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Events

Oct 3
Endowed Lecture Series
This lecture explores the ways in which the exterior walls of houses serve as boundaries, screens and skins on which both architects and viewers project meanings. Drawing on "Modern," vernacular, and historicist examples, the lecture considers cultural values, gender and sexuality, interrogating the meaning of transparency, both literal and figurative, and highlighting the ways in which private lives and non-conforming or queer households can be concealed behind the walls of "poker-faced" houses. 

Lecture: 4:30pm in UC 140
Reception to follow in UC 240 
Oct 24
Endowed Lecture Series
Young children rapidly develop a basic, commonsense understanding of how the world works.  Research on infants suggests that this understanding rests on early emerging cognitive systems for representing bodies and their motions, agents and their actions, people and their social engagements, places and their relations of geocentric distance and direction, forms and their scale-invariant geometry, and number:  six systems of core knowledge. These systems are innate, abstract, strikingly limited, and yet present and functional throughout human life.  Infants’ knowledge then grows both through gradual learning processes that people share with other animals, and through a fast and flexible learning process that is unique to our species and emerges with the onset of language. The latter process composes new systems of concepts productively by combining concepts from distinct systems of core knowledge.  The compositional process is poorly understood but amenable to study, through coordinated behavioral testing and computational modeling of infants’ learning. To illustrate, this talk will focus on core knowledge of objects, agents, and number, and on two new systems of concepts that emerge over human development and support uniquely human achievements:  the artifact concepts underlying prolific tool use, and the numerical concepts underlying counting and exact arithmetic.

Lecture: 4:30pm in UC 140
Reception to follow in UC 240 
Nov 21
Endowed Lecture Series
Blood is a liquid that circulates in the bodies of human beings and other animals. How was it thought of in ancient culture? In an uncanny, disturbingly aestheticizing moment in Homer’s Iliad, Menelaos husband of Helen, for whom the war is being fought before Troy, receives a wound from the arrow of his Trojan enemy Pandaros. Athena deflects the arrow, as a mother brushes away a fly from a sleeping child, but it penetrates his armor: . . . straightway from the cut there gushed a cloud of dark blood.
As when some Maionian woman or Karian with purple (phoiniki)
colours ivory, to make it a cheek piece for horses;
it lies away in an inner room, and many a rider
longs to have it, but it is laid up to be a king’s treasure,
two things, to be the beauty of the horse, the pride of the horseman:
so, Menelaos, your shapely thighs were stained with the colour
of blood, and your legs also and the ankles beneath them.
                                    (Iliad 4. 140-47, trans. Lattimore) The poet-singer addresses the wounded man himself, later describes a scene of healing, and distinguishes between this blood and ikhor, the fluid flowing in the veins of the gods. The lecture will pursue questions of blood and the body; blood and the sacred; blood, belonging, and kinship, with some consideration of the applicability of these categories in the present.
Lecture: 4:30pm in UC 140
Reception to follow in UC 240 
Mar 17-19
Endowed Lecture Series
The sixteenth century saw the rise of several European overseas empires -- Portuguese and Spanish, and then English and Dutch -- as well as the consolidation of more 'traditional' forms of empire like those of the Ottomans and Mughals. These empires had their admirers, who included their paid propagandists and official chroniclers. But they also encountered critics of various sorts, who deployed a variety of distinct arguments. In the Priestley Lectures for 2020, I intend to explore these distinct positions, focusing on some celebrated figures such as Michel de Montaigne, but also on more obscure writers of 'reform tracts' (so called 'arbitristas'). In closing, I will consider how these positions contrasted with later critiques that came from a nationalist standpoint.

Lecture: 4:30pm in UC 140
Reception to follow in UC 240 (on Mar 17 only)
Mar 31
Endowed Lecture Series
In this lecture, Michael Witmore will discuss the origins and development of the design for the Folger Shakespeare Library, which opened its doors in Washington, DC in 1932. Designed by French architect Paul Cret, the Folgers conceived of their library as a living memorial to Shakespeare — one taking the architectural form of “the First Folio illustrated.” Witmore will discuss the early thinking that informed the creation of the library, both as a growing research collection and as an evolving, polemical statement about the importance of history and literature in a thriving liberal democracy.

Lecture: 4:30pm in UC 140
Reception to follow in UC 240