Audience at a Hall Center for the Humanities event

Other Sponsored Talks

The Hall Center co-sponsors public talks throughout the school year. The following are events that take place in spring 2024.

“We Want an America That Will Be Ours”: Langston Hughes’s Dream of Democracy

Randal Jelks, Professor, Indiana University
THU FEB 1, 4:00 PM
Woodruff Auditorium, Kansas Memorial Union

"We Want an America That Will Be Ours" is a fiery line from a 1935 speech given by Langston Hughes titled "To Negro Writers." This talk by Randal Jelks is an exploration of Langston Hughes's rich corpus as to what democracy means in the United States today. While he is best known for being a founding member of the 1920s "Harlem Renaissance," in point of fact he wrote during pivotal shifts during the 20th century: His writings covered the 1930s Great Depression, the global crisis of democracy in Asia and Europe that encompassed WWII, the Lavender and Red Scares, the emergence of African and Caribbean independence movements, Civil Rights protests, and the debates over Black power and the arts. This talk explores what democracy means in a time of fearful crisis and how we might creatively live together as citizens to reinvigorate democratic institutions.

Jelks, formerly a professor at KU for 16 years, is now the Ruth N. Halls Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana University. Jelks is an award-winning author of four books, the most recent of which is Letters to Martin: Meditations on Democracy in Black America.

Tuttle Lecture

The Bill Tuttle Distinguished Lecture in American Studies is named after William M. Tuttle Jr. Tuttle, a historian at the University of Kansas from 1967 until he retired in 2008. Tuttle taught American Studies in the university’s Department of History. This talk is sponsored by the departments of African and African American Studies; American Studies; English; History; Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Film and Media Studies; the Hall Center for the Humanities; Vice Provost Nicole Hodges Persley; and the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging.


All We Can Save: The Power of Ancestral Wisdom

Camille T. Dungy
TUE FEB 20, 3:30 PM
Via Zoom, register at

Climate change is often discussed in scientific terms, but the work of responding to the urgency of climate change requires many voices. The realms of social, creative, activist, spiritual, food production, and many others, play critical roles in the larger conversation. We also know that climate change disproportionately affects certain populations. In this talk, acclaimed poet and essayist Camille T. Dungy explores the intersections between literature, environmental action, history, and culture. Presented via Zoom, Dungy will be hosted in conversation with Imani Wadud, doctoral candidate in American Studies, and Megan Kaminski, Professor of English and Environmental Studies.

A 2019 Guggenheim Fellow, Dungy’s honors include NEA Fellowships in poetry and prose and an American Book Award. She is a University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State University.
This talk is supported by The Commons; the Hall Center for the Humanities; the Environmental Studies Program; the departments of African and African-American Studies, English, Geography and Atmospheric Science, and Geology; the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity; the History of Black Writing; the Office of Multicultural Affairs; and the University Honors Program.

This talk is supported by The Commons; the Hall Center for the Humanities; the Environmental Studies Program; the departments of African and African-American Studies, English, Geography and Atmospheric Science, and Geology; the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity; the History of Black Writing; the Office of Multicultural Affairs; and the University Honors Program.


Food as Power: Between Decolonization and Nationalism of the Gastronomic Culture

Ihor Lylo
THU APR 11, 7:00 PM
Hall Center Conference Hall (also online at

Visiting Interdisciplinary Scholar Ihor Lylo is a historian whose research focuses on the cultural significance and influence of Eastern European gastronomic traditions, particularly on Ukrainian cuisine. In this talk, Lylo argues that traditional gastronomic practices of social and religious groups play a crucial role in shaping collective memory. This poses a danger to totalitarian regimes that use food and supply security as a tool of terror or political propaganda.

Artificial famines or even threats of their use remain in the memory of oppressed societies and have real consequences for the social behavior of citizens. At the same time, there are fears that the desire of postcolonial countries to use food traditions in building a new identity may lead to the strengthening of “gastronomic nationalism.” The discussion about the balance between these issues is an excellent opportunity to reflect on whether we are what we eat.

Lylo graduated with a Ph.D. at the Ivan Franko National University in Lviv (Ukraine) and was a visiting professor at Jagiellonian University (Krakow, Poland) and at the University of California in San Diego as a Fulbright Fellow and member of the Scholar at Risk Program. Lylo began working in January as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Kansas.


Seaver Lecture - Divas and Chorus Girls: Art, Commerce, and Nation in 19th- and early 20th-century Spanish Cultural Production

Margot Versteeg (Professor, Spanish and Portuguese)
Hall Center Conference Hall (also online at

The cultural production of 19th- and early 20th-century Spain is obsessed with dancers, singers, and other female performers. In Spanish fiction, poems, (auto)biographical writings, and plays produced between 1845 and 1936 by both male and female authors, numerous often very talented women sing, dance, and act. In her presentation, Versteeg will discuss some of the interconnected discourses that are projected on the bodies of these female performers, such as gender ideology and ideas about feminine self-realization and women’s participation in celebrity culture. Female performance is also a crucible for a whole range of larger questions raised by the processes of social and cultural change that we associate with modernity. These concerns are related to art and commerce, body, and nation, to mention only a few. And that’s not surprising: Female performers catered to an emerging mass culture market, developed marketing strategies, and they used their bodies to negotiate ethnic, racial, and national identities as they participated in modernity’s mobility and circulated in transnational networks.

The 35th Annual Seaver Lecture, named after James E. Seaver, long-time director of the Humanities and Western Civilization Program at the University of Kansas, offers faculty at KU the chance to present their research related to “continuing issues in Western Civilization.” This talk is hosted by the Hall Center and co-sponsored by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.



Devoney LooserHolmes Summer Institute - The Porter Sisters, Nineteenth-Century British Novelists, and Today’s Scholarship

Devoney Looser (Regents Professor of English and Global Sport Scholar, Arizona State University)
THU JUL 18, 3:00 PM
Spencer Research Library

In this talk, Looser will share archival, biographical, and critical findings on nineteenth-century British women novelists, with a focus on how and why one might recast original research as public-facing scholarship today. Her biography, Sister Novelists: The Trailblazing Porter Sisters, Who Paved the Way for Austen and the Brontës (2022), drew extensively on papers at KU’s Spencer Library and was the first full-length book devoted to the important historical novelists. Looser will share some of her methods and findings, while focusing on the benefits of working with argument and storytelling, and busting myths, in humanities scholarship.


Spring & Summer 2024 Speakers


  • Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend Hall Center sponsored events. If you require a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in any of our events, please contact Program Coordinator Eliott Reeder at