Clemente Course in the Humanities

Clemente Course in the Humanities

“The humanities are a foundation for getting along in the world, for thinking, for learning to reflect on the world instead of just reacting to whatever force is against you.  I think the humanities are one of the ways to become political.”
—Earl Shorris, Clemente Course founder and author, Riches for the Poor

The Clemente Course in the Humanities is a multi-disciplinary college curriculum offered free-of-charge to low-income adults in the United States and throughout the world.  Founded in New York City in 1995 by award-winning author Earl Shorris, the Clemente Course is grounded in the conviction that the Humanities can help to transform both individuals and society, and should therefore be accessible to all people, regardless of background or circumstance.

The Boston Clemente Course is supported by Mass Humanities and other generous donors, and offered through the Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, MA.

“The humanities are the study of what it means to be human so that we can all become more humane.”
—Timothy Patrick McCarthy, Director, Boston Clemente Course in the Humanities

Clemente students take classes in Art History, American History, Literature, Moral Philosophy, and Writing and Critical Thinking taught by outstanding faculty drawn from local colleges and universities.  Classes are held on Mondays and Wednesdays, 6:30-8:30pm, from October to June at Codman Square’s 450 Washington Street facility. Since its inception in 2001-02, the Boston Clemente Course has graduated more than 100 students, many of whom have gone on to pursue or complete their undergraduate degrees.

For more information on the Boston Clemente Course, please contact:

Faculty Biographies

Timothy Patrick McCarthy, PhD, is Professor of History and Academic Director of the Boston Clemente Course in the Humanities.  He was a founding faculty member of the Boston Clemente Course, and has directed the program in 2002-2003, and again since 2005.  Educated at Harvard College and Columbia University, Dr. McCarthy is an historian of social movements who specializes in African-American history and the American radical tradition.  He is Lecturer and Director of the Human Rights and Social Movements Program at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.  He also teaches in the undergraduate honors programs in History and Literature and Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. 

Jack Cheng, PhD, is Professor of Art History for the Boston Clemente Course in the Humanities.  Dr. Cheng went to college at Columbia University where he had to take five mandatory classes in the Humanities.  Since earning his PhD from Harvard, he has taught at Harvard, MassArt, Framingham State, and UMass-Boston.  He and his wife have two children who both say they want to be artists (or an astronaut and a princess).

Susan Gorman, PhD, is Professor of Literature for the Boston Clemente Course in the Humanities. Dr. Gorman received her BA from American University and her MA and PhD in English from Tufts University, where she has taught in the Women's Studies and English departments. She has lectured and taught classes at adult education centers in Newton and Brookline. Her academic area of concentration is twentieth-century Modernist literature, but her heart belongs to nineteenth-century writers. She believes living is a poor substitute for reading, but when she does put her books down you can usually find her watching trashy reality TV or walking in the woods with her three dogs.

Julia Legas, is Professor of Philosophy for the Boston Clemente Course in the Humanities. Ms. Legas holds degrees in Philosophy (PhD-ABD, Boston College) and English (MA, California State Long Beach) as well as a BA from the University of Notre Dame. Her research interests center on political and social philosophy and aesthetics. In English, her work has been in composition theory and literary criticism. She has taught in the Civic Reflection Series, another community-based Humanities program sponsored by Mass Humanities, and currently teaches in the Department of Philosophy at Suffolk University. Ms. Legas hails from Southern California but now much prefers Boston.

Ann Murphy, PhD, is Professor of Writing and Critical Thinking for the Boston Clemente Course in the Humanities. Dr. Murphy received her BA from Hollins University in Virginia, and her MA and PhD from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is Chair of the Department of English and Professor of English at Assumption College in Worcester. She has also taught at UMass-Boston and Tufts University, and in the Changing Lives through Literature Program with the Dorchester District Court. Her academic interests include the 19th century British novel, Virginia Woolf, literature by American women of color, and the literature of war and peace. This is her third year with the Clemente program.

Course Syllabi