Past Institutes

Teaching the American Literary Tradition

In June 2018, Humanities Texas partnered with The University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts and The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) to hold two teacher institutes focused on the American literary tradition. 103 teachers from sixty-three Texas school districts participated in the two programs.


Each institute focused on topics and skills central to the state's high school ELA curriculum. Topics addressed included the American Renaissance, the literature of the Civil War era and the Gilded Age, the Harlem Renaissance, American writing during the World Wars, contemporary American fiction and poetry, and how American life has been portrayed in not only literature but also music, drama, television, and film.

As in past years, the institutes emphasized close interaction with scholars and writers and the examination of primary texts. Faculty presentations provided resources and strategies for helping students to become better readers of fiction, poetry, and expository prose, while also addressing the critical reading and media literacy skills necessary for success at the post-secondary level and beyond. At both institutes, teachers were introduced to the Close Reading Interpretive Tool developed by English faculty at UT Austin.


Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Joseph S. Atha Professor of Humanities and Professor of English at Stanford University, delivered the keynote presentation at the San Antonio institute, drawing from her recent book Writing America: Literary Landmarks from Walden Pond to Wounded Knee. The keynote speaker at the Austin institute was Robert S. Levine, Distinguished University Professor of English at the University of Maryland and general editor of The Norton Anthology of American Literature.

The San Antonio institute faculty also included Paul Ardoin (The University of Texas at San Antonio), Gwynne Ash (Texas State University), Harold K. Bush (St. Louis University), Teresa Goddu (Vanderbilt University), Jason Mellard (Texas State University), Javier Rodríguez (University of North Texas), Michael Soto (Trinity University), Frances Treviño Santos (Travis Early College High School), and Evan B. Carton, Coleman Hutchison, Patricia M. García, and John Morán González, all of The University of Texas at Austin. Writers John Phillip Santos and Joe Jiménez read from and discussed their work at an evening event at the Plaza de Armas Gallery in downtown San Antonio.

Serving on the Austin faculty were Adriane Bezusko (Tulane University), Norma Elia Cantú (Trinity University), Aram Goudsouzian (University of Memphis), Brian Yothers (The University of Texas at El Paso), Molly Crumpton Winter (California State University, Stanislaus), and James H. Cox, David Kornhaber, Donna Kornhaber, Roger Reeves, Susan Schorn, and Jennifer Wilks, all of The University of Texas at Austin. Writer Oscar Cásares read from and discussed his collection of short stories Brownsville with participants. The institute also featured a visit to the Harry Ransom Center, where participants examined highlights of the Center's American literature collections.

Locations and Schedule

The San Antonio institute took place on the UTSA campus from June 11–14, 2018. The Austin institute took place at UT's Thompson Conference Center from June 18–21, 2018. View the schedules for the San Antonio and Austin programs.


The institutes were made possible with major funding from the State of Texas and the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, with ongoing support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. For the San Antonio institute, the Witte Museum generously hosted the opening lecture by Shelley Fisher Fishkin and the Plaza de Armas Gallery hosted the Santos and Jiménez readings. In Austin, the Harry Ransom Center offered participants the unique opportunity to view highlights of the Center's remarkable holdings in American literature.

Questions about Teacher Institutes

Call 512.440.1991 or email

Robert S. Levine, professor of English and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, delivers the institute’s keynote lecture, “What is the American Literary Tradition? An Editor’s Perspective" in Austin

Michael Soto, associate vice president for academic affairs and professor of English at Trinity University, leads a seminar on the Harlem Renaissance in San Antonio.

Institute participants gather at the Thompson Conference Center on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin.

Norma E. Cantú, the Norine R. and T. Frank Murchison Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Trinity University and former Humanities Texas board member, discusses contemporary American fiction in San Antonio.

Distinguished scholar Shelley Fisher Fishkin delivers the San Antonio institute’s keynote lecture, “The Literary Landscape: Public History and Literary History in America.” Fishkin is Joseph S. Atha Professor of Humanities, professor of English, and director of American Studies at Stanford University.