KU News Release


April 3, 2012
Contact: Victor Bailey, Hall Center for the Humanities, 785-864-7822

National authors, KU professors part of 2012-13 Humanities Lecture Series

Nikki Finny


Sarah Vowell


Robin Rowland


Stephen Greenblatt


Edwidge Danticat


LAWRENCE – The Hall Center for the Humanities has announced the speakers for its 2012-2013 Humanities Lecture Series. The series will include Nikky Finney, Sarah Vowell, Robin Rowland, Stephen Greenblatt and Edwidge Danticat. The lectures are free, open to the public and begin at 7:30 p.m. on the dates specified below. Finney, Vowell, Greenblatt, and Danticat will also take part in conversation sessions at 10 a.m. the morning following their lecture.

Nikky Finney – “Making Poetry in Our Anthropocene Age” — Woodruff Auditorium, Sept. 6
National Book Award-winning poet and professor of creative writing Nikky Finney seeks to explore the act of “Making Poetry in our Anthropocene Age.” The Anthropocene is a term coined to suggest that humans now act as a geophysical force changing the climate of the planet, and ushering in a new geological period. What is the damage done to the earth’s ecosystems that might concern a contemporary poet? How does the Anthropocene ultimately matter to our human intersections with each other, the natural world, art and culture? Finney, a child of activists, came of age during the civil rights and Black Arts movement, and through her childhood and education, became fascinated by the powerful synergy between creativity and history.

Sarah Vowell – “An Evening with Sarah Vowell”—Woodruff Auditorium, Oct. 10
Sarah Vowell, former contributing editor for NPR’s “This American Life,” is the New York Times bestselling author of six nonfiction books on American history and culture. By examining the connections between the American past and present, she offers personal, humorous accounts of everything from presidents and their assassins to colonial religious fanatics, as well as thoughts on American Indians, utopian dreamers, pop music and the odd cranky cartographer. She is most recently the author of “Unfamiliar Fishes,” the intriguing history of our 50th state, Hawaii. Replete with a cast of beguiling and tragic characters, Vowell’s history is told with brainy wit and droll humor.

Robin Rowland – “From Hope to Audacity: The Evolution of President Barack Obama’s Rhetoric and the 2012 Presidential Campaign”— Woodruff Auditorium, Oct. 24
Barack Obama built a reputation as the most eloquent public leader since Ronald Reagan, beginning with his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and culminating with a series of moving addresses in the 2008 presidential campaign, in which he promised to bring both hope and real change. But as president, Obama has faced both a devastating economic crisis and intractable opposition, leaving some to conclude that he had lost his rhetorical magic. Yet KU professor of communications Robin Rowland argues that Obama’s rhetoric has just evolved: the arc has moved from impassioned appeals that created a new sense of hope, to an audacious call to reaffirm basic fairness in American economic life and therefore save the American Dream.

Stephen Greenblatt – “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern”— The Commons, Nov. 14
Stephen Greenblatt is the John Cogan University Professor of Humanities at Harvard University and general editor of the eminently respected “Norton Shakespeare.” Greenblatt is regarded as the father of New Historicism, a form of critical theory that seeks to unite literature, historical context and cultural theory. He is the author of 12 books about Shakespeare, the Renaissance and early modern culture, including the hugely popular “Will in the World,” a biography of William Shakespeare. His most recent work, “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern” received the 2011 National Book Award, and demonstrates how something as seemingly insignificant as a poem could influence the cultural world. Greenblatt argues that the copying and translation of Lucretius’ “On the Nature of Things” fueled Renaissance artists, shaped the thoughts of thinkers from Galileo to Einstein, and influenced writers from Montaigne to Shakespeare to Thomas Jefferson.

Edwidge Danticat –“An Evening with Edwidge Danticat”—Woodruff Auditorium, March 13
Edwidge Danticat is the American Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of several acclaimed works of fiction, including “Brother, I’m Dying,” “Krik? Krak!,” “Breath Eyes, Memory” and “The Dew Breaker.” In 2009, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in recognition of her significant contributions to literature. Danticat, a native of Haiti, came to the United States when she was 12, and it is her moving and insightful depictions of Haiti that have brought the experience of Haitian immigration to the forefront of American literature. By writing about the themes of family, community and relationships, Danticat evokes familiar emotional territory while still conjuring specific experiences and sensations of Haitian culture.

Founded in 1947, the Humanities Lecture Series is the oldest continuing series at the University of Kansas. 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., Diane Ravitch and T.R. Reid. Shortly after the program’s inception, a lecture by one outstanding KU faculty member was added to the schedule.

For more information, contact the Hall Center by email or call (785) 864-4798.


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