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Humanities Lecture Series

Founded in 1947, the Humanities Lecture Series series has consistently been a hallmark for quality, providing a forum for interdisciplinary dialogue between renowned speakers, the university and the surrounding communities. These events are free and open to the public--no tickets are required. Partial funding for the Humanities Lecture Series is provided by The National Endowment for the Humanities’ 2000 Challenge Grant. Find the full schedule here.

Siddhartha Mukherjee, Cancer Specialist and Acclaimed Author of The Emperor of All Maladies and The Gene
"The Gene: An Intimate History"
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
7:30 p.m., Lied Center

A cancer specialist, Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee has devoted his life to caring for victims of cancer, a disease that sickens and kills millions of people around the world each year. As a researcher, his laboratory is on the forefront of discovering new cancer drugs using innovative biological methods. Mukherjee is equally devoted to and effective in communicating the “story “of cancer through his writings. His newest book, The Gene: An Intimate History, which debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, is a magnificent history of the gene and a response to the defining question of the future: What becomes of being human when we learn to “read” and “write” our own genetic information? Mukherjee has been published in Nature, New England Journal of Medicine, Neuron, Journal of Clinical Investigation, The New York Times, and The New Republic.


Joan Breton Connelly, Archaeologist and NYU Professor of Classics & Art History
"The Parthenon Enigma"
Thursday, October 5, 2017
7:30 p.m., Lied Center Pavilion
Additional Event: "A Conversation with Joan Breton Connelly"
Friday, October 6, 2017
10:00 a.m., Hall Center Conference Hall

Built in the fifth century b.c., the Parthenon has been venerated for more than two millennia as the West’s ultimate paragon of beauty and proportion. Since the Enlightenment, it has also come to represent our political ideals, the lavish temple to the goddess Athena serving as the model for our most hallowed civic architecture. But how much do the values of those who built the Parthenon truly correspond with our own? And apart from the significance with which we have invested it, what exactly did this marvel of human hands mean to those who made it? Joan Breton Connelly is a classical archaeologist and Professor of Classics and Art History at New York University.  In 1996, she was awarded a MacArthur fellowship for her work in Greek art, myth, and religion.  A field archaeologist, Connelly has excavated throughout Greece, Kuwait, and Cyprus where, since 1990, she has directed the NYU Yeronisos Island Expedition.  She is an honorary citizen of Peyia Municipality, Cyprus.


Matthew Desmond, John J. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University
"Evicted: Poverty & Profit in the American City"
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
7:30 p.m., Woodruff Auditorium
Supported by the Sosland Foundation of Kansas City
Additional Event: "A Conversation with Matthew Desmond"
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
9:00 a.m., Hall Center Conference Hall
This is a special Friends of the Hall Center breakfast. The event is also open to the public, but all planning to attend must RSVP by November 8 to hallcenter@ku.edu.

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In Evicted, Matthew Desmond, John J. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University, provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship. Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Evicted won the National Books Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction, and the Barnes & Noble’s Discover New Writers Award, and is a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Current Interest.


Peter Balakian, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and author of Ozone Journal
"An Evening with Peter Balakian"
Thursday, February 22, 2018
7:30 p.m., The Commons, Spooner Hall
Additional Event: "A Conversation with Peter Balakian"
Friday, February 23, 2018
10:00 a.m., Hall Center Conference Hall

Pulitzer Prize-winner Peter Balakian is the author of seven books of poems, four books of prose, and two translations. His poems have been critically acclaimed in the US and abroad for over four decades, and his memoir was a best book of the year for the New York Times, the LA Times, and Publisher’s Weekly. Working from a form of poetics he calls “writing horizontal,” Balakian’s poetry engages a wide range of realities including genocide, war, terrorism, climate change, AIDS epidemic, historical trauma and memory as well as the personal domains of love, death, art, and culture. Ozone Journal, his most recent poetry collection, won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize.


Brian Donovan, KU Professor of Sociology
"American Golddigger: Law, Culture, and Marriage in the Early Twentieth Century"
Monday, March 26, 2018
7:30 p.m., Lied Center Pavilion
Sponsored by the Friends of the Hall Center

Brian Donovan is a cultural and historical sociologist at the University of Kansas; his work focuses on the role of law and culture in shaping social inequality. American Gold Digger: A Cultural Genealogy examines the influence of the “gold digger” trope on American family law and culture. American Gold Digger traces the history of the “gold digger” from 1910s chorus girl slang to a powerful stereotype that shaped understandings of gender and matrimony. Donovan’s research illustrates the symbiotic connection between cultural production (stories about greedy gold diggers) and law (anti-alimony organizations, proposed alimony reforms, and legal judgments regarding alimony).


Andrea Wulf, Historian and Bestselling Author
"The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World"
Thursday, April 19, 2018
7:30 p.m., The Commons, Spooner Hall
Additional Event: "A Conversation with Andrea Wulf"
Friday, April 20, 2018
10:00 a.m., Hall Center Conference Hall

Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age. In North America, his name still graces four counties, thirteen towns, a river, parks, bays, lakes, and mountains. His restless life was packed with adventure and discovery, whether he was climbing the highest volcanoes in the world or racing through anthrax-infected Siberia or translating his research into bestselling publications that changed science and thinking. Now historian Andrea Wulf brings the man and his achievements back into focus: his daring expeditions and investigation of wild environments around the world and his discoveries of similarities between climate and vegetation zones on different continents. She also discusses his prediction of human-induced climate change, his remarkable ability to fashion poetic narrative out of scientific observation, and his relationships with iconic figures such as Simón Bolívar and Thomas Jefferson.

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