Doris Sommer

Doris Sommer

Member of the Advisory Council
Doris Sommer

Doris Sommer is a humanist thinker and scholar of literature, currently Ira and Jewell Williams Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. A formidable voice for the arts and humanities in public life and world development, she directs the Cultural Agents Initiative, an NGO dedicated to reviving the civic mission of the Humanities, and “Pre-Texts”, an arts-based training program for teachers of literacy, critical thinking, and citizenship, and Renaissance Now, a forum for rethinking culture in development. Among her books are Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America (1991) about novels that helped to consolidate new republics; Proceed with Caution when Engaged by Minority Literature (1999) on a rhetoric of particularism; Bilingual Aesthetics: A New Sentimental Education (2004); and The Work of Art in the World: Civic Agency and Public Humanities (2014).

Her other works include One Master for Another: Populism as Patriarchal Rhetoric in Dominican Novels (University Press of America, 1984), her edited volumes, Nationalisms & Sexualities (Routledge, 1991), The Places of History Regionalism Revisited in Latin America (Duke, 1999) Bilingual Games: Some Literary Investigations (Palgrave, 2003), Cultural Agency in the Americas (Duke, 2006).

Within and beyond the walls of academia, Sommer offers public services at Harvard and around the world. She co-chairs the Hispanic Seminar and the Humanitarian & Cultural Initiative at the Mahindra Centre, and is a member of the Executive Committee of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, the American Studies Program, the Committee on Ethnicity, Migration, Rights (EMR); the Centre for Public Service and Engaged ScholarshipGlobal Health and Health Policy, South Asia Institute, and the Modern Language Association's Working Group on K–16 Alliances. A globe-trotting advocate for the return of the arts & humanities to the public life, she has most recently given a lecture on the improtance of arts and humanities to the Global Parliament of Mayors.

Hear Sommer's talk "Cultural Agents All" @Harvard Thinks Big 4; read her cases for "Art as Obligation and Opportunity" & "Democracy Requests the Pleasure of Your Company"; find engaging reviews of Sommer's The Work of Art in the World: Civic Agency and Public Humanities in the Los Angeles Review of Books, American Association of University Professors, and the London School of Economics blog.


Contact Information

Boylston Hall, 4th Floor, Cambridge, MA 02138