Niel Gaiman speaking at the University of Kansas

Humanities Speaker Series

Founded in 1947, the Humanities Speaker Series is the oldest continuing program of its kind at KU. Previous speakers have included author Neil Gaiman, actor and author Alan Alda, poet A.E. Stallings, sociologist Matthew Desmond, and many others.

From Kitchens and Pubs to the World: Philosophy for Humanity Today and Beyond

Lewis Gordon (Professor, University of Connecticut)
THU FEB 22, 7:00 PM
Hall Center Conference Hall (also available online via Crowdcast)

This talk will have two parts. The first will be a reflection on the importance of everyday philosophy and the urgent need for everyone to think critically and reflectively. The second part will draw upon the first to focus on challenges that humanity faces today, in the third decade of the 21st century, especially whether our continued existence is not only viable but also worth fighting for. The lecture will explore these challenges through discussion of what addressing them entails for anyone committed to equality, freedom, justice, and lives worth living.

Gordon is professor and department head of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut, a political thinker, educator, and musician. His books include Freedom, Justice, and Decolonization and Fear of Black Consciousness. Gordon is the 2022 recipient of the Eminent Scholar Award from the Global Development Studies division of the International Studies Association.


2023-2024 KU Common Book Lecture: An Evening with N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin (Author)
THU APR 25, 7:30 PM
Watch via Crowdcast online

(Watch Party: Woodruff Auditorium, Kansas Memorial Union)

Author N. K. Jemisin will give this year’s Common Book Lecture online. The Common Book for 2023-24 is Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler. Butler, who died in 2006, was influential to the career of Jemisin, a fellow science fiction writer, and Jemisin also wrote the forward to the most recent edition of Parable of the Sower.

Jemisin is the first author in the genre’s history to win three consecutive Best Novel Hugo Awards. Her work has won Nebula and Locus Awards, and she is a 2020 MacArthur Fellow. Her Great Cities duology was a New York Times bestseller. Her speculative works range from fantasy to science fiction to the undefinable; her themes include resistance to oppression, the inseverability of the liminal, and the coolness of “stuff blowing up.” She’s been an instructor for Clarion and Clarion West writing workshops. Among other critical work, she was formerly the science fiction and fantasy book reviewer at the New York Times and she has been an advocate for the long tradition of science fiction and fantasy as political resistance.

KU Common Book

Every year, Jayhawks read a single book that speaks to the current moment and sparks a campus-wide conversation. The KU Common Book program is coordinated by the KU Libraries, the Hall Center for the Humanities, and the Division of Academic Success.

Spring 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

Past speakers

2023-24N.K. JemisinAn Evening with N.K. Jemisin (Common Book)
2023-24Lewis GordonFrom Kitchens and Pubs to the World: Philosophy for Humanity Today and Beyond
2023-24Nicole FleetwoodMarking time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration
2023-24Susan WolfMeaning in Life and Why It Matters
2023-24A.E. StallingsThis Afterlife: Selected Poems
2022-23Alice WongDisability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century (Common Book)
2022-23Daniel WildcatExercises of Indigenuity in an Age of Global Crises
2022-23Cynthia Culver PrescottPioneer Mother Monuments: Constructing Cutural Memory
2022-23Lee McIntyrePost-Truth
2022-23Victoria ChangDear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief
2021-22Natalie DiazPostcolonial Love Poem
2021-22Terry Tempest WilliamsThe Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America's National Parks
2021-22Alexus Pauline GumbsDub: Finding Ceremony
2021-22Robin Wall KimmererBraiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants (Common Book)
2021-22Bathsheba DemuthFloating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait
2021-22Irin CarmonRuth Bader Ginsburg and Women's Leadership in Modern America
2021-22Amitav GhoshThe Nutmeg's Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis
2020-21Lual MayenFrom Refugee to Game Developer: Peacemaking through the Art of Gaming
2020-21Denise BrennanWhose Exploitation Counts? Trafficking Survivors As Exceptions in An Era of Mass Deportation
2020-21Donna GabbaciaGender and International Migration: From the Slavery Era to the Global Age
2020-21Tara WestoverAn Evening with Tara Westover (Common Book)
2020-21Erika LeeAmerica for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States
2020-21Juan Felipe HerreraAn Evening with Juan Felipe Herrera
2020-21Jerry MitchellRace Against Time: A Reporter Reopens the Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era
2020-21Jose OlivarezCitizen Illegal
2020-21Dierdre Cooper OwensMedical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology
2020-21Kwame Anthony AppiahThe Lies That Bind
2019-20Nadine StrossenHATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship
2019-20Alan AldaAn Evening with Alan Alda
2019-20Sarah DeerSovereignty of the Soul: Centering the Voices of Native Women
2019-20Brittney CooperEloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpowers
2019-20Jesmyn WardAn Evening with Jesmyn Ward
2018-19Walter MosleyPolitical Optimism in the Age of Trump
2018-19Neil GaimanAn Evening with Neil Gaiman
2018-19Marie Grace BrownBody Movements: Positioning Sudanese Women in an Age of Empire
2018-19Maria HinojosaFrontline: latinos and Immigration from a Woman's Perspective
2017-18Andrea WulfThe Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt's New World
2017-18Brian DonovanAmerican Gold Digger: Law, Culture, and Marriage in the Early 20th Century
2017-18Peter BalakianA Conversation with Poet Peter Balakian
2017-18Zadie SmithWhy Write?: An Evening with Zadie Smith
2017-18Matthew DesmondEvicted: Poverty & Profit in the American City
2017-18Joan Breton ConnellyThe Parthenon Enigma
2017-18Siddhartha MukherjeeThe Gene: An Intimate History
2016-17Evan OsnosThe Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China
2016-17Matthew StewartNature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic
2016-17Terrance HayesAn Evening with Terrance Hayes
2016-17Alice DregerGood Causes, Bad Acts
2015-16Robin D.G. KelleyMike Brown's Body: A Meditation on War, Race, and Democracy
2015-16Hannah BrittonHuman Trafficking in the Heartland
2015-16Iain McCalmanThe Great Barrier Reef
2015-16Krista TippetThe Adventure of Civility
2015-16Alice GoffmanOn the Run: Fugitive Life in the American City
2015-16Rick PerlsteinThe Invisible Bridge: From Nixon to Reagan to Palin and Beyond
2014-15James OakesRethinking Emancipation: Freedom National
2014-15Natasha TretheweyPoetry & History: An Evening with U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey
2014-15Anna Deveare SmithSnapshots: Portraits of a World in Transition
2014-15Amy WilentzHaiti: Tragedy & Hope
2014-15John SymonsWhat Can We Teach Our Posthuman Descendants?
2014-15Katherine BooBehind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
2013-14Jeffrey ToobinThe Supreme Court in the Age of Obama
2013-14Peter BrownThrough the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-500 AD
2013-14Anne D. HedemanImagining the Past: Interplay Between Literary & Visual Imagery in Late Medieval France
2013-14Junot DiazAn Evening with Junot Diaz: Literature, Diaspora, and Immigration
2013-14Jill LeporeUnseen - The History of Privacy
2013-14Arsalan IftikharThe Role of Islam in Post 9/11 America
2012-13Edwidge DanticatAn Evening with Edwidge Danticat
2012-13Stephen GreenblattThe Swerve: How the World Became Modern
2012-13Robin RowlandFrom Hope to Audacity: The Evolution of President Obama's Rhetoric and the 2012 Campaign
2012-13Sarah VowellAn Evening with Sarah Vowell
2012-13Nikky FinneyMaking Poetry in Our Anthropocene Age
2011-12Jamaica KincaidLandscapes and Memory
2011-12Alain de BottonReligion for Athiests
2011-12Jeff MoranThe Antievolution Controversies and American Culture
2011-12Luois MenandA Man is Shot: The Cold War Meaning of a Cinematic Technique
2011-12Diane RavitchWill School Reform Improve the Schools?
2011-12Laurance ReesTalking with Nazis
2010-11Henry Louis Gates, JrAfrican American Lives: Geneaology, Genetics, and Black History
2010-11Mae NgaiIllegal Immigration: Origins and Consequences
2010-11Susan HarrisPious Hypocrisies: Mark Twain, the Phillipines, and America's Christian Mission
2010-11Joseph O'NeillAn Evening with Joseph O'Neill
2010-11Ross DouthatThe Obama Presidency in the Shadow of the Midterms
2010-11Elizabeth KolbertScience, Politics, and Climate Change
2009-10Kevin WilmottRevolution, History, and the Power of Independent Film to Change the World
2009-10Mary OliverAn Evening with Poet Mary Oliver
2009-10Rory StewartAfghanistan: Rhetoric and Reality
2009-10Chris AbaniStories of Struggle, Stories of Hope: Art, Politics, and Human Rights
2009-10T.R. ReidWe're Number 37! Why Other Countries Have Better, Fairier, and Cheaper Healthcare than the USA
2009-10Lewis HydeCulture as Commonwealth
2008-09Dipesh ChakrabartyThe Decline and Prospect of Universal History
2008-09James McBrideThe Color Of Water: Search for Identity
2008-09Anthony CorbeillAndrogynous Gods, Androgynous Nouns, and the Invention of Heterosexuality in Ancient Rome
2008-09Jeannette WallsThe Glass Castle: Hunting Demons and Other Life Lessons
2008-09Michael ChabonConquering the Wilderness: Imaginative Imperialism and the Invasion of Legoland
2008-09Susan EstrichThe 2008 Election: What's at Stake
2007-08Carol Ann CarterArt @ Work: Mapping Transformation
2007-08Ian BurumaAmong the Unbelievers: Muslims in Europe
2007-08Paul MuldoonThe Eternity of the Poem
2007-08Orville SchellThe China Miracle: How Did It Happen and How Durable Is It?
2007-08Sara AhmedThe Promise of Happiness
2007-08Alexander McCall SmithThe Very Small Things of Life: An Evening with Alexander McCall Smith
2006-07Maria Carlson (KU, Slavic)Culture and History Matter: Russia's Search for Identity After the Fall
2006-07Kwame Anthony AppiahMaking Sense of Moral Conflict
2006-07Nancy CottGrooming Citizens: Marriage and Civic Status in U.S. History
2006-07Richard DawkinsThe God Delusion
2006-07Nuruddin FarahThe Fork in the Fork in the Road
2006-07Andrei CodrescuAn Evening with Andrei Codrescu
2005-06Allan Cigler (KU, Political Science)The New Electoral Landscape: Two Political Churches and an Unbelieving Mass Electorate
2005-06Scott TurowConfessions of a Death Penalty Agnostic
2005-06Samantha PowerCan U.S. Foreign Policy Be Fixed?
2005-06Salman RushdieStep Across This Line: An Evening with Salman Rushdie
2005-06Deborah LipstadtHistory On Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving
2004-05Ted Wilson (KU, History)The GI Generations: Sending American Soldiers into Battle in World War II
2004-05Akbar AhmedIslam Under Siege
2004-05Rita DoveThe Poet at the Dance
2004-05Steven PinkerThe Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature
2004-05Gary HartSecurity in the New Age of the 21st Century
2003-04E.O. WilsonThe Future of Life
2003-04Linda Stone-Ferrier (KU, History of Art)The Rembrandt Research Project: Issues and Controversies
2003-04Sherman AlexieKilling Indians: Myths, Lies and Exaggerations
2003-04Peter GayModernism in Exile
2002-03David Bergeron (KU, English)Shakespeare in the Closet
2002-03Paule MarshallTriangular Quest for Self and Community: Brooklyn - Barbados - Benin
2002-03Robert D. KaplanThe Roots of Future Conflict
2002-03Jared DiamondGuns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
2001-02Dava SobelGalileo's Reconciliation: Science and Faith
2001-02Frances Reid & Deborah HoffmanLong Night's Journey into Day
2001-02Alice WalkerRemembering Langston
2001-02Joane Nagel (KU, Soclology)The Color of Sex: Race, Ethnicity and Sexuality in America
2001-02Edward Saidthe Dilemmas of American Humanism
2000-01Stan Lombardo (KU, Classics)Homer's Light
2000-01Donna J. HarawayThe Birth of the Kennel: Diversity in the Dog Genome
2000-01Robert DarntonPoetry and the Police in the 18th Century
2000-01Julian BondCrossing the Color Line: From Rhythm and Blues to Rock'n'Roll
1999-00Jeane J. KirkpatrickYear 2000: Global Issues
1999-00Anna Deavere SmithSnapshots: Glimpses of America in Change
1999-00Jonathan KozolLove Against Fear: The Ethics and Compassion of Young Children Under Siege
1999-00Stephen Jay GouldQuestioning the Millennium: Why We Cannot Predict the Future
1998-99Patricia WilliamsToward a Theory of Grace
1998-99John Michael VlachThe Strength of These Arms: Endurance, Creativity and Authority in the Plantation Landscape
1998-99JoAnne AkalaitisLiving in Performance
1998-99Sandra Zimdars-Swartz (KU, Religion)Wounds on Wounds: Christianity, Pain and Religious Experience
1997-98Robert Hemenway (KU)Humanities and American Politics
1997-98Nancy Kassabaum BakerAn Evening with Nancy
1997-98Ira Michael HeymanExhibition Dilemmas
1997-98Donald Worster (KU, History)The Inhabited Prairie: Nature and Culture on the Great Plains
1997-98Winona LaDukeNative American Environmentalism at the Cusp of the Millennium
1996-97Rolena AdornoThe Spanish New World in the Narrative Imagination
1996-97Richard WhiteWorking with Nature
1996-97Gwendolyn BrooksPoetry Reading
1995-96Charles Eldredge (KU, History of Art)John Steuart Curry, Prairie Prodigal
1995-96Kwame Anthony AppiahAgainst National Culture: For Cosmopolitan Patriotism
1995-96Bernard WilliamsTruthfulness and Democratic Politics
1995-96Carol GluckWar and Memory in Japan- Fifty Years Later
1995-96Daniel T. Politoske (KU, Music and Dance)From Berlin to Krakow: Musical Treasures Rediscovered
1994-95Drucilla CornellPornography's Temptation
1994-95Manning MarableBeyond Black and White: Unlearning Racism
1994-95Elizabeth BrounChilde Hassam's America
1994-95Janet Sharistanian (KU, English)Gender, Modernism, Politics: The Case of Tess Slesinger
1993-94Cornel WestBeyond Eurocentrism and Multiculturalism
1993-94Sheldon HackneyBeyond the Culture Wars
1993-94Dominick LaCapraThe Return of the Historically Repressed: Secularization and Approaches to the Holocaust
1993-94Del Brinkman (KU, Journalism)William Allen Wight and the Presidents: Fifty Years of Influence on Washington by a Small-Town Kansas Editor
1992-93Gordon ParksCreativity
1992-93Rex Martin (KU, Philosophy)Are Rights Enough? Social Justice in Our Nations Third Century
1992-93Martin JayModernism, Post Modernism: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth Century French Thought
1992-93Roberto Gonzalez EchevarriaThe Second Discovery of America: History and Literature in the Writings of Peter Martyr d'Anghiera
1991-92Patricia LimerickTroubled Land and Haunted Places: A Re-envisioning of the American West
1991-92Martha BantaImperialist Acts and Efficiency Movements at the Turn of the Century: Veblen, Cuba and the Jameses
1991-92Jacques D'AmboiseThe Arts Set the Stage for Life
1991-92Ronald Willis (KU, Theatre and Film)The Answer is Theater! What's the Question?
1990-91Lawrence LevineThe Meaning of America: Frank Capra and the Politics of Culture During the Great Depression
1990-91Arnold RampersadFour Black American Lives: Du Bois, Hughes, Hurston and Wright
1990-91Patricia GrahamCollaborating for Children in Schools: Historical Views
1990-91Boris NotkinGood Evening from Moscow
1990-91John G. Clark (KU, History)Her Huge Shadow: Energy and America's Responsibilities to the Globe
1989-90William CrononDust Bowl Days: Stories of Environmental Change
1989-90Catharine R. StimpsonWomen, Literature and Society
1989-90Anthony SeegerFolk Music and American Culture
1988-89Chu-Tsing Li (KU, History of Art)
1988-89Peter Casagrande (KU, English)Moving Easy in Harness: Creativity and Constraint
1988-89Paul KurtzWhat is Secular Humanism?
1988-89William McGlaughlinAn Evening with William McGlaughlin
1988-89Ivar IvaskAn Evening with Ivar Ivask
1987-88Robert Hudson (KU, History of Medicine)
1986-87Victor Papanek (KU, Arch & Urban Design)
1985-86Elizabeth Shultz (KU, English)
1984-85Richard Schowen (KU, Biochemistry)
1983-84Frances Heller (KU, Law)
1982-83Frances Horowitz (KU, Human Development)
1981-82Jim Moeser (KU, Music)
1980-81Richard DeGeorge (KU, Philosophy)
1979-80Harold Orel (KU, English
1978-79William Griffith(KU, History)
1977-78Barbara Craig (KU, French)
1976-77Andrew Debicki (KU, Spanish & Portugeuse)
1975-76Stitt Robinson (KU, History)
1974-75George Lawner (KU, Music)
1973-74Marilyn Stokstad (KU, Art History)
1972-73William P. Albrecht (KU, English)
1971-72Oswald P. Backus (KU, History)
1970-71John Brushwood (KU, Spanish and Portugeuse)
1969-70Milton Steinhardt (KU, Music)
1968-69Donald R McCoy (KU, History)
1967-68Merrel D. Clubb (KU, English)
1966-67Clifford Griffin (KU, Hisotry)
1965-66Paul Roofe (KU, History of Medicine)
1964-65James Seaver (KU, History)
1963-64Richard DeGeorge (KU, Philosophy)
1962-63Errol Harris (KU, Philosophy)
1962-63Elmer Beth (KU, Journalism)
1961-62Mary Grant (KU, Classics)
1960-61W. Clarke Wescoe (KU, Chancellor)
1959-60Jan Chiapusso (KU, Music)
1958-59William Paden (KU, Englsh)
1957-58M. Carl Slough (KU, Law)
1956-57L. R. Lind (KU, Classics)
1955-56J. Neale Carman (KU, French)
1947-48T.V. SmithThe Humanities and Modern Life