Humanities Without Boundaries
Humanities Without Boundaries is the flagship public lecture series of the Center for the Humanities, drawing large and diverse crowds for talks throughout the year by artists, authors, poets, filmmakers, food writers, philosophers, theorists, and historians whose work crosses boundaries, elevates discourse, stirs curiosity, and invites audiences to inquire, critique, imagine, and engage on a wide range of topics.
We've hosted Michael Pollan, Danielle Allen, Orhan Pamuk, Jill Lepore, Robert Storr, Errol Morris, Judith Butler, Franco Moretti, K. Anthony Appiah, and many more. We invite you to browse a complete list of past speakers in the series and visit our media page to hear interviews with many of our guests on Wisconsin Public Radio's To The Best of Our Knowledge.
Humanities Without Boundaries is made possible by the Brittingham Fund, Inc. and the Anonymous Fund of the UW-Madison College of Letters & Science.
Artist, Professor in the Department of Visual Art, and Director of Arts and Public Life, University of Chicago
Monday, September 25, 2017 @ 7:30pm H.F. DeLuca Forum, Discovery Building, 330 N. Orchard St.
Chicago-based artist and urban planner Theaster Gates’s practice includes space development, object making, performance and critical engagement with many publics. Founder of the non-profit Rebuild Foundation, Gates has exhibited and performed at studios around the world including Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Whitechapel Gallery, London; and Punta della Dogana, Venice, and has received multiple awards and grants.
Wun Tsun Tam Professor in the Humanities and Director of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University
The Jabberwocky Nonsense: The Place of Meaning in Translation Thursday, October 5, 2017 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Professor of Chinese Art, Department of Art History, The University of Chicago
The Inscribed Studio Portrait as Self-image: Photographing a New Self in Early Twentieth-Century China Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
This talk studies photographs that subtly disrupt the classification of portraits and self-portraits. These are studio portraits that bear the sitters’ inscriptions. Using a group of images related to the “queue-cutting” movement in early 20th-century China as examples, Wu Hung suggests that when an inscription is imbued with a distinct “I” voice and expresses the sitter’s personal feeling, experience, and aspiration, it transforms the anonymous portrait into a “self-image.” This case study further leads us to contemplate on photography’s role in facilitating such transformation.
Wu Hung, a member of the American Academy of Art and Science, is a well-known art historian, critic, and curator. Currently he holds the Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professorship at the Department of Art History and the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, and is also the director of the Center for the Art of East Asia and the Consulting Curator at the Smart Museum at the same university. He sits on many international committees including Guggenheim Museum’s Asian Art Council, and chairs the Academic Committees of OCT Contemporary Art Terminal and Yuz Museum. He is the author and editors of more than 20 books and anthologies on traditional and contemporary Chinese art; the most recent ones include A Story of Ruins: Presence and Absence in Chinese Art and Visual Culture (2012), Contemporary Chinese Art: A History (2014) and Zooming In: Histories of Chinese Photography (2016).
Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and Host of Slate's Language Podcast Lexicon Valley
Words on the Move Thursday, November 9, 2017 @ 7:30pm
Language is always changing -- but we tend not to like it. We understand that new words must be created for new things, but the way English is spoken today rubs many of us the wrong way. Whether it’s the use of literally to mean “figuratively” rather than “by the letter,” or the way young people use LOL and like, or business jargon like What’s the ask? -- it often seems as if the language is deteriorating before our eyes. But the truth is different and a lot less scary. English has always been in motion and continues to evolve today, the shifts that can seem so unsettling are a natural process common to all languages, and they are ones we could easily embrace and appreciate rather than condemn. Did you know that silly once meant “blessed”? Or that ought was the original past tense of owe? Or that the suffix -ly in adverbs is actually a remnant of the word like? And have you ever wondered why some people from New Orleans sound as if they come from Brooklyn? When we fully understand that words are ever on the move, our lives are all the richer for it.
Presented in partnership with the Language Institute at UW-Madison.
John McWhorter is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, teaching linguistics, Western Civilization and music history. He is a regular columnist on language matters and also race issues for Time and CNN, also writes on language for the Atlantic, and hosts the Lexicon Valley podcast at Slate. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Chronicle of Higher Education, The American Interest, and other outlets. He was Contributing Editor at The New Republic from 2001 until 2014. He earned his PhD in linguistics from Stanford University in 1993 and is the author of The Power of Babel, Doing Our Own Thing, Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, The Language Hoax, and most recently Words on the Move and Talking Back, Talking Black. The Teaching Company has released four of his audiovisual lecture courses on linguistics. He spoke at the TED conference in 2013 and 2016. Beyond his work in linguistics, he is the author of Losing the Race and other books on race. He has appeared regularly on Bloggingheads.TV since 2006, and produces and plays piano for a group cabaret show, New Faces, at the Cornelia Street Cafe in New York City.
Biologist, Author, and Activist
Monday, April 9, 2018 @ 7:30pm
Biologist, author, and cancer survivor, Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D. writes about climate change, ecology, and the links between human health and the environment. Steingraber’s highly acclaimed book, Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment was the first to bring together data on toxic releases with data from U.S. cancer registries and was adapted for the screen in 2010.
Sandra Steingraber will also present the keynote address at our annual Great World Texts student conference on April 9. Great World Texts in Wisconsin connects UW faculty with high school teachers across the state, through the shared goal of encouraging high school and university students to read classic world texts, both ancient and modern. This year, high school students will explore Rachel Carson's Silent Spring as part of the 2017-2018 Great World Texts program.
Novelist, Critic, and Photographer
Known and Strange Things Friday, April 14, 2017 @ 7:00pm Madison Central Public Library, 201 W. Mifflin Street
With this collection of more than fifty pieces on politics, photography, travel, history, and literature, Teju Cole solidifies his place as one of today’s most powerful and original voices. On page after page, deploying prose dense with beauty and ideas, he finds fresh and potent ways to interpret art, people, and historical moments, taking in subjects from Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, and W. G. Sebald to Instagram, Barack Obama, and Boko Haram. Cole brings us new considerations of James Baldwin in the age of Black Lives Matter; the African American photographer Roy DeCarava, who, forced to shoot with film calibrated exclusively for white skin tones, found his way to a startling and true depiction of black subjects; and (in an essay that inspired both praise and pushback when it first appeared) the White Savior Industrial Complex, the system by which African nations are sentimentally aided by an America “developed on pillage.”
Teju Cole is a novelist, critic, and photographer. He is the author of the essay collection Known and Strange Things and two works of fiction, Every Day Is for the Thief and Open City. He has won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Internationaler Literaturpreis, the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award for Fiction, and the New York City Book Award. He has been short-listed for the PEN Open Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2015, he won the Windham Campbell Prize and a United States Artists Fellowship. His photography has been exhibited in India, Iceland, Germany, and the United States, and was the subject of a solo exhibition in Italy in 2016. He is the photography critic of The New York Times Magazine, where his “On Photography” column was a finalist for a 2016 National Magazine Award and was recognized with a 2016 Focus Award for excellence in photographic writing from the Griffin Museum of Photography. His forthcoming book is Blind Spot.
Hag-Seed & Technology: Revisiting The Tempest in the 21st Century Monday, April 3, 2017 @ 7:30pm Varsity Hall at Union South, 1308 W. Dayton Street
Faced with the challenge of revisiting The Tempest as a 21st century novel – Hag-Seed – Margaret Atwood chose to cast Ariel as a hacker who uses modern audio visual and digital technology to create illusions. In this lecture, she will describe the process, and the problems she had to solve. If Shakespeare were alive today he'd be using holographs!
Margaret Atwood will also present the keynote address at our annual Great World Texts student conference on April 3. Great World Texts in Wisconsin connects UW faculty with high school teachers across the state, through the shared goal of encouraging high school and university students to read classic world texts, both ancient and modern. This year, high school students will explore William Shakespeare's The Tempest as part of the 2016-2017 Great World Texts program.
Presented in partnership with the Wisconsin Book Festival, Promega, and the Wisconsin Union Directorate Distinguished Lecture Series.
A winner of many international literary awards, including the prestigious Booker Prize, Margaret Atwood is the author of more than forty volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction. She is perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake, and The Year of the Flood. Her non-fiction book Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, part of the Massey Lecture series, was made into a documentary. Her recent novel, Madaddam (the third novel in the Oryx and Crake trilogy), has received rave reviews: “An extraordinary achievement” (The Independent); “A fitting and joyous conclusion” (The New York Times). The trilogy is being adapted into an HBO TV series by celebrated filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. Atwood’s most recent collection of short stories is Stone Mattress. Her most recent novel is The Heart Goes Last; a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, called Hag-Seed, will be published this fall.
Thursday, March 16, 2017 @ 7:30pm Madison Central Public Library, 201 W. Mifflin Street
Author of more than 30 cookbooks, Melissa Clark writes a weekly food column for the New York Times called A Good Appetite. She has also written for Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Every Day with Rachel Ray, and Martha Stewart, and has an MFA in writing from Columbia University.
Presented with the Wisconsin Book Festival.
Robinson O. Everett Professor of Law, Duke Law School
Justice, Power, and Landscape Thursday, March 9, 2017 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L140
What do Anthropocene landscapes tell us about ourselves and what we have made of the world? A landscape is, among other things, a record of the ways it has been inhabited. It memorializes the ideals of the people who have shaped it. It also sets out their secret vices and their crimes. How should we work to understand our own landscapes as ways of encountering, and maybe changing, ourselves?
Jedediah Purdy teaches at Duke. He has written five books, most recently After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene, as well as many scholarly articles and essays. His writing has also appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Atlantic, the New Republic, n+1, and Dissent, among others. He was raised on a small farm in West Virginia. In 2013 he was arrested in a peaceful act of civil disobedience at the North Carolina state legislature.
Class of 1936 First Chair of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley
Neoliberalism, Authoritarianism, Fascism: Where Are We and How Did We Get Here? Thursday, March 2, 2017 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
This talk is a beginning attempt to map the emergence of contemporary rightwing populism, nationalism and authoritarianism from the ruins of neoliberalism. It is an attempt to orient in disorienting times.
Wendy Brown is Class of 1936 First Chair of Political Science at the University of California Berkeley, where she is also affiliated with the interdisciplinary graduate program in Critical Theory. A scholar of historical and contemporary political theory, Brown’s most recent books include Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism, Democracy, Citizenship (2015), The Power of Tolerance (with Rainer Forst, 2014), and Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (2010). She is also a frequent contributor to debates about the future of public higher education.
Writer and Professor of Clinical Psychology, Columbia University Medical Center
How Our Identities Emerge From Our Struggles: A Talk About Love Wednesday, February 1, 2017 @ 7:30pm Shannon Hall, Wisconsin Union Theater, 800 Langdon Street
Writer, lecturer, and activist Andrew Solomon’s best-selling book Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity (2012), tells the stories of families raising exceptional children who not only learn to deal with their challenges, but also find profound meaning in doing so. His most recent book is Far and Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change (2016).
Presented with the Wisconsin Union Directorate Distinguished Lecture Series.
Professor of English, Harvard University
The Poem is You Thursday, October 27, 2016 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
How can critics write about poems, and poetry, in a way that gets more people to read them-- and is that even a laudable goal? What is a "general audience" for poetry, or for writing about it, anyway these days? Who reads what poems, and why, and will that change soon? When people like me write about poems, or poets, or poetry, for readers outside the specialized field that pertains to one or another kind of poetry, and for readers outside the academy, what has to happen differently, and what can't happen at all? Do the answers to those questions change when the poems in question count as forward-looking, or as avant-garde?
Looking back on THE POEM IS YOU: SIXTY CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN POEMS AND HOW TO READ THEM (Harvard UP, 2016) and forward to a book in progress entitled DON'T READ POETRY (A BOOK ABOUT HOW TO READ POEMS), Stephen Burt will address the paradoxes and challenges of writing for a reading public; how and why there may be more than one of them; and what poetry critics now-- but not in 1990 or 1970-- can hope to do.
In addition to his lecture, Stephen Burt will be doing a poetry reading on Thursday, October 27.
Stephen Burt is the author of three poetry collections, Belmont, Parallel Play, and Popular Music, and several collections of critical works. His essay collection Close Calls with Nonsense was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His other works include The Art of the Sonnet; Something Understood: Essays and Poetry for Helen Vendler; The Forms of Youth: Adolescence and 20th Century Poetry; Parallel Play: Poems; Randall Jarrell on W. H. Auden; and Randall Jarrell and His Age. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, The Believer, and the Boston Review.
Thursday, April 28, 2016 @ 7:30pm Madison Public Library, Central Branch
Join us for an evening with agnès b. at the Madison Central Public Library, including a pre- and post-reception.
agnès b. is a French fashion designer, best known for her self-named brand which started in Les Halles, Paris in 1975. agnès b. emerged as an international brand in 1983 with the opening of a U.S. store in the SoHo District of New York and has since expanded into London, Amsterdam, Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai. She was powerfully influenced by the May 1968 student uprisings in Paris, when she marched and demonstrated with other young people against capitalism and conservatism. agnès has partnered with American film director Harmony Korine in the production company, O'Salvation, and runs her own film production company, Love Streams Productions. She opened the art gallery Gallerie du jour in 1984, and has shown hundreds of emerging and established artists. In 1997, she cofounded Point d’ironie, a periodical published about six times a year, each edition designed by a different artist and circulated in a scattered fashion to museums, galleries, schools, cinemas, and other locations to be made available to anyone, free of charge. Her artistic ethic has been praised for its resistance to the exclusiveness of high fashion and its dedication to the stylistic qualities of everyday people.
There will also be an agnès b. inspired pop-up the preceding week, hosted by Drunk Lunch.
Presented in partnership with the Wisconsin Book Festival.
David Henry Hwang
Wednesday, April 20, 2016 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
David Henry Hwang will also present the keynote address at our annual Great World Texts student conference on April 20 at 11:00 am at Union South.
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 @ 7:30pm Shannon Hall, Wisconsin Union Theater
Seymour H. Knox Professor of English and Professor of American Studies, Yale University
On the Grid Thursday, March 17, 2016 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
What is the aim of going "offgrid," and what is the grid such that anyone might want to be off it? Is the offgrid aspiration in developed nations an outmoded residue of 20th century environmentalism and Holocene thinking? How have climate change and the Anthropocene altered the politics and ethics of the grid? Is there, indeed, an ethical subjectivity involved in the grid, or is infrastructure intractable to ethics? What histories might help us think about this?
Warner will also participate in a brown bag discussion with graduate students on Friday, March 18, at 12:00pm in 313 University Club.
Michael Warner is Seymour H. Knox Professor of English and American Studies at Yale, and former chair of the department of English. His books include Publics and Counterpublics (2002); The Trouble with Normal (1999); and The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990). With Craig Calhoun and Jonathan VanAntwerpen, he has edited Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age (Harvard University Press, 2010). He is also the editor of The Portable Walt Whitman (New York: Penguin, 2003); American Sermons (New York: Library of America, 1999); The English Literatures of America (with Myra Jehlen); and Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory (1993). His latest book, The Evangelical Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America, is forthcoming from Penn.
Research Professor in History at the University of Sydney; Co-Director of the Sydney Environment Institute
Back to the Future: Teddy Roosevelt’s Anthropocene Safari Monday, February 15, 2016 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
In July 1908, Theodore Roosevelt embarked on an eleven-month, post-Presidential shooting safari that doubled as a scientific expedition to provide the Smithsonian Museum in Washington with complete samples of East Africa’s rich wildlife. As he journeyed on an American-built steam train from the coast to the interior, he congratulated himself on travelling back into a primeval past that was elsewhere lost. The sight of countless herds of wild beasts roaming the savannah evoked for him the primeval epoch of ‘the Pleistocene’. Likewise, the tough white hunters and settlers of British East Africa were nostalgic reminders of the masculine Wild West frontier of his youth. Within a few months, however, he was publicly urging these same pioneers to emulate America by transforming this primitive Eden into a civilized, imperial, ‘white man’s country’, while at the same acknowledging regretfully that this would inevitably lead to the loss of much of the country’s wildlife and the domestication of its ‘savage’ peoples.
In this talk, McCalman will argue that Roosevelt’s famous African safari proved in fact to be a harbinger and agent of exactly the transformative social and environmental forces that he both regretted and extolled. Despite his lifelong disgust at ‘game butchers’ and ‘trophy hunters’, his own safari behavior savored uncomfortably of both. The eleven thousand specimens procured on his ‘science safari’ not only included several rare and endangered animal species, it also became the catalyst for a new type of commercialized safari industry that would ultimately threaten the biodiversity of the wildlife that he celebrated in newspaper articles and his million-selling book, African Games Trails. If Teddy Roosevelt journeyed back into the Pleistocene, it was as an early agent of a new and destructive Anthropocene.
Iain McCalman will also participate in a lunchtime seminar on Tuesday, Feb 16, at noon, in University Club 313.
Iain McCalman was born in Nyasaland (Malawi), schooled in Zimbabwe, and did his higher education in Australia. A Fellow of three Learned Academies and former President of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, he is Co-Director of the cross-disciplinary Sydney Environment Institute. His 2009 book, Darwin’s Armada, was the basis for a prize-winning international TV docudrama, Darwin’s Brave New World. His current prizewinning book, The Reef – A Passionate History, was published in Australia, the USA and UK in 2014. He is an Officer of the Order of Australia for services to history and the humanities.
Monday, February 8, 2016 @ 7:30pm Shannon Hall, Wisconsin Union Theater
Presented in Partnership with the Wisconsin Union Directorate Distinguished Lecture Series.
Professor of Classics and Anthropology, Director of the Capitol Archaeological Institute, George Washington University
1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed Thursday, December 3, 2015 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
For more than three hundred years during the Late Bronze Age, from about 1500 BC to 1200 BC, the Mediterranean region played host to a complex international world in which Egyptians, Mycenaeans, Minoans, Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Cypriots, and Canaanites all interacted, creating a cosmopolitan and globalized world-system such as has only rarely been seen before the current day. It may have been this very internationalism that contributed to the apocalyptic disaster that ended the Bronze Age. When the end came, as it did after centuries of cultural and technological evolution, the civilized and international world of the Mediterranean regions came to a dramatic halt in a vast area stretching from Greece and Italy in the west to Egypt, Canaan, and Mesopotamia in the east. Large empires and small kingdoms, that had taken centuries to evolve, collapsed rapidly. With their end came the world’s first recorded Dark Ages. It was not until centuries later that a new cultural renaissance emerged in Greece and the other affected areas, setting the stage for the evolution of Western society as we know it today. Blame for the end of the Late Bronze Age is usually laid squarely at the feet of the so-called Sea Peoples, known to us from the records of the Egyptian pharaohs Merneptah and Ramses III. However, as was the case with the fall of the Roman Empire, the end of the Bronze Age empires in this region was not the result of a single invasion, but of multiple causes. The Sea Peoples may well have been responsible for some of the destruction that occurred at the end of the Late Bronze Age, but it is much more likely that a concatenation of events, both human and natural — including earthquake storms, droughts, famine, rebellions, and systems collapse — coalesced to create a “perfect storm” that brought the age to an end. The similarities and parallels that can be drawn with the world today make this more than simply a study in ancient history.
Cline will also lead a Public Works Seminar on Friday, December 4, at noon.
Eric H. Cline is Professor of Classics and Anthropology, the former Chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and the current Director of the GWU Capitol Archaeological Institute. He is a National Geographic Explorer, a Fulbright scholar, and an award-winning teacher and author.
Presented in partnership with the Department of Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, with support from the Isthmus.
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Technology of Compiègne, Director of the Institut National de l’Audiovisuel at the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, Professorial Fellow at the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths College in London
Florian, and the Neguanthropological Duty of Philosophy Tuesday, October 6, 2015 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
Florian says : “You really take no account of what happens to us. When I talk to young people of my generation, those within two or three years of my own age, they all say the same thing : we no longer have the dream of starting a family, of having children, or a trade, or ideals, as you yourselves did when you were teenagers. All that is over and done with, because we’re sure that we will be the last generation, or one of the last, before the end.”
In this lecture, Stiegler will try to respond to Florian.
Stiegler will also lead a seminar, with Frédéric Neyrat, the same day.
One of the world’s leading media philosophers, Bernard Stiegler is Director of the Institut National de l’Audiovisuel at the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, a Professorial Fellow at the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths College in London, and a professor at the University of Technology of Compiègne where he teaches philosophy. He has published widely on philosophy, technology, digitization, capitalism, and consumer culture, and is best known for his three-volume work Technics and Time. Stiegler’s work engages the relationship between technology and philosophy, not only in a theoretical sense, but also situating both in industry and society as practices. He is one of the founders of the political group Ars Industrialis based in Paris, which calls for an industrial politics of spirit, by exploring the possibilities of the technology of spirit, to bring forth a new “life of the mind.”
Presented in Partnership with the Havens Center for the Study of Social Justice.
Artist, Architect, and Filmmaker
It Is Difficult Friday, May 1, 2015 @ 7:30pm Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
Internationally renowned artist Alfredo Jaar discusses his current projects, which expand upon his long history of installations and public interventions that confront political violence, poverty, exploitation, and imbalances of power.
Alfredo Jaar has realized over sixty public interventions around the world. His work has been featured on Art 21, and is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and Guggenheim Museums in NY; The MCA in Chicago; MOCA and LACMA in Los Angeles; The Tate in London; the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris; The Centro Reina Sofia in Madrid; The Modern Museet in Stockholm, and dozens of other institutions and private collections around the world.
He has been awarded both Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowships, participated in the Venice and São Paulo Biennales; shown at Documenta in Kassel, Germany; The New Museum, NY; MCA, Chicago; Whitechapel, London; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome.
Join us also at 10am on Friday morning, May 1, in the Chazen Museum of Art for Critical Witnesses: Thierry Cruvellier and Alfredo Jaar in Conversation.
Directions, parking and accessibility information for the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art here.
Journalist and Author
No Condition Is Permanent: Living in the Extreme in Sierra Leone Thursday, April 30, 2015 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
Senior Editor at The Atlantic
An Evening with Ta-Nehisi Coates Tuesday, April 7, 2015 @ 7:30pm Shannon Hall, Wisconsin Union Theater
Danielle S. Allen
UPS Foundation Professor of Social Sciences, Institute for Advanced Study
Our Declaration: In Defense of Equality Tuesday, March 24, 2015 @ 7:30pm Shannon Hall, Wisconsin Union Theater
René Descartes Chair of Philosophy, European Graduate School
The Ideological Structure of the Contemporary World Wednesday, December 10, 2014 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
René Descartes Chair of Philosophy, European Graduate School
Is Philosophy Able to Think The Present? Tuesday, December 9, 2014 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
Henry Putnam University Professor of History, Princeton University
A Life in the Margins Thursday, November 13, 2014 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
Staff Writer at The New Yorker
The Sixth Extinction: The Legacy of the Anthropocene Saturday, November 8, 2014 @ 7:00pm H.F. Deluca Forum, Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, 330 North Orchard Street
Edmund White and Michael Carroll
Author and Professor of Creative Writing, Princeton University; Author
A Conversation with Edmund White and Michael Carroll Monday, September 22, 2014 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
Luminary writer, self-described “archaeologist of gossip," and Princeton Professor, Edmund White joins his husband, author Michael Carroll, in a conversation about their latest books and the state of gay writing today. Moderated by Karma R. Chávez.
Presented in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Press.
Directions, parking, and accessibility information for the Conrad A. Elvehjem Building.
Canceled: Khalil Gibran Muhammad
Director, The New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
The Mismeasure of Crime: How Numbers Lie About Race Thursday, April 3, 2014 @ 7:30pm Madison Central Public Library, 201 W. Mifflin Street
Dr. Muhammad's talk, "The Mismeasure of Crime: How Numbers Lie About Race," for April 3 at the Madison Public Library has been canceled. Dr. Muhammad's visit will be rescheduled to a fall 2014 date.
Chef, Activist, Author and Restaurateur
An Evening with Alice Waters Thursday, March 27, 2014 @ 7:30pm Varsity Hall at Union South
Alice Waters has been transforming the way Americans think about food since opening Chez Panisse Restaurant in 1971. A pioneer of the movement towards local and sustainable eating, cooking, shopping, and farming, Waters views food as a powerful vehicle for social change. Her Edible Schoolyard serves as a model public education program and the starting point for an initiative to integrate gardening experience and a nutritious daily lunch into the curriculum of public schools across the country.
Co-sponsored by the Distinguished Lecture Series. Directions, accessibility, and parking for Union South.
Professor of Philosophy, University of Nanterre
On Cosmetics and Cosmopolitics Thursday, February 27, 2014 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
Nobel Prize-Winning Author
Identifying With Others: Novels and Politics Today Monday, December 2, 2013 @ 7:30pm Varsity Hall at Union South
Winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature, Orhan Pamuk writes fiction and nonfiction that invite dialogue and reflection on history and modernity, on national and global identities, and on gender and its politics. He is the author of eight novels, the memoir Istanbul, and three works of nonfiction. His work has been translated from the original Turkish into over 60 languages. In 2012 he opened The Museum of Innocence in Istanbul, a companion project to his novel of the same name.
Orhan Pamuk's visit is part of the Great World Texts Program at the Center for the Humanities.
This lecture is co-sponsored by the UW Distinguished Lecture Series.
Directions, accessibility, and parking for Union South.
Photo Credit: Spencer Platt
Dean and Professor of Painting, Yale School of Art
Mr. & Ms. Inside/Outside: Institutional Critique from Within Institutions Friday, October 25, 2013 @ 7:30pm Lecture Hall, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 227 State Street
Robert Storr is Professor of painting/printmaking and Dean of the School of Art at Yale University. He was Curator and then Senior Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, from 1990 to 2002, where he organized monographic exhibitions on Chuck Close, Elizabeth Murray, Gerhard Richter, Max Beckmann, Tony Smith, and Robert Ryman, as well as many group shows starting with “Dislocations.” In addition, Storr coordinated the Projects series from 1990 to 2000. In 2002, he was named the first Rosalie Solow Professor of Modern Art at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University a position he held until 2006. He was the Director of the 2007 Venice Biennale, the first American born curator to be named to that post, and from 2005 to 2011 he was Consulting Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He has been a contributing editor at Art in America since 1981 and writes frequently for Artforum, Parkett, Art Press (Paris), and Frieze (London) and Corriere della Serra (Milan.) He has written numerous catalogs, articles, and books, including Philip Guston (New York, 1986), Cage: 6 Paintings by Gerhard Richter (2009,) “’September’ a History Painting by Gerhard Richter (2010) and the forthcoming Intimate Geometries: The Work and Life of Louise Bourgeois.
MMoCA's lecture hall will open at 7 pm for general seating.
Photo caption: Robert Storr. Photograph by Herbert Lotz.
David Woods Kemper '41 Professor of American History, Harvard University; Staff Writer at The New Yorker
Jane Franklin's Spectacles: Or, the Education of Benjamin Franklin's Sister Thursday, October 24, 2013 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
Benjamin Franklin famously wrote the story of his life, the story of a printer's apprentice who runs away to become a statesman and a scientist. In this illustration lecture, Lepore tells the story of Franklin's long-forgotten sister, Jane.
Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University. In 2011, she was named a Harvard College Professor, for distinction in undergraduate teaching. Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin, her biography of Benjamin Franklin's sister, will be published in October. Her earlier books include The Mansion of Happiness, shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction; New York Burning, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and The Name of War, winner of the Bancroft Prize. She is also a staff writer at The New Yorker.
Illustrator, Author, Artist, and Designer
On Dreams, Worrying, Panic, and Pleasure Thursday, April 11, 2013 @ 7:30pm UW Hillel, 611 Langdon Street
The day is a roller coaster of emotions.
We live only to make blunders, as Charles Darwin said.
Is this true? Is there no respite from anxiety?
Wait, is this what this talk is about? Maybe other things will be discussed like Robert Walser and the Countess of Castiglione, walking and the delight of small moments.
In children's books that invoke Mallarmé and mid-century architecture; illustrated editions of Strunk & White's Elements of Style and Michael Pollan's Food Rules; iconic objects for the legendary design firm M&Co; and poetic accounts of everyday life, Maira Kalman reveals an extraordinary taste for the possible. Her illustrations regularly appear on the cover of the New Yorker, and her New York Times blog on democracy has been published as the widely acclaimed And the Pursuit of Happiness.
Parking and directions to the UW Hillel Foundation building.
Elsa Barkley Brown Collegiate Professor of African American Women's History, University of Michigan
Haunted Emancipations: Seeking Ghosts of Slavery in the South Thursday, February 28, 2013 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
Built in 1838 as the home of a wealthy cotton trader, the Sorrel-Weed House is an architectural landmark in the city of Savannah, Georgia and a structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The home has become infamous in recent years due to a restoration as well as a program of tours and publicity that have highlighted the presence of ghosts on the property. Two women -- one white and free, the other black and enslaved -- are said to have died violently in the house during the Civil War. As a result, the Sorrel-Weed residence has been described by its promoters as “the most Haunted home in Savannah,” a metropolis that The American Institute of Parapsychology has dubbed “America’s Most Haunted City” (2002). By analyzing contemporary narratives about the Sorrel-Weed spirits and other ghosts in the state of Georgia, Miles explores the intertwined meaning of haunting and slavery in post-emancipation southern contexts. The talk will dwell on the following questions, among others: What nature of cultural and historical work do ghost stories perform? What do the Sorrel-Weed ghosts and their public audience tell us about race relations of the past as well as the present? Are we, and will we ever be, fully emancipated from the specter of American slavery?
Tiya Miles is Chair of the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies and Professor of History, American Culture, and Native American Studies at the University of Michigan. She is the author of two prize-winning books, Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom (2005) and The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story (2010), and various articles on women’s history and black and Native interrelated experience. She is co-editor, with Sharon P. Holland, of Crossing Waters, Crossing Worlds: The African Diaspora in Indian Country (2006). In 2011 she was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow.
Kate Bolick and Michael Cobb Talk About Singles Thursday, November 29, 2012 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
Kate Bolick and Michael Cobb take on the reign of coupledom, the place of singles today, and the value of friendship at a moment when legal definitions of romantic couplings are becoming an issue of human rights.
Bolick is author of the Atlantic cover story "All the Single Ladies," which was optioned for a television series current under development with CBS, and the forthcoming book Among the Suitors. Cobb is Professor of English at the University of Toronto and author of Single: Arguments for the Uncoupled and God Hates Fags: Rhetorics of Religious Violence.
This promises to be a fascinating conversation between two old friends who are leading voices in redefining the social landscape.
Read the UW news release.
Listen to Michael Cobb talk about the uncoupled life and the "second-class citizen" status of singles here on Wisconsin Public Radio.
Directions, parking, and accessibility information for the Conrad A. Elvehjem Building.
Professor and Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English, Rice University
Dark Ecology: Philosophy in the Anthropocene Thursday, October 18, 2012 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
In roughly 1790, humans began to deposit a thin layer of carbon in Earth's crust, as a result of fossil fuel burning. This marked the beginning of what is now known as the Anthropocene, a distinct moment in which human history intersects decisively with geological time. In 1945, the Great Acceleration began, a logarithmic upturn in the momentum of the Anthropocene. A thin layer of radioactive materials began to be deposited in Earth's crust, thanks to the detonation of The Gadget in Trinity, New Mexico, and the subsequent deployment of the nuclear bombs Little Boy and Fat Man.
The intersection of human history and geological time now means that no distinction can be drawn, no clear, thin bright line, between humans and nonhumans, or, in the old and now outdated (and mystifying, even dangerous) terminology, Nature. Everything—bonobos, Toyotas, plankton and toothpaste—are now on “this” side of history and social space. There is no “world” any more, no stable background against which human events seem meaningful. It is the end of the world not as an apocalypse, but as the loss of an illusion.
We are not living in the end times; this is the afterlife: we are already dead. We find ourselves caught in a reality from which we cannot extricate ourselves in a deep, ontological sense. The implications of the end of the world are the subject of this talk.
Morton is the author of Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minnesota UP, forthcoming), Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality (forthcoming from Open Humanities Press), The Ecological Thought (Harvard UP, 2010), and Ecology without Nature (Harvard UP, 2007), as well as many other books and essays on philosophy, ecology, literature, food, and music. He also regularly blogs at Ecology Without Nature.
Directions, parking, and accessibility information for the Conrad A. Elvehjem Building.
Psychoanalyst and Author
Freud's Impossible Life: An Introduction Friday, September 28, 2012 @ 5:30pm Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center
Freud's life is of great interest partly because, as the inventor of psychoanalysis he was preoccupied with the way people tell the stories of their lives. Adam Phillips, psychoanalyst, literary critic, and essayist, will talk both about Freud's remarkable life, and about what Freud had to say about the larger art of biography. Phillips, the general editor of the New Penguin translation of Freud's work and currently at work on a biography of Freud, is also the author of many well-known books, including On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored, Going Sane, On Kindness, and On Balance. His newest work is Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life. He writes, interviews, and appears widely to offer a unique psychoanalytic perspective on therapy, literature, and the human condition.
Phillips' talk will double as the keynote address for the North American Victorian Studies Association Conference.
"Responsive, fluid, and open."
New York Times online interview with Phillips, conducted by Rachel Stuart and Tyler Krupp
Directions, parking, and accessibility information for Monona Terrace.
Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor in American History, University of Pennsylvania
The Dimensions of Freedom: Slave Emancipation, Indian Peoples, and the Projects of the New American States Thursday, September 13, 2012 @ 7:30pm Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
In September 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, committing the war against the Confederate rebellion to the abolition of slavery there. But almost simultaneously, Lincoln sent federal troops to suppress an uprising of the Sioux in the state of Minnesota. The association of the two events was more than incidental. Hahn suggests how the problem of slavery and the problem of Indian peoples were shared projects of a newly emerging American nation-state, linking the fates of the South and the trans-Mississippi West during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Steven Hahn is a specialist on the history of the American South, African-American history, and the international history of slavery, emancipation, and race. His many publications include A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggle in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration, which received the Pulitzer Prize in History for 2004, among other awards.
Hahn's public lecture launches the 2012-2013 Emancipations Lab.
Professor of Literature and Italian, Duke University
What to Do In a Crisis Thursday, April 26, 2012 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Room L160
The current economic and financial crisis is also a social crisis, which is manifest in part by the subjectivities produced or intensified by the crisis. Hardt's lecture will first explore four primary subjectivities produced by the crisis -- the indebted, the mediatized, the securitized, and the represented. Hardt will then analyze the cycle of struggles of 2011 (the encampments and occupations) to understand how they manage to refuse and invert these subjectivities, creating instead powerful subjective figures.
Michael Hardt's recent writings deal primarily with the political, legal, economic, and social aspects of globalization. In his books with Antonio Negri, he has analyzed the functioning of the current global power structure as well as the possible political and economic alternatives to that structure based on new institutions of shared, common wealth. Many of his seminars focus on the work of important figures in the history of critical theory and political theory, such as Marx, Jefferson, Gramsci, Foucault, Deleuze, and Guattari. He currently serves as the chair of the Literature Program at Duke University and as the editor of the South Atlantic Quarterly.
Screenwriter, Producer, CEO of Focus Features, and Professor, Columbia University School of the Arts
My Wife is a Terrorist: Lessons in Storytelling from the Department of Homeland Security Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 7:30pm Marquee Theater, Union South
This event is one of the Humanities Without Boundaries events.
In 2008, James Schamus learned that his wife, the peace activist and novelist Nancy Kricorian, had been under surveillance by the Division of Homeland Security for over a year. A few pages of her file were “reluctantly coughed up” by the authorities, and Schamus was struck by the word “Narrative” at the top of a hugely-redacted document that was as ominous for what it left out as for what it revealed. The experience got him thinking: how much could we learn from the ‘huge, story-producing industry’ that is Homeland Security? His provocative lecture draws from his own academic study of narrative forms and narrative theory, as well as from directors like Alfred Hitchcock and films like The Bourne Identity. James Schamus is a widely published film historian and is professor of Professional Practice at the Columbia University School of the Arts. In addition, he is an award-winning screenwriter and producer (The Ice Storm, Brokeback Mountain), and is CEO of the film company Focus Features (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Milk, Lost in Translation).
Co-sponsored by the Wisconsin Film Festival and the Department of Communication Arts.
Joseph Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University
Wastelands and Wilderness Thursday, March 8, 2012 @ 7:30pm Marquee Theater, Union South
Peter Galison will discuss the scientific, moral, and political problems surrounding the disposal of nuclear waste in the U.S. His lecture will be followed by a 9:00 PM screening of clips, with commentary, from the forthcoming work-in-progress film Nuclear Underground (2013).
This event is co-sponsored by the Wisconsin Union Directorate Film Committee, the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and Center for Culture, History and Environment, the Robert F. and Jean E. Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies, and the Department of the History of Science.
Peter Galison is Joseph Pellegrino University Professor at Harvard and the director of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, a 1997 recipient of a MacArthur fellowship, and winner of the 1999 Max Planck Prize. His work examines the powerful cross-currents between science and other fields, such as art, architecture, philosophy and language.
Director, Playwright, and Professor of Performance Studies at Northwestern University
An Evening with Mary Zimmerman Thursday, October 6, 2011 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Elvehjem Building (L160)
Mary Zimmerman will discuss aspects of her work on adapting and translating classics for contemporary theatre. Her work is focused on the adaptation of epic, ancient texts for the stage and originates at either the Goodman or Lookingglass Theatres of Chicago. Among her productions are: The Odyssey, The Arabian Nights, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, Journey to the West, Argonautika: The Voyage of Jason and The Argonauts, The Secret in the Wings, Mirror of the Invisible World, and Eleven Rooms of Proust.
Mary Zimmerman is a playwright and director of theatre and opera as well as a Professor of Performance Studies at Northwestern University. She is the winner of a 1998 MacArthur Fellowship (the “Genius Grant”) as well as the 2002 Tony Award for Best Direction in her adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. She has also directed Shakespeare in Chicago, New York, and Washington, DC. In recent years she has begun directing at the Metropolitan Opera and her work includes Lucia di Lammermoor, La Sonnambula, and Armida, all of which have been featured in worldwide, live, HD broadcasts in movie theatres.
Food Critic, LA Weekly
Authenticity, Culture, and the Korean Taco Thursday, April 28, 2011 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Elvehjem Building (L160)
Jonathan Gold, a former contributor to Gourmet, is currently a food critic for LA Weekly, as well as one of the great observers of Los Angeles as a global city. He is the first and only food critic to win a Pulitzer Prize. His columns—collected in his book Counter Intelligence—are eagerly devoured by gourmands and culture hounds, alike. Note to local foodies: Gold is partial to the Dane County Farmers’ Market.
Emeritus Professor of Aesthetics and Politics at the University of Paris-VIII
The Politics of Fiction Thursday, April 14, 2011 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Elvehjem Building (L160)
What is fiction? In this lecture, Jacques Rancière challenges the conventions of aesthetic realism to argue that fiction concerns not only the relation between real and imaginary worlds, but also the capacity of individuals to feel and communicate.
Jacques Rancière is widely regarded as one of Europe’s foremost contemporary intellectuals. His recent work, which has influenced scholars and artists alike, examines the relationships between aesthetics and politics. He is the author of Disagreement, Hatred of Democracy, The Future of the Image, The Politics of Aesthetics, and The Ignorant Schoolmaster, among many other works.
Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, Yale University
The Contemporary Debate about Cosmopolitanism in the Humanities and Social Sciences Monday, December 6, 2010 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Elvehjem Building (L160)
Cosmopolitanism has become a widely-used term in many disciplines, ranging from philosophy to literary studies, from political science to urban planning, and from legal theory to cultural studies. How do we account for this revival of a term which until recently seemed to belong to the history of a discredited European Enlightenment? Beginning with an analysis of this term in Greek thought and its revival through Kant in the 18th century, this lecture will examine debates in the humanities and the social sciences on cosmopolitanism.
Seyla Benhabib writes and lectures about ethics, politics, and economics, exploring questions of identity and community, democracy and difference, as well as gender, citizenship and immigration. She is the author of many books, including The Rights of Others: Aliens, Citizens, and Residents and Another Cosmopolitanism: Hospitality, Sovereignty, and Democratic Iterations.
Professor of English at Queen Mary, University of London
Total Belief—Delirium in the West Thursday, November 11, 2010 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Elvehjem Building (L160)
What happens when a political belief becomes sacred? Drawing from Hannah Arendt’s analysis of totalitarianism as mental control, Rose will argue that those who too quickly ascribe the category of the religious ‘fanatic’ or ‘extremist’ to distant cultures have much to learn from some of the most intense—at times lethal, at times transformative—deliriums of the West.
Jacqueline Rose, a Fellow of the British Academy, is internationally known for her writing on feminism, psychoanalysis, literature, and the politics and ideology of Israel-Palestine. She has written many books and is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books. She is co-founder of Independent Jewish Voices in the UK.
Elusive Truths: Filmmaking and Politics Thursday, October 21, 2010 @ 7:30pm Wisconsin Union Theater
Errol Morris is an Academy Award-winning documentarian, historian and ’69 UW- Madison graduate whose films include The Thin Blue Line, A Brief History of Time, and The Fog of War.
As well as a Humanities Without Boundaries Lecture, Morris's talk is a Year of the Arts showcase event. Co-sponsored by the Arts Institute, Associate Vice Provost, George Mosse Center, History Department, Communication Arts, Goldberg Center, Distinguished Lecture Series, and MMOCA.
Senior Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art
An Evening with Paola Antonelli Monday, April 26, 2010 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Elvehjem Building (L160)
Paola Antonelli is one of the world’s foremost design experts and was recently rated as one of the top one hundred most powerful people in the world of art by Art Review. She is a Senior Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art. The recipient of a laurea degree in Architecture from the Politecnico di Milano university in 1990, Antonelli has curated several architecture and design exhibitions in Italy, France, and Japan. She has been a Contributing Editor for Domus magazine (1987-91) and the Design Editor of Abitare (1992-94). She has also contributed articles to several publications, among them Metropolis, The Harvard Design Review, I.D. magazine, Paper, Metropolitan Home, Harper’s Bazaar, and Nest.
Maître de conférences in the Philosophy Department at the Université Paris-X Nanterre
Is Plasticity a New Name for Freedom? Wednesday, March 10, 2010 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Elvehjem Building (L160)
The most recent research in biology aims at putting into question the concept of genetic programming. Today, epigenetics tends to be more important than genetics itself. Three main discoveries explain this shift: the discovery of interfering RNA; the discovery of stem cells; and the discovery of neural plasticity. In this lecture, philosopher Catherine Malabou focuses on plasticity, which explains that our brain develops itself for the most part after birth and is modeled by experience, education, and learning. Malabou considers how the discovery of neural plasticity challenges philosophical and political conventions, in particular the belief that philosophy and technoscience are opposed. She explores what happens to a politics of emancipation and resistance when science no longer is the name of the enemy, and asks what is the future of philosophy in an era of plasticity and epigentics.
Catherine Malabou teaches philosophy in Paris and at the University at Buffalo. Her recent publications include What Should We Do With Our Brain? (Fordham, 2009) and Plasticity at the Dusk of Writing (Columbia, 2009) in English, and Changer le difference, le feminine et la question philosophique (Galilée, 2009) in French.
Natalie Zemon Davis
Adjunct Professor of History, Senior Fellow in Comparative Literature, and Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto
Dealing with Strangeness: Language and Information Flow in Early Modern Worlds Thursday, February 25, 2010 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Elvehjem Building (L160)
Through war, conquest, trade, exploration, migration (voluntary and coerced), the known world expanded across oceans and continents in the early modern period. This lecture will consider a few forms of innovation, exchange and adaptation that emerged as part of that expansion, as in language and healing. Examples will be drawn from the Mediterranean and Canada, but especially from African/European connections in Africa and the Caribbean. Can the Humanities today push beyond these forms of exchange?
Natalie Zemon Davis is a social and cultural historian of early modern times. She has written on peasants and artisans in early modern France; on women in Germany, France, the Netherlands and Quebec; on criminality and storytelling in sixteenth-century France; on forms of gift-giving in early modern times; and on Muslims and Christians in sixteenth-century Europe. She is the author of eight books, all of them translated into various foreign languages including: Society and Culture in Early Modern France; The Return of Martin Guerre; Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales in the Sixteenth-Century France; Women on the Margins: Three Seventeenth-Century Lives. Emerita from Princeton University, Natalie Zemon Davis is currently Adjunct Professor of History and Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto. Her present research is on slavery and sociability in 18th-century Suriname.
Co-sponsored by the Center for European Studies and Global Studies.
Dave Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng
An Evening with Dave Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng
An Evening with Dave Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng Wednesday, November 4, 2009 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Elvehjem Building (L160)
Dave Eggers is the author of six previous books, including his most recent, Zeitoun, a nonfiction account a Syrian-American immigrant and his extraordinary experience during Hurricane Katrina and What Is the What, a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award. That book, about Valentino Achak Deng, a survivor of the civil war in southern Sudan, gave birth to the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, run by Mr. Deng and dedicated to building secondary schools in southern Sudan. A native of Chicago, Eggers graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in journalism. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.
Valentino Achak Deng was born in southern Sudan, in the village of Marial Bai. He fled Sudan in the late 1980’s during civil war, when his village was destroyed by murahaleen—the same type of militia that currently terrorize Darfur. Deng grew up in Ethiopian and Kenyan refugee camps, where he worked for the UNHCR as a social advocate and reproductive health educator. In 2001 he resettled to Atlanta. Deng has toured the US and Europe speaking about his life in Sudan, his experience as a refugee, and his collaboration with author Dave Eggers on What Is the What, the novelized version of Deng’s life story. As a leader in the Sudanese diaspora, Deng advocates for the universal right to education and the freedom of his people in Sudan. In 2006, Deng and Eggers established the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation to help rebuild Sudanese communities by increasing access to educational opportunities. The Foundation has constructed the very first high school in Valentino’s region of Southern Sudan, which opened in May 2009, and plans for a library, teacher-training college, and community center are currently underway. www.valentinoachakdeng.org
This event is made possible by generous support from the Brittingham Visiting Scholars Fund, the Lectures Committee, and the Anonymous Fund of the UW-Madison.
Evelyn Fox Keller
Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science, MIT, Emerita
Human Nature, Human Nurture, and the Mirage of a Space between the Two Friday, October 2, 2009 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Elvehjem Building (L160)
In this talk, Evelyn Fox Keller focuses on the idea that the causes of trait development can be parsed into two categories: nature and nurture. She argues that this fundamentally incoherent notion, which still persists in both the popular and technical imagination, was the innovation of Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911). It was spurred in part by his particulate theories of inheritance and has been sustained, again in part, by chronic slippages in the language of genetics.
Evelyn Fox Keller’s research focuses on the history and philosophy of modern biology and on gender and science. She is the author of several books, including A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock (1983), Reflections on Gender and Science (1985), The Century of the Gene (2000), and Making Sense of Life: Explaining Biological Development with Models, Metaphors and Machines (2002). Her most recent book, The Mirage of a Space Between Nature and Nurture, is now in press.
John S. and James L. Knight Professor of Journalism, University of California Berkeley
In Defense of Food: The Omnivore’s Solution Thursday, September 24, 2009 @ 7:30pm Kohl Center
Real food--the kind of food your great-grandmother would recognize as food—is being undermined by science on one side and the food industry on the other, both of whom want us focus on nutrients, good and bad, rather than actual plants, animals and fungi. The rise of “nutritionism” has vastly complicated the lives of American eaters without doing anything for our health, except possibly to make it worse. Nutritionism arose to deal with a genuine problem--the fact that the modern American diet is responsible for an epidemic of chronic diseases, from obesity and type II diabetes to heart disease and many cancers--but it has obscured the real roots of that problem and stood in the way of a solution. That solution involves putting the focus back on foods and food chains, for it turns out our personal health cannot be divorced from the health of the soil, plants, and animals that make up the food chains in which we take part. In this talk, Pollan explores what the industrialization of food and agriculture has meant for our health and happiness as eaters, and looks at the growing national movement to renovate the food system.
Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food has been chosen as the first book in the Go Big Read common book program.
Read one of Pollan's recent articles about the future of food in America: New York Times Magazine: The Food Issue: An Open Letter to the Next Farmer in Chief.
For the past twenty years, Michael Pollan has been writing books and articles about the places where the human and natural worlds intersect: food, agriculture, gardens, drugs, and architecture. Pollan is the author, most recently, of In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto.
Executive director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG) in Berlin
The Passions of the Unnatural Friday, April 24, 2009 @ 2:09pm
The unnatural comes in several forms: monsters that violate the order of natural species; catastrophes that capsize the order of ecological balance; marvels or miracles that break with the order of what happens always or most of the time. It is a striking fact that these versions of the unnatural also provoke distinctive emotional responses: horror, terror, and wonder, respectively. These are the emotions (or better, passions, in the original sense of the term as an extreme state that we suffer rather than merely feel) that register a breach of order -- and blur the boundary between the natural and the moral.
Lorraine Daston is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany and Visiting Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. Her most recent book, co-authored with Peter Galison, is Objectivity (New York: Zone Books, 2008). Lorraine Daston will also participate in a History of Science brown bag discussion April 24th, 2009 at 12PM in the Memorial Union. Co-Sponsored by the UW-Madison History of Science Department and the Center for the Humanities What is Human? Lab.
Professor Emeritus of French at the University of California, Berkeley
Ardent Masturbation (Descartes, Freud, et al.) Thursday, April 16, 2009 @ 7:30pm Pyle Center
Foucault identified the beginning of the modern age in his history of Western notions of subjectivity with "the Cartesian moment," by which he meant the prioritizing of knowledge over "care of the self" or spirituality. What are the procedures of Cartesian self-knowledge? In what sense does Descartes initiate a type of introspection characteristic of what we have come to understand as self-analysis? Leo Bersani was for several years the Class of 1950 Professor of French at UC Berkeley. His books include The Freudian Body, The Culture of Redemption, Homos and, with Ulysse Dutoit, Caravaggio's Secrets and Forms of Being/Cinema, Aesthetics, Subjectivity. Chicago University Press has recently published Intimacies, a work co-authored with Adam Phillips.
Leo Bersani will participate in a brown bag, "Thinking Intimacies: A Faculty Roundtable with Leo Bersani" on Friday, April 17th, 12-1:30 in HC White 6191. Including UW Professors Jill Casid (Art History), Michael Jay McClure (Art), and James Klausen (Political Science).
K. Anthony Appiah
Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy and the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University
Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers Monday, April 6, 2009 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Elvehjem Building (L160)
Kwame Anthony Appiah is our postmodern Socrates. He asks what it means to be African and African-American, but his answers immediately raise issues that encompass us all. His principal and abiding concern is how we individually construct ourselves in dialogue with social circumstance, both private and public, past and present. He has taught philosophy and African and African-American studies at Cambridge, Duke, Cornell, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton Universities. He is currently Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy at Princeton (with a cross-appointment at the University Center for Human Values). His early philosophical work dealt with probabilistic semantics and theories of meaning, but his more recent books have tackled philosophical problems of race and racism. The Ethics of Identity and In My Father's House are among his titles. This event is co-sponsored by the UW-Madison Distinguished Lecture Committee, the UW-Madison African Studies Program, the UW-Madison Human Rights Initiative, Global Studies, and with generous support from the Evjue Foundation.
Mary Louise Pratt
Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures and the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University
Planetary Longings Thursday, November 6, 2008 @ 7:30pm Pyle Center
What desire resides in the idea of the “planetary”? A longing, perhaps, for inclusive affirmation in the face of collapsed modernity and depraved neoliberalism? For a sense of futurity, with or without history? For stories that decenter the human even as humans alone tell and hear them? Today, "we are awash in ambitious, worldmaking projects," says anthropologist Anna Tsing. The lecture will consider an array of planetary projections at work in the world today, and the ways they displace, relocate, or reassert, enlightenment humanist traditions.
Mary Louise Pratt is a Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures and the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, where she teaches Latin American literature and culture, cultural studies, postcolonial studies, and theory. Formerly the Olive H. Palmer Professor of Humanities at Stanford University, Dr. Pratt is now Silver Professor at NYU, where she is also affiliated with the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Department of Comparative Literature, and the Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics. Her current research interests include language, linguistic agency and globalization. Dr. Pratt's books include Toward a Speech Act Theory of Literary Discourse; Women, Culture and Politics in Latin America (co-authored); Linguistics for Students of Literature; and Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation.
Mary Louise Pratt will also participate in an event for the UW-Madison Language Institute, “Land of the Free, Home of the Phraselator: The Weaponization of Language” on Thursday, November 6th, 12PM in room 254 of Van Hise Hall. This event is co-sponsored by the UW-Madison Language Institute.
Hent de Vries
Professor in the Humanities Center and the Department of Philosophy at the Johns Hopkins University
The Future of Immortality: Theodor W. Adorno and the Irreducible Permanence of the Theologico-Political Friday, October 24, 2008 @ 7:30pm Pyle Center
In this lecture Hent de Vries offers a powerful lens for thinking about the endurance of immortality in modernity. Drawing upon Claude Lefort and Theodor Adorno, de Vries explains that although immortality no longer signifies the individual soul's existence beyond the body's demise, it nevertheless resists being fully secularized. Immortality thus emerges as a key instance where a theological trope continues to shape our social space and serves as a condition of justice, the rule of law, freedom, and democracy.
Hent de Vries is the Russ Family Professor in the Humanities at the Johns Hopkins University. Since January 2003, he has held a joint appointment as Professor in the Humanities Center and the Department of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins. Before joining Johns Hopkins, he held the Chair of Metaphysics and Its History in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam (1993-2002), where he continues to hold a research position as Professor Ordinarius of Systematic Philosophy and the Philosophy of Religion. He received his PhD in Philosophy of Religion from the University of Leiden in 1989. Hent De Vries's lecture is part of the conference The Weimar Moment: Liberalism, Political Theology, and Law October 24-26, 2008 at the Pyle Center, UW-Madison.
Danily C. and Laura Louise Bell Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Stanford University Brittingham Scholar in Residence
Style, inc. Reflections on 7,000 novelistic titles [Great Britain, 1740-1850] Wednesday, October 22, 2008 @ 7:30pm Pyle Center
Franco Moretti has written, most recently, Atlas of the European Novel 1800-1900 (1998), and Graphs, Maps, Trees (2005). Chief editor of The Novel (Princeton, 2006). He has given the Gauss seminars at Princeton, the Beckman lectures at Berkeley, and the Carpenter lectures at Chicago; he is a fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and writes often for New Left Review. With support from the UW-Madison Division of International Studies, the International Institute, and Global Studies.
Professor of English and American Literature and Language, Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard University
Imagining Color in Proust and Murasaki Thursday, May 1, 2008 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Room L160
The act of imagining-making a mental picture when no actual sensory content is present- is a key part of our human lives. But how exactly are such mental pictures made? How, for example, is color made in the mind? Two great colorists, Proust and Lady Murasaki, (as well as recent work in neuroscience and philosophy) will provide a starting point for solving this mystery.
Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations and the College, University of Chicago
Empire, Ethics, and the Calling of History Friday, February 29, 2008 @ 7:30pm Lee Lounge, Pyle Center
This lecture will serve as the keynote address for the Border and Transcultural Studies Research Circle Conference: Empire and Knowledge, Feb. 29-March 1 2008.
Frances Smith Foster
Charles Howard Candler Professor of English & Women's Studies and Associated Faculty in African American Studies and in American Studies, Emory University
Freedom's Journal's "Love Ditties" and Other Writings of Courtship and Marriage in Early African America Thursday, February 7, 2008 @ 7:30pm Wisconsin Historical Society
Would it surprise you to learn that "Dear Abby" has an African American ancestor; that Freedom's Journal was the earliest African American newspaper but it was not an abolitionist newspaper; or that love, marriage and sexual morality were regular topics in the Antebellum Afro-Protestant Press? Foster will discuss these themes. Among Frances Foster's most recent publications are Love and Marriage in Early African America; Race, Region and the Politics of Slavery's Memory; African Americans, Literature, and the Nineteenth Century Afro-Protestant Press; Written By Herself; and Literary Production by African American Women, 1746-1892. She has co-edited Norton Critical Edition of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (with Nellie Y. McKay), Norton Anthology of African American Literature (with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Nellie Y. McKay, et al), and Oxford Companion to African American Literature (with William L. Andrews and Trudier Harris).
Novelist, Historian, & Journalist
What if Al-andalus Had Survived? Friday, October 19, 2007 @ 7:00pm Chazen Museum of Art, Room L160
Why did this civilization crumble? How different would Europe and South America have been if al-Andalus had remained a world of three cultures. An exploration of this counter-factual might be of some use in today's world. Four novels of Tariq Ali's planned "Islam Quintet" have already been published by Verso. Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity, his response to 9/11, has been translated into fifteen languages. Tariq Ali's talk is also part of the Center's "Legacies of Al Andalus: Islam, Judaism, & the West" festival.
John Henry Barrows Professor of the History and Religion of Islam, University of Chicago
God of War: American Power in a World of Religion Thursday, October 18, 2007 @ 7:30pm Wisconsin Historical Society
The end of the Cold War saw a revival of religious militancy across the world. American power, within and without the fault lines of its global presence, has become a front in the competition among militant versions of religion. This talk examines the development of such conflict-identities in the Abrahamic religions in particular, and the danger that militants are helping make their prophecies self-fulfilling. Michael Sells is author of eight books on the topics of the Qur'an; Islamic mysticism; Arabic poetry; medieval mystical movement in Judaism; Christianity and Islam; religion and genocide in Bosnia; and Religious versions of civilizational clash and cosmic war. Michael Sells talk is also part of the Center's "Legacies of Al Andalus: Islam, Judaism, & the West" festival.
Wai Chee Dimock
William Lampson Professor of English & American Studies, Yale University
Hemispheric Islam: Carlyle, Emerson, Irving Thursday, September 27, 2007 @ 7:30pm Wisconsin Historical Society
Using Islam as the connecting fabric, this talk proposes an alternative context for American and British literature, casting Carlyle, Emerson, and Irving in a new light, and linking religion to general conditions of belief as well as questions of historical casualties. Wai Chee Dimock experiments with close readings across different widths of space, and across a range of time-scales. Her new book, Through Other Continents, invokes the duration and extension of the planet to anchor American literature, reading it as part of the world’s fabric, an effect of “deep time.” This is also the orientation of a co-edited volume, Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature. She is at work now on a textbook, Transnational American Literature, and a book on genre, A Map of Kin and Kind: Epic, Lyric, Novel.
Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley
Said, Levinas, and the Paradoxes of Universalism Thursday, May 3, 2007 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Room L160
Judith Butler is a pre-eminent American feminist philosopher and cultural theorist. Her books include Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990); Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" (1993); The Psychic Life of Power: Theories of Subjection (1997); Excitable Speech (1997); Antigone's Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death (2000); Hegemony, Contingency, Universality (with Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Zizek, 2000). In 2004, she published a collection of writings on war's impact on language and thought titled Precarious Life: Powers of Violence and Mourning. Her most recent book, Giving an Account of Oneself (2005), considers the partial opacity of the subject, and the relation between critique and ethical reflection. She is currently working on essays pertaining to Jewish philosophy, focusing on pre-Zionist criticisms of state violence. She continues to write on cultural and literary theory, philosophy, psychoanalysis, feminism, and sexual politics.
Professor of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University
An Underground Palace in Ancient China: The Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng Thursday, April 19, 2007 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Room L160
Robert Bagley is a distinguished scholar in the field of Chinese Neolithic and Bronze Age art and archaeology. In this lecture he will describe the tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng, who died in 433 BC, probably the most astonishing discovery ever made in Chinese archaeology. Containing no less than ten metric tons of bronze artifacts, it was furnished with weapons and armor, ritual offerings of food and drink presented in bronze vessels, a wealth of luxury goods, and most remarkable of all, two distinct musical ensembles with a total of 30 instruments-winds and strings, drums, stone chimes, and a tuned set of 65 bronze bells. In death the Marquis was accompanied by 21 young women, probably concubines and musicians, in a coffin of wood and bronze that weighs 7000 pounds. Bagley will describe the burial and its contents, focusing particularly on the musical instruments, which show a technological and musical sophistication unsuspected before the discovery of this tomb and unparalleled anywhere else in the ancient world.
Distinguished Professor of French & Italian, and Comparative Literature, University of California-Irvine; and Emeritus Professor of Political Philosophy, Université de Paris X, Nanterre
Politics as War, War as Politics Thursday, March 1, 2007 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Room L160
It has been claimed that we had entered an era of “new wars” in which the traditional “Clausewitzian” axioms, relying on a strict monopoly of legitimate violence for States bound by International Law, did no longer hold. The Lecture will suggest a return to the classical texts and elaborate a more dialectical view of their relevance to our present.
Etienne Balibar is a distinguished political philosopher. A co-author with Louis Althusser, Pierre Macherey, and others, of the landmark book of French Marxism Reading Capital (1965, translated into English in 1970), he is one of the leading thinkers in the Marxian tradition today. His current research focuses on issues of citizenship, racism and subjectification, and the question of Europe. His works include Masses, Classes, Ideas: Studies on Politics and Philosophy before and after Marx (1993); Race, Nation, Class (with Immanuel Wallerstein) (1994), We, the People of Europe? Reflections on Transnational Citizenship (2004), and Extreme Violence and the Problem of Civility (forthcoming). His lecture will take up the claim that we have entered an era of "new wars" in which the traditional "Clausewitzian" axioms, relying on a strict monopoly of legitimate violence for States bound by International Law, no longer hold. How can we achieve a more dialectical view, Balibar asks, of the relevance to our present of the classical doctrines of the "laws of war"?
Melvyn P. Leffler
Stettinius Professor of American History, and former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
George W. Bush and American Foreign Policy: What's New? What's Old? Thursday, October 26, 2006 @ 10:47pm Chazen Museum of Art, Room L160
Melvyn Leffler will place the Bush foreign policy in historical perspective and illuminate the considerable continuities that exist between his goals, tactics, and rhetoric and those of his predecessors. If that is the case, why is there so much controversy? To understand the answer to this question, he will examine how fear, power, and culture shape American diplomacy.
A distinguished historian of the Cold War, Melvyn Leffler has written extensively about the economic and strategic dimensions of American foreign policy in the 20th century, including in his prize-winning book, A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War (1992). Leffler will illuminate the considerable continuities that exist between the Bush foreign policy, goals, tactics, and rhetoric and those of his predecessors, and will suggest that the reasons that it has caused so much controversy lie in the ways that fear, power, and culture shape American diplomacy. Melvyn Leffler's visit is co-sponsored by the UW-Madison's Center for World Affairs and the Global Economy (WAGE).
John Dewey Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University
Science, Religion, and the Difficulties of Democracy Thursday, October 19, 2006 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Room L160
The controversy about teaching Darwin's theory of evolution to schoolchildren is a symptom of much deeper difficulties about standards for public knowledge and the role of religious values in public policy. Philip Kitcher will examine how these problems arise, why they make democracy so difficult for multi-cultural societies, and ways in which they might be addressed.
Philip Kitcher is a renowned philosopher of science and mathematics. His current research concerns the ethical and political constraints on scientific research, the evolution of altruism and morality, and the apparent conflict between science and religion. He is the author of books on the scientific case against creationism, The Nature of Mathematical Knowledge; Vaulting Ambition: Sociobiology and the Quest for Human Nature (1985); The Lives to Come: The Genetic Revolution and Human Possibilities (1997); Science, Truth, and Democracy (2001); and In Mendel's Mirror: Philosophical Reflections on Biology (2003). Most recently, he co-authored Finding an Ending: Reflections on Wagner's Ring (2004).
Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, Professor of Philosophy, Logic, and the Philosophy of Science, University of California-Irvine
Darwin's Most Significant Discovery: Design without Designer Tuesday, September 26, 2006 @ 7:30pm Engineering Hall
A leading evolutionary biologist and a national and international science advisor, Francisco Ayala has been in the thick of public debates on evolution. His writing concerns the interface between religion and science, epistemology, ethics, and the philosophy of biology. Francisco Ayala is being presented as part of the "Science and Humanities Creativity Forum" in partnership the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy (WISL). Funded in part through the generous support of the Anonymous Fund.
Danielle S. Allen
Associate Professor of Classical Languages and Literatures, Politics, and the Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago
Talking to Strangers: On Citizenship and Trust Thursday, May 8, 2003 @ 7:30pm Memorial Union
The essential characteristic of politics is its basis in the relations between people, and between people and governments. Civility and trust are therefore critical to the success of politics, and to democracy in particular. Classicist and political theorist Danielle Allen of the University of Chicago will explore this issue in her lecture "Talking to Strangers: On Citizenship and Trust." Allen, an emerging scholar who holds dual appointments in the departments of Classics and Political Science at the University of Chicago, focuses her work on rhetoric, trust, and civic dialogue in the political cultures of our time and that of classical-era Athens.
Danielle Allen is Associate Professor of Classical Languages and Literatures, Politics, and the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. A recent MacArthur "genius grant" fellowship winner, Allen combines her interest in the literature, politics, and history of ancient Greece with a concern for modern American political and legal history and democratic theory. She is the author of The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens (2000) and the forthcoming Democratic Entanglements Rhetoric, Distrust, and Sacrifice, a comparison of Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, and Ralph Ellison and their views on distrust and rhetoric.
Edmund N. Carpenter II Class of 1943 Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Philosophy, and Professor of Comparative Literature, Princeton University
Virtues of Admiration: Aesthetics, Art, and the Rest of Life Thursday, April 24, 2003 @ 7:30pm Red Gym
Alexander Nehamas is the Edmund N. Carpenter II Class of 1943 Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Philosophy, and Professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton University. He was founding director of the Princeton Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, and chair of the Council of the Humanities and Program in Hellenic Studies. His published works include Nietzsche: Life as Literature (1985), The Art of Living: Socratic Reflections from Plato to Foucault (1998), and Virtues of Authenticity: Essays on Plato and Socrates (1999), as well as translations of Plato's Symposium and Phaedrus (1989, 1995).
Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions in the Divinity School, University of Chicago
Sex and Gender in the Kamasutra Thursday, January 30, 2003 @ 7:30pm Music Hall
The Kamasutra was written in the third century CE during the Gupta period-India's "classical" age. Professor Doniger, whose new translation of the Kamasutra was published in June 2002 (Oxford University Press), believes that the text is "really about power, politics, and sex." Doniger observes that the book provides guidance beyond sexual positions and technique, including advice for both women and men on dumping unsatisfactory partners. But more importantly, the Kamasutra is also a source for information in the ways in which pleasure, wealth, and power were defined in India's classical period. For Doniger, the Kamasutra is a multifaceted work of literature, the true depth of which continues to be uncovered.
Wendy Doniger is Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. She also serves in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, the Committees on Social Thought and the Ancient Mediterranean World, and the College. Her teaching covers a broad spectrum, including cross-cultural themes, mythology, literature, law, gender, and ecology. In addition to her recent translation of the Kamasutra for Oxford University Press, her books (published under the name Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty) include the Penguin Classics Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook, Translated from the Sanskrit, The Rig Veda: An Anthology, 108 Hymns translated from the Sanskrit, and The Laws of Manu.
Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University
Identity Group Politics in Democracy: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Thursday, November 14, 2002 @ 7:30pm Memorial Union
People identify in groups by race, religion, class, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, and other social markers. Gutmann explores the critical role that identity groups play in democracies, and she asks whether identity groups aid or impede democratic justice. Her democratic perspective does justice to identity groups while recognizing that they cannot be counted on to do likewise to others.
A noted political theorist and ethicist, Gutmann has taught on political philosophy, democratic theory, the history of political thought, and practical ethics. Her numerous published works include Democratic Education; Democracy and Disagreement; Ethics and Politics (with Dennis Thompson); and Color Conscious (with K. Anthony Appiah), which won the Gustavus Meyers Center for the Study of Human Rights Award for the "outstanding book on the subject of human rights in North America." Currently provost at Princeton University, Gutmann has lectured throughout the world. She is president of the American Society of Political and Legal Philosophy and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Political Science, and the National Academy of Education. She is also the recipient of the President's Distinguished Teaching Award.
Houston A. Baker, Jr.
Susan Fox and George D. Beischer Professor of English, Duke University
Remembering Race: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Betrayal of Black Intellectuals Thursday, October 17, 2002 @ 7:30pm Memorial Union
Baker's talk will examine King's legacy as envisioned by black centrist and neo-conservative intellectuals. He suggests that the work of these intellectuals serves not only to subvert the best aims of King's life and labors, but also runs contrary to the best interests of the black majority.
Considered one of America's most important literary scholars, Baker has written extensively-sometimes controversially-on black literature and poetry, the Harlem Renaissance, blues music, social progress, and black culture generally. His provocative ideas have helped to shape the field of African American studies. He has authored or edited over 20 books, including, most recently, Turning South Again: Re-Thinking Modernism / Re-Reading Booker T., and Critical Memory: Public Spheres, African American Writing and Black Fathers and Sons in America. Baker has previously served as president of the Modern Language Association and currently edits American Literature, the oldest journal of American literary studies. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, including Guggenheim, John Hay Whitney and Rockefeller fellowships. Also a published poet, Baker's latest volume of verse is Passing Over.
DeWitt Clinton Professor of History, Columbia University
Lincoln: The Great Emancipator? Thursday, September 19, 2002 @ 7:30pm Great Hall, Memorial Union
The lecture will trace the evolution of Lincoln's views and actions regarding slavery and race, from the early days of his political career to the end of the Civil War. Foner will discuss recent controversies regarding Lincoln's racial attitudes, and assess how much credit he should be given for the emancipation of American slaves.
Foner's work concentrates on the intersections of intellectual, political and social history, and the history of American race relations. His most recent book, a collection of essays, Who Owns History: Rethinking the Past in a Changing World, was described in the New York Times as a "wonderfully readable account of the twists and turns in twentieth-century American history." His other books include The Story of American Freedom; Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War; Tom Paine and Revolutionary America; Politics and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War; Nothing But Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy and Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, winner of the Bancroft Prize, Parkman Prize, Avery O. Craven Prize, Owsley Award, Lionel Trilling Prize, and Los Angeles Times Book Award. He edited The New American History for the American Historical Association, and, with John A.Garraty, The Reader's Companion to American History. Foner is also the curator of A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln, a historical exhibition that opened at the Chicago Historical Society in 1990, and of America's Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War, a traveling exhibit first shown at the Virginia Historical Society in 1996.
Art critic, The Nation; Emeritus Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University
The Body in Philosophy, Art and Life Thursday, May 2, 2002 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Room L160
Danto, art critic for The Nation and Emeritus Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, will talk about the differences between the way the human body is represented in philosophy and in art. Danto has been influential in the discussion of the classic problem of how one decides whether or not something is a work of art, and made waves 25 years ago by declaring that art came to an end in the sixties. Danto is the author of numerous books, including Nietzsche as Philosopher, Mysticism and Morality, The Transfiguration of the Commonplace, Narration and Knowledge, Connections to the World: The Basic Concepts of Philosophy, and Encounters and Reflections: Art in the Historical Present, a collection of art criticism which won the National Book Critics Circle Prize for Criticism, 1990. His recent books are Embodied Meanings: Critical Essays and Aesthetic Meditations; Madonna of the Future: Critical Essays in a Pluralistic Art World; After the End of Art; Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective; and The Body/Body Problem: Selected Essays.
K. Anthony Appiah
Professor of Afro-American Studies and Philosophy, Harvard
Race, Gender and Individuality Thursday, April 4, 2002 @ 7:30pm Memorial Union
Appiah will explore how liberalism, as described in John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty," has long celebrated individuality-self-creation, self-definition and the management of one's own life. Appiah says that who we are is also a reflection of other people's view of us and our memberships in certain groups that can be defined by race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or nationality, for instance. How should we think about the trade off between self-direction and fitting into patterns made and sustained by other people, asks Appiah, and what are the political consequences?
Raised in Ghana and educated at Cambridge in England, Appiah began his academic career as a philosopher specializing in semantics and logic. His work in African-American Studies began when he was visiting Yale as a graduate student in the late 70s and he has since published widely in African and African-American literary and cultural studies. He is the author of the award-winning book, In My Father's House, which deals with the role of African and African-American intellectuals in shaping contemporary African cultural life. He also co-authored Color Conscious, which discusses political morality and race. He has published three novels, Avenging Angel, Nobody Likes Letitia, and Another Death in Venice, and writes regularly for the New York Review of Books. His most recent major publication is a CD-ROM encyclopedia of Africa and her diaspora entitled Encarta Africana and its companion print encyclopedia.
Peter de Florez Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences; MacVicar Faculty Fellow, MIT
The Blank Slate Tuesday, March 5, 2002 @ 7:30pm Wisconsin Historical Society
Research findings from evolution, genetics, brain science, and artificial intelligence have been denounced both by the political right and the political left. Pinker will trace the sources of this fear and loathing, and try to show how they may be addressed. The lecture will preview the book The Blank Slate to be published this fall.
Pinker is currently Peter de Florez Professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and a MacVicar Faculty Fellow at MIT. His research has focused on visual cognition and the psychology of language, culminating in three books and many journal articles. He is the author of the critically acclaimed The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language, described by the New York Times as a "brilliant, witty, and altogether satisfying book;" as well as How the Mind Works and Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language. He is the editor of Cognition and serves on many professional panels, including the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary and the Scientific Advisory Panel of an eight-hour NOVA television series on evolution. Pinker also writes frequently in the popular press, including The New York Times, Time, The New Yorker and Technology Review.
Wen C. Fong
Douglas Dillon Curator Emeritus of Asian Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Chinese Calligraphy: The Embodied Image Thursday, November 15, 2001 @ 7:30pm Chazen Museum of Art, Room L160
"The brilliant scholar Wen C. Fong," reports the New York Times, describes calligraphy as "'the embodied expression of the artist's psychic powers' and that 'the subject of a calligraphic work is the brush as an extension of the calligrapher's own body.'" Fong's talk will focus on the formation of Chinese calligraphic practice and theory; the relationship between Chinese calligraphy and painting; and Chinese art and its modern expression.
Fong is Douglas Dillon Curator Emeritus of Asian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and former Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. During his 30-year affiliation with the Met, he is credited with building the largest and most comprehensive collection of Asian art in the West, expanding and renovating its Asian art galleries, modernizing the department's conservation program and organizing dozens of acclaimed special exhibitions. Over the last 45 years, Wen Fong has authored, edited, and co-edited 18 books and catalogues, as well as numerous articles for prestigious journals and bulletins in the Asian art field. His books and catalogues include Sung and Yuan Painting; Summer Mountains: The Timeless Landscape; Returning Home: Tao-chi's Album of Landscapes and Flowers; and the best-selling and critically acclaimed Beyond Representation: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, 8th-14th Century.
Professor of History, University of Colorado - Boulder; Chair of the Board and Faculty Director of the Center of the American West
Humanities Without Restraint: Using History to Calm Down the American West Thursday, October 25, 2001 @ 7:30pm Wisconsin Historical Society
Patricia Limerick, Professor of History at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Chair of the Board and Faculty Director of the Center of the American West, is an authority on the New West. A recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship "genius award" in 1995, Limerick is perhaps best known for her landmark 1987 book, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West, which has had a major impact on the field of American history. She received both praise and criticism for debunking some long-held myths about the West and for focusing attention on women, minorities and the environment. Today, Limerick's views are widely accepted.
Her talk will focus on the Center of the American West's remarkable opportunities to get involved in contentious regional public issues. Says Limerick, "the occasion of speaking at the University of Wisconsin suggests that the Center of the American West may be reinventing the wheel, duplicating dimensions of the 'Wisconsin Idea' in a rather different geographical setting. This talk will use some recent examples of the Center's work to explore the current-day manifestations of the venerable idea brought to an early peak by Wisconsin." She also served as an advisor to the Ken Burn's PBS series, The American West. She is the author of Something in the Soil: Field Testing the New Western History and Desert Passages: Encounters with American Desert, and contributor to the Atlas of the New West and the upcoming Handbook of the New West.
Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Illinois-Chicago
Holocaust Denial and Academic Freedom Thursday, September 13, 2001 @ 6:00pm Wisconsin Historical Society
Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Fish is known not only for his groundbreaking writings about the role of the reader in literature but also for his controversial views on a variety political and social issues. In the world of academia, his book, Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost, published in 1967, is considered a landmark of Milton scholarship. His most recent book, How Milton Works, explores the radical effect of Milton's religious beliefs on his poetry and prose.
Sander L. Gilman
Professor of the Liberal Arts and Medicine at University of Illinois-Chicago, Director of the Humanities Laboratory
What Makes a Jew? Jewish Identity and Communism—the Case of Jurek Becker Wednesday, April 18, 2001 @ 7:30pm Wisconsin Historical Society
Gilman is a distinguished professor of the Liberal Arts and Medicine at the University of Illinois in Chicago and the director of the Humanities Laboratory. He is a cultural and literary historian and the author or editor of over fifty books, including Written on the Body: A Cultural History of Aesthetic Surgery; Love + Marriage = Death; The Fortunes of the Humanities: Thoughts for After the Year 2000; and Creating Beauty to Cure the Soul. He is the author of the basic study of the visual stereotyping of the mentally ill, Seeing the Insane, as well as the standard study, Jewish Self-Hatred. Gilman is currently working on a biography of Jurek Becker (1937-1997), the subject of his talk. Becker, a close friend of Gilman, is the author of Jacob the Liar, one of the first major novels about the Holocaust written by someone living in Germany. Like Gilman, Becker was the son of Polish Jews, but his family stayed in Poland during World War II until they were separated. After Becker's mother died in a Nazi death camp, his father found him in a Red Cross orphanage and then raised him as a member of the Communist Party in East Germany. Becker published Jacob the Liar in 1968 and was eventually exiled to West Germany for his opposition to Communism. There he became a popular screen and television writer and voice in the quest for Jewish identity. He died in 1997.
Professor of Philosophy, University of California-Berkeley
The Future of Philosophy Tuesday, March 20, 2001 @ 7:30pm Wisconsin Historical Society
Searle has written for a wide audience on questions concerning the humanities, higher education, and the so-called "culture wars," for the New York Review of Books and other venues. Searle is the Mills Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Language, University of California at Berkeley, where he has taught since 1959. He attended the UW - Madison from 1949 - 52. He was president of the Wisconsin Student Association and during his junior year he won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford. He received a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. from Oxford and an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, from UW - Madison in 1994. He is highly regarded for his accomplishments in the philosophy of language and philosophy of the mind and also noted for his work in cognitive science and psychology. His books include Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language (1969); Minds, Brains and Science (1984); The Foundations of Illocutionary Logic (with Daniel Vanderveken, 1985); The Rediscovery of the Mind (1992); The Construction of Social Reality (1995); The Mystery of Consciousness (1997); and Mind, Language and Society, Philosophy in the Real World (1998).
Award-winning novelist, essayist, and teacher
Rilke and the Requiem Wednesday, February 14, 2001 @ 7:30pm Wisconsin Historical Society
Gass will discuss writer and poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926), considered one of the greatest lyric poets of modern Germany. Gass describes Rilke's "Requiem," the subject of his talk, as one of poetry's eternal triumphs. The poem, "Requiem for a Friend," is believed to have been composed for the artist Paula Becker.
Gass's recent book, Reading Rilke: Reflections on the Problems of Translation, was praised by the New York Times as "a rich, ambitious, densely interconnected set of musings on the life and work of the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke." This past year Gass received the first PEN/Nabokov award for his accomplishments as an author "whose body of work represents achievement in a variety of literary genres, and is of enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship." He is also a two-time winner of the National Book Critics Circle for literary criticism. Gass is the David May Distinguished University Professor Emeritus in the Humanities and former Director of the International Writers Center at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He is the author of the novels Omensetter's Luck; Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife and The Tunnel. His collections of short stories include In the Heart of the Heart of the Country and Cartesian Sonata. Gass has also written numerous essays, translations, and poems.
Natalie Zemon Davis
Author and Historian
Jews, Africans, and Philosophes: The Suriname Stories of David Cohen Nassy Wednesday, November 29, 2000 @ 7:30pm Wisconsin Historical Society
"Natalie Zemon Davis is one of the world's most distinguished historians of early modern Europe," says Robert Kingdon, UW-Madison Professor Emeritus, in History. "She is a brilliant lecturer, many of her lectures have become prize-winning articles and been published in books. Her lecture in Madison is a part of her ambitious current project studying selected people who crossed borders, including racial, religious, and geographical borders, in both the early modern world and the twentieth century." In her lecture, Davis will discuss David Nassy, a man of letters, a physician, slaveowner, and Jewish leader in the Dutch colony of Suriname in the late 18th century. She will address how he moved between the world of the Enlightenment and the ferment of colonial thought; how he viewed slavery; and what his relations were with the Africans and Indians of Suriname, especially with those Africans drawn into the Jewish religion.
Davis is the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton University and currently Adjunct Professor of History and Senior Fellow in Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto. She is best known as the author of 1983 biography, The Return of Martin Guerre, her exploration of mistaken identity in a sixteenth-century French village. She also collaborated on the movie adaptation starring Gerard Depardieu. In her highly regarded book, Society and Culture in Early Modern France, and in numerous essays, Davis looks at early trade unions, women's work, carnivals, religious riots, religious symbolism, the impact of printing and the uses of proverbs and popular forms of autobiography. Her other books include Women on the Margins: Three Seventeenth-Century Lives; The Gift in Sixteenth-Century France, newly published by UW Press; Slaves on Screen: Film and Historical Vision; and a new project, Braided Histories, a study of cultural mixture in sixteenth, eighteenth and twentieth centuries.
Professor of Law, Columbia University
Obstacle Illusions: Profiling and the Politics of Racial Identity Monday, October 16, 2000 @ 7:30pm Wisconsin Historical Society
A former faculty member of the UW-Madison Law School and winner of a 2000 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, Williams, in addition to her legal scholarship, is noted for her work and commentary on social justice issues. She contributes the column "Diary of a Mad Law Professor" for the The Nation and has written numerous articles for scholarly journals and popular magazines and newspapers such as the New York Times, USA Today, Ms., New Yorker and the Village Voice. Her book, The Alchemy of Race and Rights, has been hailed as one of the "feminist classics of the last twenty years" that "literally changed women's lives" and was chosen as one of the ten best non-fiction books of the decade by Amazon.com. Before entering academia, she practiced law as a consumer advocate and Deputy City Attorney for the City of Los Angeles, and as a staff attorney for the Western Center on Law and Poverty.
Philosopher and Author
What Can Philosophy Tell Us about the Arts? Thursday, September 21, 2000 @ 7:30pm Wisconsin Historical Society
Wollheim, the author of Art and Its Objects and Painting as an Art, will discuss how philosophy can throw light on the major issues of art: What is art? What is the value of art? And, how do we interpret individual works of art? He will use the art of painting to illustrate these topics. "Richard Wollheim is a philosopher who has contributed to virtually every debate in his discipline," says UW - Madison philosophy professor Noel Carroll. "He's one of the leading aestheticians in the English-speaking world and is a renowned commentator on the discourse of psychoanalysis."
Wollheim is a professor of philosophy at University of California-Berkeley. His most recent book is On the Emotions published by Yale University Press. Wollheim is also the author of Freud; On Art and the Mind; The Thread of Life and The Mind and Its Depths.