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Hall Center Announces 2016-2017 Humanities Lecture Series

Thursday, April 28, 2016

LAWRENCE — The Hall Center for the Humanities announced its Humanities Lecture Series for 2016-2017, which will feature prize-winning authors, historians, activists and critics. All events are free and open to the public.

Lectures in the upcoming academic year will focus on topics ranging from activism in academia to cultural struggles in China.

The first speaker in the series is Alice Dreger, bioethicist, author and former professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University in Chicago. Her lecture, “Good Causes, Bad Acts: Scrutinizing Ends and Means in Academic Activism,” focuses on cases where progressive activists have attacked researchers whose findings they believed harmful to their identities or beliefs. It explores an important dimension sometimes ignored in today’s discussions of academic freedom.

Next in the series is poet and MacArthur Fellow Terrance Hayes. He will deliver an annotated poetry reading and discussion of his newest work, "How to Be Drawn" (Penguin 2015), considering themes of popular culture, race, music and masculinity. His previous collection, "Lighthead" (Penguin 2010), was winner of the 2010 National Book Award and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and Hurston-Wright award.

Zadie Smith, celebrated author of "White Teeth" (2000), "The Autograph Man" (2002), "On Beauty" (2005), "NW" (2012) and the upcoming "Swing Time" (2016), will explore what it is to write and why writing remains important. What is the purpose of writing "creatively"? She will also read from and explore parts "Swing Time," described as “dazzlingly energetic and deeply human” and eagerly anticipated by fans and critics.

The series will also feature philosopher Matthew Stewart’s "Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic." Drawing on the study of European philosophy, Stewart tracks the ancient, pagan and continental ideas from which America’s revolutionaries drew their inspiration. He will argue that America’s founders intended to liberate us not just from one king but from the ghostly tyranny of supernatural religion.

Jennifer Hamer is professor of American studies/African & African-American studies and chair of the American Studies department. Her general area of study is the family, and within this broad field, her primary research interests are African-American fathers, mothers and families, especially the working class. Lately, she has turned her attention to diversity and equity in higher education. Her lecture will explore “Pursuing Elusive Equity in Higher Education.”

Evan Osnos is a staff writer at The New Yorker, where he served as the China correspondent from 2008 to 2013. Osnos’ talk, focusing on his most recent work, "Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2014), will describe the greatest collision taking place in that country: the clash between the rise of the individual and the Communist Party's struggle to retain control. He will ask probing questions: Why does a government with more success lifting people from poverty than any civilization in history choose to put strict restraints on freedom of expression? Why do millions of young Chinese professionals — fluent in English and devoted to Western pop culture — consider themselves "angry youth," dedicated to resisting the West's influence?

“We have invited an eclectic mix of novelist, poet, philosopher, bioethicist, sociologist and journalist,” said Victor Bailey, director of the Hall Center for the Humanities, “and we encourage students, faculty, and friends to engage with these renowned thinkers in next year’s Humanities Lecture Series.”

Founded in 1947, the Humanities Lecture Series is the oldest continuing series at KU. More than 150 eminent scholars from around the world have participated in the program, including authors Salman Rushdie and Junot Diaz, actress and playwright Anna Deveare Smith, poets Nikky Finney and Mary Oliver, and legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

The full schedule is below.

  • Alice Dreger, “Good Causes, Bad Acts: Scrutinizing Ends and Means in Academic Activism,” Tuesday, Sept. 13, 7:30 p.m., The Commons, Spooner Hall
  • Terrance Hayes, “An Evening with Poet Terrance Hayes,” Thursday, Nov. 17, 7:30 p.m., Lied Center Pavilion
  • Zadie Smith, “Why Write?: An Evening with Zadie Smith,” Thursday, Dec. 1, 7:30 p.m., Kansas Union Ballroom. Supported by the Sosland Foundation of Kansas City.
  • Matthew Stewart, “Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic,” Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017, 7:30 p.m., Lied Center Pavilion
  • Jennifer Hamer, “Pursuing Elusive Equity in Higher Education,” Tuesday, March 28, 2017, 7:30 p.m., The Commons, Spooner Hall. Sponsored by the Friends of the Hall Center.
  • Evan Osnos, “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China,” Tuesday, April 11, 2017, 7:30 p.m., Woodruff Auditorium, Kansas Union.


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