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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.

Alice Dreger
Alice Dreger
Bioethicist & author
"Good Causes, Bad Acts: Scrutinizing Ends and Means in Academic Activism"
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
7:30 p.m., The Commons, Spooner Hall
Additional Event: "A Conversation with Alice Dreger"
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
10:00 a.m., Hall Center Conference Hall

Dreger's talk, drawing from her newest work Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science, focuses on cases where progressive activists have used problematic means to go after 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. Dreger is an historian of medicine and science, a sex researcher, an an (im)patient advocate. Galileo's Middle Finger argues that the pursuit of evidence is the most important ethical imperative of our time. Funded by a Guggenheim Fellowship and published by Penguin Press in 2015, the book has been praised in reviews, including in The New Yorker, Nature, and Salon. It was named an "Editor's Choice" by The New York Times Book Review, where Dreger was labeled "a sharp, disruptive scholar." The Chronicle of Higher Education has called her a "star scholar" and describes her writing as "reliably funny and passionate and vulnerable."


Terrance Hayes
Terrance Hayes
Poet and National Book Award Winner
"An Evening with Poet Terrance Hayes"
Thursday, November 17, 2016
7:30 p.m., Lied Center Pavilion
Additional Event: "A Conversation with Terrance Hayes"
Friday, November 18, 2016
10:00 a.m., Hall Center Conference Hall

Poet Terrance Hayes 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. Hayes is a 2014 MacArthur Fellow. 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. Hayes' other honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a profile in The New York Times Magazine. His first book, Muscular Music (Tia Chucha Press, 1999) won both a Whiting Writers Award and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. His second book, Hip Logic (Penguin 2002), was a National Poetry Series selection and a finalist for both the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. Wind in a Box (Penguin 2006), a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award finalist, was named one of the best books of 2006 by Publishers Weekly.


Amy Wilentz
Zadie Smith
Celebrated author
"Why Write? An Evening with Zadie Smith"
Thursday, December 1, 2016
7:30 p.m., Kansas Union Ballroom
Supported by the Sosland Foundation of Kansas City
Additional Event: "A Conversation with Zadie Smith"
Friday, December 2, 2016
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 25 to hallcenter@ku.edu.

Zadie Smith is the celebrated author of White Teeth (2000), The Autograph Man (2002), On Beauty (2005), NW (2012), and the upcoming Swing Time (2016). At 21, Smith submitted some 80 pages of what would become White Teeth to an agent, and the book was published a few years later to rave reviews, winning numerous awards, including the Whitbread First Novel Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her third novel, On Beauty, was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and won the 2006 Orange Prize for fiction. In this lecture, Smith will explore what it is to write, and why writing remains important. What is the purpose of writing 'creatively'? Have the reasons changed over time? What can aspiring writers do to convince themselves that serious writing - in a world full of distractions - is still worth doing? What kind of writing is needed in the 21st century? She will also read from and explore parts of her upcoming novel Swing Time, described as “dazzlingly energetic and deeply human” and eagerly anticipated by fans and critics.


Matthew Stewart
Matthew Stewart
Author & philosopher
"Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic"
Thursday, February 23, 2017
7:30 p.m., Lied Center Pavilion
Additional Event: "A Conversation with Matthew Stewart"
Friday, February 24, 2016
10:00 a.m., Hall Center Conference Hall

America’s founders intended to liberate us not just from one king but from the ghostly tyranny of supernatural religion. Drawing on the study of European philosophy, philosopher Matthew Stewart tracks the ancient, pagan, and continental ideas from which America’s revolutionaries drew their inspiration. In the writings of Spinoza, Lucretius, and other great philosophers, Stewart recovers the true meanings of “Nature’s God,” “the pursuit of happiness,” and the radical political theory with which the American experiment in self-government began. Stewart is also the author of The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World (Norton, 2006) and The Management Myth: Debunking the Modern Philosophy of Business (Norton 2009). He graduated from Princeton University 1985 with a concentration in political philosophy and was awarded the Sachs Scholarship from Princeton for study at Oxford University, where he earned a D.Phil. in philosophy in 1988.


Jennifer Hamer
Jennifer Hamer
Professor of American & African American Studies; Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and Chair, American Studies, University of Kansas
“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

Jennifer Hamer is KU 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 those that are 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.”


James Oakes
Evan Osnos
Former Beijing correspondent, The New Yorker
"Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China"
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
7:30 p.m., Woodruff Auditorium
Additional Event: "A Conversation with Evan Osnos"
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
10:00 a.m., Hall Center Conference Hall

In Age of Ambition, former Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos describes 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 asks 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? How are Chinese from all strata finding meaning after two decades of the relentless pursuit of wealth? Osnos follows the moving stories of everyday people and reveals life in the new China to be a battleground between aspiration and authoritarianism, in which only one can prevail. Osnos is a staff writer at The New Yorker, where he served as the China correspondent from 2008 to 2013. He is the winner of two Overseas Press Club awards and the Asia Society's Osborn Elliott Prize for Excellence in Journalism on Asia. Previously, he worked at the Chicago Tribune, where he was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 2008.

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