Stories Project and Plague Virtual Book Club, and read more about Dr. Gioia Wood’s work and recent book, Left in the West: Literature, Culture, and Progressive Politics in the American West.

The Pandemic Stories Project was supported by a grant from Arizona Humanities. Read more about their grant opportunities and project grants.

Voices featured at the top of the show: Trey Mitchell (misidentified in the episode as Matthew Gibson) (Virginia Humanities), Julia Wong (Immigrant History Initiative, “Talking Asian American Identity with Your Children: Racism, Parenting and Child Development during the Pandemic,” a Connecticut Humanities’-supported program), Jennifer Tonko (Minnesota Humanities Center), Samantha Anderson (Arizona Humanities), and Stephanie Gibson (Nevada Humanities). 

Find out more about how the humanities respond during crises on our blog:

Donuts Ask Big Questions Too: Washington Humanities’ Cabin Fever Kids

Building Community Relationships During a Pandemic: PHC’s Teen Reading Lounge

The show is produced by LWC. Elizabeth Nakano is our producer and sound designer. Jimmy Gutierrez edited the series. Jen Chien is executive editor. Cedric Wilson is lead producer. Spanish translations by Virginia Lora. You can find more episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

Making Meaning is a podcast from the Federation of State Humanities Councils and is part of its “Humanities in American Life” initiative, which is generously funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Note: The opinions and ideas expressed in this episode are those of our guests and do not necessarily reflect those held by the Federation of State Humanities Councils or its funders.