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Distinguished Lecture Series


Funded through the UT Humanities Center for use by faculty in one of our nine affiliated arts and humanities departments, the Distinguished Lecture Series brings acclaimed humanities scholars and renowned artists to the Knoxville campus and connects UT humanities faculty to the best researchers in their fields. Because only speakers with exception records of publication and research activity are eligible to receive a nomination as a visiting scholar, the program brings to campus some of the most cutting-edge and prolific intellectuals in the humanities today.

Lectures are free and open to the public and are held on the UT Knoxville campus. Public parking is available in the Volunteer Hall parking garage for our off-campus visitors. Everyone is welcome!

 Check our Twitter and Facebook sites for updated information about our Distinguished Lecture Series. If you want more information, feel free to call us anytime.

2022-2023 Lecture Series

 More information about our 2022-2023 lecture series is forthcoming later this summer.

Click on each of the names to find out more information about each scholar.

Rita Raley
Professor of English
University of California - Santa Barbara

Monday, September 12, 2022
3:30 PM (ET)
via Zoom

Title: TBA

Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Poet, Novelist, Multi-media Artist

Monday, October 10, 2022
Time: 3:30 P.M. (ET)
Location: TBA

Title: TBA

Anne Fernald
Professor of English and Women's Studies
Fordham University

Monday, November 7, 2022
Time: 3:30 P.M. (ET)
Location: TBA

Title: TBA

Roopika Risam
Associate Professor of Secondary and Higher Education and English, and Faculty Fellow of Digital Library Initiatives 
Salem State University

Monday, February 6, 2023
Time: 3:30 P.M. (ET)
Location: TBA

Title: TBA

Rita Charon
Bernard Schoenberg Professor of Social Medicine and Professor of Medicine
Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

Monday, March 6, 2023
3:30 P.M. (ET)
Location: TBA

Title: TBA

Olivia Bloechl
Professor of Musicology
University of Pittsburgh

Monday, April 3, 2023
3:30 P.M. (ET)
Location: TBA

Title: TBA


2021-2022 Lecture Series

Click on each of the names to find out more information about each scholar.

Walter JohnsonLaura Mandell
Professor of English Literature and Director, Center of Digital Humanities Research
Texas A&M University

Monday, September 27, 2021
3:30 PM
Registration link

Title: The Importance of Design to Digital Editions and Research

Why should design be prioritized when we think about books today? Professor Mandell discusses two project data models that show the importance of design to future scholarly research and the need to "get over' what she calls "the print hangover" in thinking about building digital editions. She gleans ideas from three digital humanities projects that involve creating digital online editions: The New Variorum Shakespeare, funded by the Modern Language Association; the Maria Edgeworth Letters Project, spearheaded by UT’s Professor of English Hilary Havens; and's digital edition maker, called TypeWright.

Laura Mandell is the author of Breaking the Book: Print Humanities in the Digital Age (2015), Misogynous Economies: The Business of Literature in Eighteenth-Century Britain (1999), and, recently, “Gendering Digital Literary History: What Counts for Digital Humanities” in the New Companion to Digital Humanities. She is Project Director of the Poetess Archive, an online scholarly edition and database of women poets, 1750-1900; Acquisitions Editor of; and Director of ARC, the Advanced Research Consortium overseeing NINES, 18thConnect, and MESA. She spearheaded the Early Modern OCR project or eMOP, a project concerned with improving OCR for early modern and 18th-c. texts via high performance and cluster computing, and is currently at work on a text-mining project to discover emergent genders in essays and novels comprising the Feminist Controversy debates in England, 1788-1810.

Laura Mandell was invited to The University of Tennessee by Hilary Havens (Department of English).

Allison Carruth

Allison Carruth
Professor of American Studies and the High Meadows Environmental Institute
Princeton University

Monday, October 25, 2021
Time: 3:30 P.M. (ET)
Registration link

Title: : Nature remade: The Power of Tech in Contemporary Environmentalism

"Nature remade" addresses a strain of environmental thought centered on the West Coast that is simultaneously neocolonial and futuristic. Ecosystems must be technologically retrofitted to sustain privileged modes of human life. The lecture questions ideas of wilderness and the pastoral that have long shaped American environmental imaginaries, while showing the allure of "making new nature" via climate engineering. Carruth considers how contemporary writers and artists question the power of tech in contemporary environmentalism.

Allison Carruth is professor of American Studies and the High Meadows Environmental Institute at Princeton University. Her research interests include environmental narrative, media and art; science communication; contemporary food movements; and evolving relationships between technology, ecology and environmentalism in American culture. She was the founding director of UCLA’s Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies (LENS). At Princeton, she directs the Environmental Media Lab. The author of Global Appetites: American Power and the Literature of Food (Cambridge UP 2013) and co-author of Literature and Food Studies (Routledge 2018), she is currently completing a book titled Novel Ecologies.

Allison Carruth was invited to The University of Tennessee by UTHC Director Amy Elias.

Robert Bullard
Robert Bullard

Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy
Texas Southern University

Monday, November 1, 2021
Time: 3:30 P.M. (ET)
Registration link

Title: The Quest for Environmental and Climate Justice

Climate change is the defining global environmental justice, human rights, and public health issue of the 21st century. The most vulnerable populations will suffer the earliest and most damaging setbacks because of where they live, their limited income and economic means, and their lack of access to health care. Professor Bullard’s presentation will focus primarily on the U.S. and the need for empowering vulnerable populations, identifying environmental justice and climate change “hot-spot” zones, and designing fair, just and effective strategies for adaptation, mitigation, emergency management and community resilience and disaster recovery. He will offer a framework for dismantling systemic racism and policies and practices that create, exacerbate and perpetuate inequality and vulnerability.

Robert D. Bullard is known as the father of environmental justice. He is the former Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University and was the founding Director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University. An award-winning author of eighteen books, including Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality, he is co-founder of the HBCU Climate Change Consortium, is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, and has been featured on CNN and in Newsweek, which named him one of 13 Environmental Leaders of the Century. His latest books include Race, Place and Environmental Justice After Hurricane Katrina (2009), Environmental Health and Racial Equity in the United States (2011), and The Wrong Complexion for Protection (2012). Among his other awards, Dr. Bullard was named by Planet Harmony as one of its Ten African American Green Heroes; was given the John Muir Award by the Sierra Club, which also named its new Environmental Justice Award after him; was named by the Global Climate Action Summit as a Climate Trailblazer and by Apolitical as one of the world’s 100 Most Influential People in Climate Policy; and was honored by Washington State University with the William Julius Wilson Award for the Advancement of Justice, by WebMD with its Health Heroes Trailblazer Award, and by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) with its Champions of the Earth Lifetime Achievement Award, the UN’s highest environmental honor.

Robert Bullard was invited to The University of Tennessee by UTHC Director Amy Elias.

Photo of Robert Bullard used courtesy of Texas Southern University


Dana Renga
Professor of Italian and Dean of Arts and Humanities

The Ohio State University

Thursday, February 10, 2022

3:30 P.M. (ET)

Hodges Library Lindsay Young Auditorium

Title: Italian Television Abroad

Dana Renga looks at three recent, popular Italian television products that have secured a broad viewership in Italy and abroad. First, she discusses the smash hit series Gomorrah that premiered on the Italian pay-tv network Sky to an unsurpassed network viewership, and addresses the series’ local/global appeal, with a focus on the innovative use of trailers and teasers. Then, she turns towards Italy’s first made-for-Netflix series Suburra, available to Netflix subscribers worldwide, discussing the series’ address to queer and gay spectators, and here the target is social media. Her conclusion provides a counterexample to the hyper-masculine worldview of the above-mentioned series by addressing casting and the creation of authentic stardom in the HBO/RAI co-production My Brilliant Friend. Italian television has gone beyond national borders.

Dana Renga is professor of Italian and Dean of Arts and Humanities at The Ohio State University. She is a specialist in Italian film and television. In addition to 40 articles and book chapters, she authored Watching Sympathetic Perpetrators on Italian Television: Gomorrah and Beyond, (Palgrave, 2019) and Unfinished Business: Screening the Italian Mafia in the New Millennium (University of Toronto Press, 2013), coauthored Internal Exile in Fascist Italy: History and Representations of “Confino” (University Manchester Press, 2019), and edited Mafia Movies: A Reader 2nd edition (University of Toronto Press, 2019). She is currently working on a book called #castingstardom which deals with casting practices in the US and in Italy, focusing on recent Italian serial television and its exportation abroad.

Dana Renga was invited to The University of Tennessee by Flavia Brizio-Skov and Annachiara Mariana (Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures).

Chang Tan

Chang Tan
Assistant Professor of Art History and Asian Studies

Penn State University and Exhibition Curator
Suzanne Wright
, Associate Professor of Art History, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Noriko Horiguchi,
Associate Professor of Japanese, Modern Foreign Languages and Literature, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Rachelle Scott
, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Thursday, February 28, 2022

3:30 P.M. (ET)

Strong Hall, Room 101

Title: Global Asias in Context
A Panel Discussion

The Knoxville Museum of Art is presenting “Global Asias: Contemporary Asian and Asian American Art from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation” from January 28 – April 24, 2022. The exhibition examines the cosmopolitan, playful, and subtly subversive characteristics of contemporary Asian and Asian American art by fifteen artists of Asian heritage. The exhibition is organized across three themes, abstract art that incorporate Asian-influenced techniques and materials, narratives of migration both within and beyond Asia, and works that probe issues in contemporary politics and commerce with “traditional” styles and motifs. The Knoxville Museum of Art is a short walk from campus and is free and open to the public. This panel session will provide an opportunity to consider the exhibition in a larger context, one in which the arts and humanities are in dialogue with the exhibition curator and panelists from the UTK Asian Studies Program.

This event is in partnership with the UT Humanities Center as part of its Distinguished Lecture Series and the Knoxville Museum of Art.

Jack Chen

Jack Chen
Professor of Chinese Literature
University of Virginia

Monday, April 11, 2022

3:30 P.M. (ET)

Online Webinar
This lecture will also be livestreamed to our UTHC Youtube channel

Title: Ghost Poetry and Literary History
A Panel Discussion

To speak of ghosts is to speak of the souls of the dead who return to haunt the living, a phenomenon that is found across historical periods and cultural traditions. Yet ghost poetry, or poems composed by the returning dead, is a literary phenomenon that exists in the classical Chinese tradition (and perhaps only in the Chinese tradition). Premodern ghosts in China composed poems that were collected and anthologized by the living, comprising a minor literature that nonetheless spans the entire classical tradition. This talk will take aim at a broad theoretical issue: how the existence of ghost poetry and how the ghost’s manifestation as an author of poetry problematize the conceptual categories of literary history.

Jack W. Chen is professor of Chinese literature at the University of Virginia. He is the author of The Poetics of Sovereignty: On Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty (2010) and Anecdote, Network, Gossip, Performance: Essays on the Shishuo xinyu (2021), as well as co-editor of Idle Talk: Gossip and Anecdote in Traditional China (2013) and Literary Information in China: A History (2021). He is broadly interested in lyric theory, cybernetics and informatics, questions of comparative/world/global methodology, and cats.

His current project is a study of poems composed by ghosts in medieval China. Jack Chen was invited to The University of Tennessee by Shellen Wu (Department of History).


We would like to thank the Office of Research & Engagement for their generous support.

To view previous Distiguished Lecture Series, click the following links: 2019-2020 | 2020-2021

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