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Ray Bradbury

Featured Institute: Institute for American Thought, The power of ideas

Rubbing “intellectual elbows” with great minds from America’s past is a daily challenge and responsibility for the men and women who comprise the Institute for American Thought. But according to Marianne Wokeck, the institute’s director, it’s also a labor of love.

“It’s an amazing experience to study the work of great philosophers and writers,” Wokeck said. “Their writings make them truly inspirational figures.”

The Institute for American Thought team has an opportunity to work closely with some of the best and brightest from such diverse fields as philosophy, literature, politics, religion, science and other areas of inquiry along the spectrum of human experience. Among the projects housed in the institute, and the figures of the scholarly editions involved, are:

Wokeck believes the Institute for American Thought serves as the “keepers of the flame” of the ideas from these five thinkers and authors, preserving and publishing their writings so their knowledge and insights can continue to offer meaning about today’s world, and about how to make it a better world years, even many decades, later.

The collections in the Max H. Fisch Library and the scholarly edition at the heart of the Institute for American Thought are in the lower level of the Education-Social Work building. From the director’s perspective, that work "is vital in our analysis of their observations, and in preserving that knowledge and making it available to scholars, writers and the general public."

The team’s publications, in book and digital formats, help the institute achieve its primary mission: to serve as a unique research facility, contributing to the foundation of American thought and culture. By making the works accessible, organizing and annotating it on paper and online, the data becomes useful to scholars and researchers at IUPUI, and at colleges and universities across the country and around the world, Wokeck added.

To engage with the most thoughtful, observant and innovative ideas of America’s prominent and imaginative minds presents an extraordinary opportunity for the scholarly editors—academically, professionally and personally.

“Our primary purpose is to keep these ideas alive, to build a bridge from the past to a future civil society,” Wokeck said. “That’s true whether it pertains to the thoughts of freedom articulated by Douglass, or ideas about a life of reason as articulated by Santayana, or value of religion and community as expressed by Royce, or the extraordinary scope of inquiry that makes Peirce outstanding, or Bradbury’s fabulous imagination with its broad range of different expressions that has translated into a following well beyond the boundaries of the United States of America.

“IUPUI’s IAT is in a unique position,” Wokeck added. “We deal daily and deeply with the thoughts and observations of five of our country’s most interesting thinkers. That is an incredible gift and opportunity.”

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