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Meet Our Team

Amy J. Elias

"The humanities are not a condiment. They are the main course of life, the essential core of meaning in the world, where our values and our best selves are defined."


Amy J. Elias is Professor of English, is affiliated faculty with UT Cinema Studies and UT American Studies, and is a fellow at the UT Center for the Study of Social Justice. Her research centers on contemporary literature, narrative theory, and cross-disciplinary aesthetics and she is the author or editor of three books, Sublime Desire: History and Post-1960s Fiction, which won the George and Barbara Perkins Book Prize from the International Society for the Study of Narrative; Time: A Vocabulary of the Present; and The Planetary Turn: Relationality and Geoaesthetics in the 21st Century. She was the principal founder of ASAP: The Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present and the founding co-editor of ASAP’s scholarly periodical ASAP/Journal, which won the 2017 Council of Editors of Learned Journals Award for Best New Journal Design and the 2018 CELJ award for best new journal, and she has been special issue editor of issues 1.1 (Art and the Commons) and 3.2 (Protest: Rules of Engagement). She is finishing up a book on dialogue at the end of the world.

Thought: “Somebody or something did not wish me to be a nihilist." – Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

Read her Welcome Letter.

Monica Black

Associate Director

Monica Black is Professor of history. She is a historian of modern Europe whose research focuses on the cultural and social history of Germany, with an emphasis on the era of the World Wars and the decades immediately after 1945. She is the editor of the journal Central European History. Black is also the author of Death in Berlin: From Weimar to Divided Germany (2010, awarded the 2010 Fraenkel Prize and the 2011 Hans Rosenberg Prize) and A Demon-Haunted Land: Witches, Wonder Doctors, and the Ghosts of the Past in Post-WWII Germany (2020), translated and published in a Dutch edition with Brazilian, German, Polish, Russian, and Taiwanese editions in preparation. Her work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Shelby Cullom Davis Center at Princeton University, and the American Academy in Berlin, among others.

Thought: “Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.” – John Williams, from his novel Stoner

Joan Murray

Administrative Specialist

Joan Murray has served as UTHC Administrative Specialist since the Center’s founding and handles the day-to-day functions of the Center. Prior to working in the UTHC, Ms. Murray was Senior Secretary in the UT University Studies Program and has served as Administrative Assistant to the Dean at Northeastern University School of Law, as Secretary to the Supervising Attorney in the Criminal Law Practice at Franklin Pierce Law Center (now University of New Hampshire School of Law), and Chief Secretary at the Attorney General’s Office in Concord, New Hampshire.

Thought: “It costs nothing personally to look a passing stranger in the eyes and smile, but it can make all the difference in the world.”

Holly Jackson-Sullivan

Development Officer

Holly Jackson-Sullivan is the Development Director for Humanities in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Tennessee.  Prior to joining the University in June 2013, Holly held various executive roles in business and non-profits both in East Tennessee and South Carolina before spending almost a decade as Vice President for Advancement, Community Relations and Marketing at Maryville College.

Thought: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

Jeffrey Pannekoek

Graduate Research Assisstant

Jeffrey Amosis a PhD candidate in English with a focus on Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He received his MFA from Purdue University. His research interests are at the intersection of environmental humanities and storytelling, exploring nonhuman representation, stationarity, and the formation of plot. Prior to graduate school, Jeffrey worked as a television producer on programs like Hoarders, Who Do You Think You Are?, and Genealogy Roadshow. He is currently the fiction editor of Grist: A Journal of Literary Arts and a research assistant at the UT Humanities Center.

Jacob Smith

Humanities Programs Intern

This position will remain open in 2020.

Thomas J. Heffernan

Director Emeritus

Thomas J. Heffernan is the Kenneth Curry Professor Emeritus and the founding director of the UT Humanities Center. His chief scholarly interest is in manuscripts and Christianity in the Roman Empire, and he has written six books and some 65+ scholarly essays and reviews. His book The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity was chosen the best critical edition for 2013 by the Modern Language Association, and his scholarship has received a number of awards beginning with the Medieval Academy of America’s Van Courtland Eliot Prize. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies; the American Philosophical Society; the National Endowment for the Humanities (multiple times); and the Graduate School of the University of Tennessee; he also has been a resident fellow for one year at the National Humanities Center. Dr. Heffernan has received the Alumni Outstanding Teaching Award from the University of Tennessee, and the Alexander Prize in 2012. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters LHD (honoris causa) from Manhattan College in 2008 and has been interviewed about his work on NPR.

Thought: "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." – Groucho Marx

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