KU News Release


May 20, 2011
Contact: Kristine Latta, Hall Center for the Humanities, 785-864-7823

Hall Center announces Humanities Lecture Series speakers for 2011-12

LAWRENCE — The Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas has announced the speakers for its 2011-12 Humanities Lecture Series.

The series will include Laurence Rees, Diane Ravitch, Louis Menand, Jeff Moran, Alain de Botton and Jamaica Kincaid. The lectures are free, open to the public and begin at 7:30 p.m. on the dates specified below. Ravitch, Menand, de Botton and Kincaid will also take part in small conversation sessions at 10 a.m. the morning following their lecture.

Lawrence Rees

Laurence Rees, Sept. 20, Woodruff Auditorium, Kansas Union
In-depth conversations with Japanese soldiers, Nazi officers and Russian fighters forced into silence during Stalin’s reign make the films of historian and documentarian Laurence Rees unique among the many accounts available of World War II and its brutalities. In his presentation “Talking with Nazis,” Rees will use extracts from his Peabody Award-winning television series to illustrate the benefits and pitfalls of interviewing former Nazis, from those who worked for Hitler to those who personally committed war crimes on his behalf. Rees is the former head of BBC Television’s history programs and the author of numerous best-selling books on World War II, including “Auschwitz” and “World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West.”

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch, Oct. 18, Woodruff Auditorium, Kansas Union
One of the most vocal and impassioned proponents of public education reform, Diane Ravitch has offered levelheaded, nonpartisan assessments of public education for more than 30 years. In her presentation “Will School Reform Improve the Schools?,” the former advocate of school choice will discuss how she came to the view that these and other proposed reforms actually undermine the goal of providing a first-rate public education. Ravitch is the author of 10 books on education history and policy, including her most recent work, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education.” She also has written more than 500 articles and reviews for scholarly and popular publications. Ravitch is a research professor of education at New York University and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Louis Menand

Louis Menand, Nov. 17, Spencer Museum of Art auditorium
One of the most important cultural critics and scholars of American studies, Louis Menand’s reflections on the state of American culture and the university demonstrate wit, accessibility and insider knowledge of American intellectual trends. In his presentation “A Man is Shot: The Cold War Meaning of a Cinematic Technique,” Menand will discuss a key moment in American self-definition, exploring how changes in film style and form reflect a broader Cold War story. Menand is perhaps best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Metaphysical Club” (2001). His newest book, “The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University,” explores the liberal arts curriculum and its place in higher education. Menand is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of English at Harvard University.

Jeff Moran

Jeff Moran, Feb. 16, the Commons, Spooner Hall
KU associate professor of history Jeff Moran brings a thoughtful, historical perspective to some of society’s most challenging contemporary issues. In 2000, Harvard University Press published his first book, “Teaching Sex: The Shaping of Adolescence in the Twentieth Century,” the first and only book-length history of sex education in the United States. In 2002, Moran published “The Scopes Trial: A Brief History with Documents.” Originally intended as an undergraduate textbook, it won wider notice for its interpretation of the trial and its inquiry into hitherto unexamined aspects of the antievolution controversy. In his presentation “American Genesis: Antievolution Controversies from Scopes to Creation Science,” Moran will examine the controversies around evolution as they have exploded in public schools to ask how they reflect and deepen existing tensions in American culture. His book “American Genesis” is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton, March 14, the Commons, Spooner Hall
Acclaimed author and “philosopher of everyday living” Alain de Botton has published on literature, art, philosophy, architecture, film and more, yet his work always returns to the question of how one may use culture in a therapeutic way, to find meaning or consolation. De Botton has been praised and condemned for this practical approach to utilizing the arts. But as interviewer Katy Guest of the Independent puts it, “his mission is to wrestle back those consolations from ‘the huge gatekeeper’ ... that is academia.” In his presentation “Religion for Atheists,” de Botton will use his witty, controversial approach to culture to propose a secular means toward the deep fulfillment that many seek in organized religion. De Botton, a Swiss writer living in England, is the author of 10 books, including “How Proust Can Change Your Life” (1997), “The Architecture of Happiness” (2006) and “The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work” (2009). He is the founder of Living Architecture, an innovative nonprofit organization whose goal is to build interesting and affordable vacation housing in the UK.

Jamaica Kincaid (photo courtesy of Marianna Cook)

Jamaica Kincaid, April 10, Woodruff Auditorium, Kansas Union
Caribbean novelist Jamaica Kincaid is widely regarded as one of the most important postcolonial authors of our time. Henry Louis Gates Jr. compares her to Toni Morrison and Wole Soyinka. She has published 15 long works, including poems, novels and reflections, and was a longtime contributor to the New Yorker. Her loosely autobiographical novels, including “Annie John” (1985), “Lucy” (1990) and “The Autobiography of My Mother” (1997), interweave gender, sexuality, race, ethnic identity, selfhood and themes of place into evocative and lyrical prose. In her presentation “Landscapes and Memory,” she will read from some of her work and discuss the importance of personal landscapes, history and cultural identity. Kincaid is the Josephine Olp Weeks Chair and Professor of Literature at Claremont McKenna College.

Founded in 1947, the Humanities Lecture Series is the oldest continuing series at KU. More than 150 eminent scholars from around the world have participated in the program, including author Salman Rushdie, poet Gwendolyn Brooks and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Recent speakers have included Henry Louis Gates Jr., Mary Oliver and T.R. Reid. Shortly after the program’s inception, a lecture by one outstanding KU faculty member was added to the schedule.


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