Colleges and universities that can withstand the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis will need to redouble their efforts to engage students in the kinds of intellectual and social experiences that cannot be attained remotely or in isolation. Public humanities, which promotes collaboration, civic and community engagement, and inter-institutional alliances, can be one such reparative force for the reconstructed university. This essay describes the work of graduate student researchers in an interdisciplinary public humanities seminar at Emory University who partnered with a large regional theater on a project involving dramaturgy and audience engagement for a spring 2020 production of Lynn Nottage’s play Sweat (first performed in 2015). The graduate seminar and the project—both before and in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak—offer a compelling model for critical humanistic pedagogy and research that counteracts the isolation and insularity exacerbated by the pandemic.

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