2015-16 Director’s Lectures
Marilynne Robinson: What is Freedom of Conscience?
May 5, 2016
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author and essayist Marilynne Robinson is one of the nation's most prominent defenders of the liberal arts. She received the National Humanities Medal in 2012 and has devoted much of her recent writing to a series of a nuanced, search essays in wihch she dissects and defends the humanities and secular humanism. Robinson brought to her Director's Lecture the same intelligence and moral seriousness that readers have come to expect from her novels and nonfiction. Grounding her meditation on conscience with a wide range of historical, biblical, and literary references, she aimed to restore a sense of urgency to a subject that, she argued, has faded from conteporary public discussion.
David Bromwich: Lincoln as Realist and Revolutionist
February 11, 2016
David Bromwich, a professor of English at Yale University, considerd the evolution of President Lincoln's political thought and action in the years leading up to the Civil War. In the 1850s he adopted the stance of constitutional moderate, rejecting abolitionism and adhering to the Republicam platform that accepted slavery in the states where it already existed. But the "House Divided" speech of 1858 and the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 indicated Lincoln's increasing readiness to take the nation to war on the issue of slavery.
Robert Alter: The Challenges of Translating the Bible
October 8, 2015
Translating the Bible into English require subtelty, expressing compactness, precision, and evocative use of syntax. All this is challenging because the structure of modern English is so different from that of ancient Hebrew. Robert Alter, a professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrated his own struggles with these issues through part of the University's 125 Anniversary celebration. More than 350 first-year students attended as part of the College Core course "Human Being and Citizen."