History of the Cogut Institute

Founded in the fall of 2003 as the Brown Humanities Center, the Cogut Institute for the Humanities was named in 2005 for Craig (’75) and Deborah Cogut in recognition of their generous support. The Cogut Center became an Institute in July 2017 to reflect its expanded mission and scope.

A view of Pembroke Hall

Pembroke Hall, renovated by architect Toshiko Mori and rededicated in October 2008, houses the Cogut Institute for the Humanities and the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women.

Amanda Anderson, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Humanities and English, is the Director of the Cogut Institute for the Humanities. Her predecessors include Mary Ann Doane and Carolyn Dean as Interim Directors of the Brown Humanities Center and Michael P. Steinberg as Director of the Cogut Center for the Humanities from 2005 to 2015.

In 2006, the Institute launched its weekly fellows’ seminar, welcoming an inaugural cohort of Faculty Fellows and Distinguished Visiting Fellows. The seminar has hosted Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows and Graduate Fellows since 2006–2007, International Humanities Postdoctoral Fellows since 2007–2008, and Undergraduate Fellows since 2008–2009.

In 2008 and 2009, the Institute started offering undergraduate and graduate seminars that expand and complement the humanities curriculum by featuring interdisciplinary topics and faculty research projects. The Institute also plays an active role in undergraduate and graduate education through grant programs that support student research on and off campus. Since 2007, the Institute contributes to the sponsored participant program of the School of Criticism and Theory, an international summer course of study in critical theory.


Built in 1896 under the leadership of President Sarah Doyle, Pembroke Hall became the home of the Women’s College on November 22, 1897.

Since its inception, the Institute has enriched the practice of the humanities on campus through conferences, workshops, lectures, seminars, exhibits, and performances. Lecture series hosted at the Institute have included the Hannah Arendt Seminars (2006–2014), the Sarah Cutts Frerichs Lecture in Victorian Studies (named for Sarah Cutts Frerichs AM'49 PhD'74 and inaugurated in 2008), the Creative Medicine Lecture Series (since 2010), the Romanticism Workshop (2014–2018), PITH – Politics in the Humanities (since 2015), and the Greg and Julie Flynn Cogut Institute Speaker Series (named for Gregory G. Flynn '86, P'20, P'20 and Julie A. Flynn P'20, P'20 and inaugurated in 2018).

As a research hub on campus, the Institute sponsors broad multi-year initiatives and projects. In this context, the Institute has worked with partners both on and off campus, including in Cuba, New York, Milan, Berlin, Nazareth, and Nanjing. The Institute collaborated on several occasions with the Daniel Barenboim Foundation and West-Eastern Divan Institute between 2006 and 2011. It sponsored and presented a Creative Medicine series convened by Jay Baruch, MD from 2010 to 2020. Current initiatives feature the Collaborative Humanities, Economies of Aesthetics, Humanities in the World, and Political Concepts. The Institute is a partner in the Nanjing/Brown Joint Program in Gender Studies and Humanities founded in 2007. It has housed the French Center of Excellence since 2017.

Image of Pembroke Hall's seminar frieze

The 2008 renovation preserved elements of the original design such as Hippolyte Hubert's frieze on education in the seminar room.

In 2010, the Institute began administering Brown University’s Humanities Initiative. A major and long-term investment, the Humanities Initiative includes six faculty positions at the distinguished chair level. This faculty combines high scholarly, teaching, and disciplinary distinction with cross-disciplinary collaborations.

In 2017, the Institute launched a Graduate Certificate in Collaborative Humanities open to doctoral students at Brown University. The certificate entails the completion of four graduate seminars that encompass team-taught, collaborative seminars and a dedicated project development workshop. The Institute received a $1.3 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of the program.

The Cogut Institute administers several fellowships and grants that support the pursuit of the humanities at Brown University. These programs promote active dialogue, public programming, and collaborative teaching and research on the most challenging questions facing humanities scholars today.