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Distinguished Visiting Scholars in the Humanities

2017-2018 6th Annual Distinguished Lecture Series

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

Dr. Laurent DuboisDr. Laurent Dubois
Professor of Romance Studies and History and Director of the Forum for Scholars & Publics
Duke University

Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Time: 4 p.m.
Lindsay Young Auditorium – UT Hodges Library
Title: "On the Trail of the Banjo: America’s African Instrument"

What is the banjo?  As an iconic American instrument, it has been part of a wide range of musical traditions.  In this lecture, renowned historian Laurent Dubois traces the instrument’s origins, focusing on the earliest known descriptions from the seventeenth and eighteenth century Caribbean and North America, and offers an explanation for the banjo’s adaptability and enduring power as a creator of both sound and symbolism.

Laurent Dubois is Professor of Romance Studies and History and the Director of the Forum for Scholars & Publics at Duke University.  He is the author of six books, including A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787-1804 (2004), winner of the Frederick Douglass Prize, Haiti: The Aftershocks of History (2012), and most recently The Banjo: America’s African Instrument (2016).  His writings on music and culture have appeared in The New Republic, The New Yorker, and Slate.

Dr. Dena GoodmanDr. Dena Goodman
Lila Miller Collegiate Professor of History and Women’s Studies
University of Michigan

Monday, October 2, 2017
Time:  3:30 p.m.
Lindsay Young Auditorium – UT Hodges Library
Title:  “Building a Successful Life and Career in the Wake of the French Revolution”

Professor Goodman will trace the life and scientific career of French mining engineer Augustin-Henry Bonnard (1781-1857) across the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Empire, the Bourbon Restoration, and the July Monarchy. Despite the radical changes of political regime, Bonnard drew upon both Enlightenment values and family ties to the French monarchy to build a career and secure a family legacy for the future. In the politically turbulent world of revolutionary and post-revolutionary France, Bonnard succeeded by holding to a steady course laid out for him by his uncle that reflected in equal measure deep family traditions of royal service and a commitment to Enlightenment.

Dena Goodman is the Lila Miller Collegiate Professor of History and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. Her research centers on the cultural history of early modern France, with particular interests in the Enlightenment, women and gender, material culture, writing, and sociability. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim, Camargo, Mellon, and Voltaire Foundations. Her publications include The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment (Cornell UP, 1994) and Becoming a Woman in the Age of Letters (Cornell UP, 2009).

Dr. Robert CampanyDr. Robert Campany
Professor of Asian Studies and Religious Studies
Vanderbilt University

Monday, October 16, 2017
Time: 3:30 P.M.
Venue: Lindsay Young Auditorium – Hodges Library

Title: “The Culture of the Night: Dreams and Meaning-Making in Late Classical and Early Medieval China”

Why do we dream? While today science understands dreams to be the product of random mental activity, historical and anthropological perspectives give dreams more social and personal significance.  This lecture examines how dreams were defined in China roughly between 300 BCE and 700 CE in a wide range of texts.  When Chinese people woke from their dreams, they told of them, and those social exchanges resulted in the extensive record preserved for us to study.  The narratives provoke two questions of importance to us today: What are dreams?  And how should their meaning be ascertained?  What dreams may reveal is that even while sleeping, we are cultural, story-making beings.

Robert Campany is Professor of Asian Studies at Vanderbilt University.  His interdisciplinary research focuses on late classical and early medieval Chinese religious history ca. 300 BCE to 600 CE, in which Buddhist texts and teachings were first introduced to China and new Daoist religions arose.  His comparative, cross-cultural study of religion juxtaposes textual materials relevant to the history of Chinese religions to questions, approaches, and problems stemming from the comparative study of religions.  His recent publications include Signs from the Unseen Realm: Buddhist Miracle Tales from Early Medieval China (2012), and A Garden of Marvels: Tales of Wonder from Early Medieval China (2015).  He is currently working on a book-length study about dreaming, dream-interpretation, and vision narratives across the various Chinese religious traditions.

Professor Robert Weems, JrDr. Robert Weems, Jr.
Willard W. Garvey Distinguished Professor of Business History
Wichita State University

Monday, October 30, 2017
Time: 3:30 P.M.
Venue: Lindsay Young Auditorium – Hodges Library

Title: “The Evolution of the TRILLION Dollar African American Consumer Market”

A century ago, African Americans were not a viable consumer market due to a variety of social, economic, political, and demographic circumstances. As the 20th century progressed, African Americans realized their growing power as consumers and attracted the attention of a variety of American corporations. Today, while annual African American consumer spending has passed the trillion dollar mark, Black consumption patterns represent spending weakness, rather than spending power.

Robert Weems, Jr. is the Willard W. Garvey Distinguished Professor of Business History at Wichita State University. He received his PhD in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During his career, Professor Weems has published and spoken widely in the areas of African American business and economic history. His current research projects include the forthcoming co-edited book, Building The Black Metropolis: African American Entrepreneurship in Chicago, scheduled to be published in the fall of 2017.

Dr. Sarah KayDr. Sarah Kay
Professor and Chair of the Department of French Literature, Thought and Culture
New York University

Wednesday, January 17, 2018 
Time: 4:00 p.m.
Lindsay Young Auditorium – UT Hodges Library

Title: Singing with the Stars

Can the songs of the troubadours be understood as “soundscapes”?  Boethius’s Roman writings defined the “music of the spheres” as reflections of cosmic harmony based in abstract cosmological mathematics and as “acousmatic sound”-- sound one hears without seeing an originating cause.  Sarah Kay proposes a way of thinking about song in the Middle Ages that is equally acousmatic but originating from a different materiality based in a different cosmology, one that unites heaven and earth in breath and voice.  If there is today an "acousmatic turn" then it is, if not a return, at least a reinvention in quite different terms of a formerly cosmic sonorousness.

Sarah Kay teaches French and Medieval Studies at NYU.  She has written widely on medieval literature across languages, genres, and periods; her work combines the study of medieval texts with philosophical and theoretical inquiry.  Her two most recent books are Parrots and Nightingales. Troubadour Quotations and the Development of European Poetry (UPenn, 2013) and Animal Skins and the Reading Self in Medieval Latin and French Bestiaries (Chicago, 2017).

Dr. Anne Behnke KinneyDr. Anne Behnke Kinney
Professor of Chinese
Department of East Asian Languages, Literatures and Cultures
University of Virginia

Monday, February 5, 2018
Time:  3:30 P.M. 
Venue:  Lindsay Young Auditorium – UT Hodges Library

Title: “Confucius’s Mary Magdalen Moment”

Against the ethos of his era that upheld sexual segregation and discouraged women’s participation in public affairs, Confucius recognized and even praised two elite women. In fact, like Jesus’s relationship with Mary Magdalen, Confucius’s interactions with the notorious Nan Zi—described as a deceitful and lustful woman—has generated intense controversy over the millennia. This talk will focus on Confucius’s interaction with Nan Zi and his views of women in general.

Anne Behnke Kinney is professor of Chinese in the Department of East Asian Languages, Literatures and Cultures at the University of Virginia. Her work focuses on literature and the social and intellectual history of early China. Her publications include Exemplary Women of Early China: The Lienü zhuan of Liu Xiang (2014), Representations of Childhood and Youth in Early China (2004),and Chinese Views of Childhood (1995). She is the director of the digital research collection, Traditions of Exemplary Women (IATH, 2003).

A dialogue with Joy Harjo and John Troutman, moderated by Julie Reed

Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Time:  4 P.M. 
Venue:  Lindsay Young Auditorium – UT Hodges Library

Title: “Rumble: Natives and American Music”


How is music tied into the politics of race and citizenship for Native American musicians? How did Native musicians change the face of American music? John Troutman talks with internationally renowned poet and musician Joy Harjo about American Indians in the musical worlds of jazz, blues, and rock-’n-roll, as well as about the prize-winning Rezolution Pictures documentary, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World.

Joy Harjo is professor of English and John C. Hodges Chair of Excellence at UT. A member of the Mvskoke Nation, she is a well-known saxophonist and has published writing in numerous genres, including eight books of poetry. Her honors include the Ford Foundation’s Art of Change Fellowship; the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Prize; the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets; a Guggenheim Fellowship; the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts; the Rasmuson United States Artist Fellowship; and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. The Native American Music Awards named her Best Female Artist in 2009.

John Troutman is curator of the American music division of culture and the arts at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. His book Indian Blues: American Indians and the Politics of Music, 1879-1934 won the W. Turrentine Jackson Prize. His second book, Kika Kila, won numerous awards including the ARSC Award for Best Historical Research in Recorded Popular Music. He has won fellowships from the NEH, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Louisiana Board of Regents.

Julie L. Reed is an associate professor of history and a Cherokee Nation citizen. Her book Serving the Nation: Cherokee Sovereignty and Social Welfare, 1800-1907 examines Cherokee social policy. She is currently working on a new book concerning Cherokee educational history.

Dr. David PotterDr. David Potter
Ronald W. Mellor Professor of Roman History
The University of California, Los Angeles

Monday, March 26, 2018
Time:  3:30 P.M. 
Venue:  Lindsay Young Auditorium – UT Hodges Library

Title: “The Empress Theodora and the Management of Empire”

How did a former actress, single mother, and spy take charge of a powerful empire? Loathed or loved, empress Theodora (r. 527-548), wife of the Late Roman Emperor Justinian I (r. 527-565), knew how to rule.  Though legend traces her power either to demonic possession or to divine inspiration, the actual sources of her authority were more mundane.  This lecture explores how Theodora constructed her authority and became one of the most memorable women of all time.

David Potter is Ronald W. Mellor Professor of Roman History at UCLA and has served as Francis W. Kelsey Collegiate Professor of Greek and Roman History, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, and professor of Greek and Latin at the University of Michigan.  He has written widely about the ancient world, with recent books on ancient sport, the emperor Constantine, the empress Theodora, and the rise of the Roman Empire.  His work explores the way that power was created and used in the ancient world.
We would like to thank the Office of Research & Engagement for their generous support.

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