On Tact in Dark Times


Speaker(s): Corina Stan, Associate Professor of English

Tact is often considered a quaint little virtue: nice to have, commendable but not required. Yet over the past century, philosophers thought about tact as crucial when humanity was threatened by war, pernicious ideologies, or violence in the bloody aftermath of revolutions. So what is the place of tact in our polarized society? How is it different from political correctness, or from a “woke” attitude? Can one be tactful when one is in a position or situation of inferiority? Can one be tactful all the time? What alternatives might we have?

Universities are communities. Their scholars, students and staff work together to create and communicate knowledge, and that purpose is made only more essential during times of crisis. Though much of the discussion about COVID-19 has focused on health care and policy, these times also highlight the relevance of rigorous, critical humanistic thinking.

With the Duke community scattered across the globe, yet connecting in new ways through digital platforms, Exploring Self & Community in Dark Times is a series of short, online talks to stimulate debate about the implications of COVID-19 and its impacts on self and community.  It also offers a timely point of entry for curious students into the Humanities at Duke. We invite first- and second-year Duke students to join us for one or more of the intellectual discussions detailed below!

Each session will begin with a 15–20 minute presentation on a text, image, film extract or piece of music that will be distribute beforehand, and subsequent discussion will explore conceptions of self and community. The hour-long sessions - which are not for credit - will take place via Zoom and will be capped at 16 participants.

Registration is required. All sessions will begin at 7 p.m. (ET).


Trinity College of Arts & Sciences