Humanities Symposia

Presented by the Department of Humanities and Communication
3:30 Taylor Hall 112 – Wells Theater
Apply to present at the next Humanities Symposia

Spring 2014 Speakers

Freedom’s Just Another Word: Perspectives on On Liberty

Dr. Mike Blaz // Tuesday, February 11
Ideas about “liberty” in speech, art, and politics differ greatly from country to country. In France, for example, it is illegal to deny the existence of the Holocaust. In the U.S. the ACLU vigorously defends Holocaust deniers’ constitutional right to free speech. In this presentation, Dr. Blaz will examine these different perspectives through the lens of John Stuart Mill’s seminal text, On Liberty. Audience members will have the opportunity to view and touch a first edition of Mill’s text both before and after the presentation.
Watch Dr. Blaz’s presentation

Living Forward: Democracy in America Today

Rev. Thomas Smith // Tuesday, February 18
The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once observed, “We must live life forward, but we only understand life backwards.” To live life forward well, we must pay attention to the past, which explains Alexis de Tocqueville’s tour of America in the early 1830’s. He saw democracy as the wave of the future and wanted to compare America’s democratic experiment to the republican democracy that had failed in his native France. His Democracy in America (on display in the Remnant Trust collection) has served as a prophetic guide ever since. In this lecture, Rev. Smith will reflect upon the book’s continuing relevance in our day.

A Country Girl Revealed?: Edna O’Brien’s Memoir

Dr. Sarah Nestor // Tuesday, March 11
At 82, Edna O’Brien published her long-awaited memoir, Country Girl, about her development from a young girl to a successful writer. As one of Ireland’s greatest 20th century authors and leading female writers, O’Brien has led a life of intrigue with a cadre of celebrity London friends and a carefully cultivated “diva” persona. In this talk, Dr. Nestor will explore how O’Brien both conceals and reveals herself through the memoir genre.
Watch Dr. Nestor’s presentation

Who Invented Calculus?: The Leibniz/Newton Debate

Dr. Steven Schonefeld // Tuesday, March 18
If you ask a German mathematician who invented calculus, the answer will certainly be Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. A British mathematician will puff up with pride and answer, “Definitely Sir Isaac Newton.” Mathematicians of other nationalities may simply shrug. In this talk, Dr. Schonefeld will discuss these two men’s lives, inventions, and claims on calculus. There will be no equations, no theorems, really no mathematics at all, in this lecture. It should add up to an understandable experience for all.

The Woman in Braintree: The Little-Known Life of Abigail Adams

Lou Ann Homan // Tuesday, March 25
Abigail Adams is known politically as the wife of second President, John Adams, and the mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth President. She was also a writer, a quilter, a tender of sheep, the writer of letters for women’s rights, and John’s best friend. Professional storyteller Lou Ann Homan will take a look at Abigail’s life in Braintree, Massachusetts while our country was being formed. After the presentation, take a moment to examine 1787 and 1788 editions of John Adams’ writings.
Watch Professor Homan’s presentation

On the Origin of Separation: A History of Evolution in the Public Schools

Dr. Amy Alexander // Tuesday, April 1
From the Scopes trial in the 1920’s to textbook selection nearly 100 years later, the debate over the teaching of evolution in the public schools continues to present political, religious, and personal conflict. If educators avoid instruction in evolutionary science, will generations of students get left behind? After the presentation, tour the Remnant Trust and examine an early edition of Darwin’s Origin of the Species.
Watch Dr. Alexander’s presentation

The Play’s the Thing: Another Look at Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Dr. Julie Howenstine // Tuesday, April 8
How does a young Prince defend his father’s legacy while safeguarding his mother from his new step-father/uncle? And what does a ghost have to do with it? Come find out how William Shakespeare made this saga unfold when Dr. Julie Howenstine reveals the intricacies of one of the Bard’s most famous tragedies. If you’ve never read Hamlet, or if it’s just been a while, this is the presentation for you. After the talk, view and touch an eighteenth-century edition of the play on display in the Remnant Trust collection

I Didn't Like History Until It Was My Own: The 3 T's Of Genealogy

Dr. Dolores Tichenor // Tuesday, April 15
History becomes real because our ancestors lived in “interesting times.” Determining the veracity of lore passed down (or not mentioned) by previous generations can lead one to many unexpected people, places, and sources. Dr. Tichenor will share how studying her family’s genealogy has led to many such surprises and fueled her newfound love of history.

Past Speakers

History of Program

The Humanities Symposia is a series of presentations followed by discussions about a range of academic subjects related to the humanities. It was developed in response to many professors presenting at academic conferences but not having a university outlet for presenting this research. Since many professors’ research interests lie outside their normal course load, the Symposia allow them to share their research with both the university and local community.

Talks usually last about thirty minutes and are followed by a time for questions. The entire time is generally under one hour, and talks are open to the public If you are interested in presenting, please contact Professor Sarah Young.