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Aaron Levy

Senior Lecturer, English and History of Art


Fisher-Bennett Hall 334

Office Hours

Mon 9-11am and by appointment

Aaron Levy, PhD, MPhil is a Senior Lecturer in the Departments of English and the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania.  A longtime advocate for the healing potential of the arts and humanities, he is the Director of Health Humanities Initiatives at Penn Medicine, where he directs the Penn Medicine Listening Lab, and co-directs Rx/Museum -- projects and initiatives that reflect his dedication to the medical humanities and the development of new approaches to listening and care. He is also the Director of the Health Ecologies Lab at the School of Social Policy & Practice and Annenberg School for Communication.  Additionally, he oversees an educational partnership between the School of Arts and Sciences and the Barnes Foundation, and has taught core courses and electives in the School of Social Policy and Practice, the Weitzman School of Design, and the Perelman School of Medicine.

Dr. Levy is also the Executive Director and Chief Curator of Public Trust (formerly known as Slought), an non-profit organization and network he founded on the university campus that engages the public in multifaceted dialogue about topical cultural and socio-political issues facing Philadelphia and the world. With a network of university and community collaborators working in solidarity, Dr. Levy has supported the development of hundreds of public programs that elevate stories and histories of the struggle for justice in Philadelphia and beyond, and testify to the power of volunteerism within the public sector.

Dr. Levy has worked as a writer, curator, educator and organizer for nearly twenty years to challenge seemingly intractable socio-political problems and the diverse factors affecting the health and well-being of individuals and communities. He believes passionately in the power of the expressive arts and listening to transform socio-cultural norms and create openings for change to occur. For Dr. Levy, the arts and humanities embody a form of care that, much like the social and biomedical sciences, can contribute to the complex matrix of things that impact healing. In helping institutions make space for vulnerability and embrace greater porosity and collaboration, Dr. Levy’s work seeks to help dismantle pervasive inequities and social suffering. 

His many curatorial projects include Into the Open (2008-9), the US representation at the Venice Biennale for Architecture, which was organized on behalf of the US Department of State and the National Endowment for the Arts and explored the work of grassroots architects working collaboratively to invigorate community activism and environmental policy, and traveled to Parsons and the National Constitution Center; the Perpetual Peace Project (2010-11), a global peace movement launched with the International Peace Institute, the United Nations University, the European Union National Institutes of Culture, and other partners, which traveled to the New Museum and several international venues; and Mixplace Studio (2009-12), a summer school for young adults in Philadelphia facing food, housing and other forms of insecurity, produced with People’s Emergency Center and Estudio Teddy Cruz.  More recently, he organized Photographies of Conflict, a two-year exhibition cycle with artist collectives who use photography to contest dominant narratives of conflicts, and No Mud, No Lotus, a retrospective of Louverture Films exploring how filmmakers, thinkers, and activists can engage and record some of the most devastating and urgent issues of our day (both 2018-19).

He is the editor of over twenty publications, including Cities Without Citizens (2002); Helene Cixous’s Ex-cities (2007); On the Living History of the Venice Architecture Biennale (2010); Four Conversations on the Architecture of Discourse (2011); John Cage's How to Get Started (2010); Evasions of Power (2011); Utterly Precarious: Carolee Schneemann (2013); Art, or Listen to the Silence: Soun-Gui Kim with Jacques Derrida and Jean-Luc Nancy (2014); On Listening as a Form of Care (2020); On the Poetics and Politics of Health (2021); The Language of Care: Stories from the Penn Medicine Listening Lab (2021); and Rx/Museum: 52 Essays on Art and Reflection in Medicine (2022).

Levy has twice served on the Federal Advisory Committee on International Exhibitions, was a United States Cultural Envoy to Pakistan, is on the board of directors of AICA-USA, the International Art Critics Association, and is a member of the Artist Protection Fund Selection Committee. Prior to Levy’s life in the academy, he was a poet and visual artist.  He received his PhD from the School of Fine Art, History of Art, and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds.


Courses Taught

fall 2023

ENGL 2530.301 Literature of Care  

spring 2023

fall 2022

spring 2022

ENGL 207.301 The Literature of Care  

fall 2021

spring 2021

ENGL 207.301 The Literature of Care  

fall 2020

spring 2020

ENGL 207.301 The Literature of Care  

fall 2019

ENGL 017.401 30 Americans  

spring 2019

ENGL 207.301 The Literature of Care  

fall 2018

spring 2018

ENGL 263.401 The Politics of the Gift  

fall 2017

ENGL 016.401 The Ecology of Art  

spring 2017

ENGL 263.401 Politics of Friendship  

fall 2016

spring 2016

fall 2015

ENGL 263.401 The Seduction of Power  

spring 2015

fall 2014

ENGL 263.401 Invisible Subjects  

spring 2014

fall 2013

spring 2013

ENGL 263.301 Cities Without Citizens  

fall 2012

spring 2012

ENGL 261.301 The Politics of Memory  

spring 2011

ENGL 261.301 The Future of Memory  
ENGL 295.401 War, Peace and Culture  

spring 2010

ENGL 261.301 The Future of Memory  
ENGL 294.402 Slought Curatorial Seminar canceled  

fall 2009

spring 2009

fall 2008

spring 2008

fall 2007

spring 2007

ENGL 294.401 After Derrida  

fall 2006

fall 2004

spring 2004

fall 2002

ENGL 404.640 Engaging Contemporary Art