Guidelines for Proposals: Humanities and Public Life


This series aims to create a collection of excellent books that document the exciting publicly engaged projects in which artists and humanities scholars, especially in college and university settings, are working with community partners and cultural institutions to produce new knowledge while also contributing to the public good. Series books describe various forms of the humanities in practice and help illuminate how a project or projects challenge and potentially expand both public and academic audiences’ assumptions about the humanities. Books in the series address this issue very directly—reflecting on what “the humanities” does and could mean for the twenty-first century and returning to this question at appropriate moments throughout the text. The tension between academic and public humanities offers one powerful lens through which to examine publicly engaged projects. Below, we outline objectives for our series and offer advice to authors interested in submitting proposals. We look forward to learning more about the many exciting projects underway.

Goals for the Series

  • Share projects that demonstrate innovative expressions of the humanities in public life or show the impact of the humanities within communities.
  • Advance thinking about ways that publicly-engaged projects are influencing humanities disciplines, scholarship, and practices.
  • Present a range of reflective and/or theoretical frames that can contextualize publicly engaged projects—moving from documentation to “big picture” reflection on and analysis of engaged projects and their implications for the humanities.
  • Provide full, complex, unfolding accounts of public humanities initiatives in order to describe the many dimensions of public scholarship.
  • Offer thoughtful assessments of engaged projects that can help establish best practices for collaboration; develop measures for evaluating the impact of such work; and assist students, practitioners, and other colleagues who are developing their own publicly engaged research and teaching projects.

Advice to Authors Submitting Proposals to the Humanities in Public Life Series

We welcome (5-10 page) proposals from scholars and practitioners involved with publicly engaged humanities projects. Strong proposals strike a fine balance between reflection and analysis of the project’s significance and impact, on one hand, and the “story” of the project as it unfolded, on the other hand. We hope authors will develop an argument about the nature and possibilities for the humanities and the role the humanities can play in addressing social issues, strengthening communities, and deepening understanding. In addition, we encourage authors to consider ways to involve multiple partners and a variety of voices that represent the project, but without sacrificing a coherent narrative. We appreciate volumes that include multiple writers but suggest that authors think carefully about how the book will be organized, what role each writer will play, and who will act as the lead writer.

When submitting a proposal, please include the following information.

Project Narrative

General description of the book’s purpose and content, including description of the project and its impact. Please keep these questions in mind as you draft this section.

  • How would you describe the project—very literally, what did you do and why? When and where did the project unfold?
  • Why is this a “humanities” project? What does the category “humanities” mean in the context of your project? Did you engage with traditional humanities disciplines or methods? What questions about the history, form, content, values, or approaches of humanities disciplines were central to your project—how and why?
  • What were the objectives and how did they change along the way?
  • What individuals or groups partnered in this project? What did each contribute and how did the participation of each partner affect the process?
  • What individuals, groups, or "publics" participated in the project and/or were served by the project?

Impact—audiences, outcomes

  • What was the impact of the project—long-term and short-term? How was this impact measured?
  • What successes and failures did you encounter during the process and what did you learn from both that would help others undertaking publicly engaged research and teaching?
  • Ultimately, how were you able to define the “success” of this project?
  • If you are a faculty member or practitioner, what role did this project play in your career? How did it speak to expectations of your discipline, department, and institution?
  • If you work at a community organization, what role did this project play in your career? How did it speak to the criteria used to evaluate you and your organization? Did this project contribute to the organization’s continued viability or improve its standing in the community?
  • How were you, other participants and partners, and your organization(s) challenged and even changed by this project?

The Book

The series welcomes authors’ ideas for innovative design and format elements. Describe the format, audience, length, and special features, including illustrations (projected number, black and white or color).


  • Provide an outline and brief description of your chapters.
  • Provide a sample chapter.
  • Do you imagine a digital counterpart for your book (for example, do you have or are you planning a website, podcasts, video, or other digital means of documenting your project)?
  • Estimate the probable length of the book (both a page count and a word count are helpful), the likely number of illustrations and tables, and a note on potential permissions issues (reproduction of illustrations or excerpts of poetry or musical lyrics).

Market for the Book

  • Who is the primary audience for this book?
  • Are there scholarly or professional organizations whose members would be especially interested in the book? Is there potential for classroom use or recommended reading lists?
  • Are there similar books and if so, how will yours differ from them?

Timetable for Completion

Please comment explicitly on your timeline. At what stage are you in the process of writing the book? When do you anticipate having a completed manuscript available for review?


Please include a two-page vitae or resume for the principal authors.


Provide a list of possible expert readers, with an email address for contacting them, if possible. Please note their qualifications and previous association with you, if any.