Spring 2013 Events
Thursday, February 7
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration
Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author, describes one of the great
underreported stories of twentieth-century American history: the "Great Migration"
of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North. Her book, The Warmth of Other Suns, tells the story of three who made the journey, of the forces that compelled them
to leave, and of the many others – famous and not so famous – who went as far as they
could to realize the American Dream.
"Wilkerson has created a brilliant and innovative paradox: the intimate epic. At its
smallest scale, this towering work rests on a trio of unforgettable biographies, lives
as humble as they were heroic," write the judges of the Lynton History Prize from
Harvard and Columbia Universities. "In powerful, lyrical prose that combines the
historian's rigor with the novelist's empathy, Wilkerson's book changes our understanding
of the Great Migration and indeed of the modern United States."
A former correspondent for the New York Times, Ms. Wilkerson was the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize. The Warmth of Other Suns is the product of over 1200 interviews conducted over fifteen years. The book has
won over ten major literary prizes, including the National Book Critics' Circle Award
for Nonfiction, and has been named to over thirty periodicals' lists for "Best Books
of the Year."
Ms. Wilkerson delivers the Belle McWilliams Lecture in American History, made possible
by the Department of History, the Program in African and African-American Studies,
the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change, the Department of English, the
Center for Research on Women, the Department of Journalism, and Facing History and
Ourselves. It will be held at Rose Theater, with a reception at 6:00 p.m. and lecture
at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, February 21
A Life in Books
Lee Smith, one of America's most cherished authors, aims to finally answer the question: "Where
do you get your characters?" In this entertaining and illuminating look at the relationship
between a writer's real life and her fiction, she will discuss how her writing changed
as she moved from youth into middle age and beyond. Like most authors, she started
by writing about the great dramas and traumas of her childhood. She next examined
the turbulent passions, themes, and relationships of her youth and young adulthood.
Then, she had to ask herself: "Now what?" What do you write about when you are happily
married, or something unlikely like that? What if there is no more conflict, the one essential element that distinguishes fiction from all other forms of prose
narrative? What if you keep on writing until you have used up your whole life? And
yet, great characters keep showing up in her fiction. In a series of reflections
and short readings, she will address these questions, trying to show that these weird
and fascinating characters are, in some complicated way, part of all of us.
Ms. Smith has published sixteen books of fiction, including The Last Girls, a 2002 Good Morning America Book Club pick. She is a recipient of the Academy Award in Literature from the American
Academy of Arts and Letters, the North Carolina Award for Literature, the Southern
Book Critics Circle Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the State Library
of Virginia. Her most recent book is a collection of new and selected stories, Mrs. Darcy and the Blue Eyed Stranger.
Her talk is co-sponsored by the River City Writers Series. It will be held at the
University Center Theater, with a reception at 6:00 p.m. and lecture at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 21
From Grunts to Tweets: Communication and Human History
Marshall Poe, Associate Professor of History at the University of Iowa, advances a new theory
of media in his recent book A History of Communications (Cambridge University Press). He explains the origins and impact of different forms
of communication – speech, writing, print, electronic devices, and the Internet –
on human history in the long term. He argues that new types of media are "pulled"
into widespread use by broad historical trends, and, then these media "push" social
institutions and beliefs in predictable directions. This view allows us to see for
the first time what is truly new about the Internet, what is not, and where it is
Dr. Poe is a former writer and editor for The Atlantic Monthly and the author or editor of several books, including A People Born to Slavery: Russia in Early Modern European Ethnography, The Russian Elite in the Seventeenth Century, and The Russian Moment in World History. He has been a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, the Harriman Institute,
and the Kennan Institute. He is best-known, however, as the founder and editor of
the podcast website "New Books in History," which brings interviews with historians
to popular audiences.
His address is the Sesquicentennial Lecture in History. It will be held at the University
Center Theater, with a reception at 6:00 and lecture at 6:30.
Thursday, April 18
Goya and the Guitar
Lily Afshar, Professor of Guitar at the University of Memphis, blends a fascinating analysis
of etchings by Francisco Goya with her own inimitable performance on the classical
guitar. Her first album, The 24 Caprichos de Goya, OP. 195, was originally inspired by a series of Goya's satirical black and white etchings
in the eighteenth century. In order to understand the meaning of each guitar piece,
Afshar extensively studied the pictures along with Goya's life, his political, social,
personal and philosophical beliefs. The result is a musical masterwork. Dr. Afshar
will both explain the artwork and perform selected pieces.
Dr. Afshar's solo, chamber, and concerto appearances, combined with her adventurous
recordings, have earned her the status of "one of the world's foremost classical guitarists,"
according to Public Radio International. The Washington Post has described her onstage performances as "remarkable, impeccable." Perhaps equally
as important is her reputation for expanding the contemporary classical guitar repertoire.
She has won the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Boston Conservatory and the Orville
H. Gibson Award for Best Female Classical Guitarist in Los Angeles. The University
of Memphis has conferred upon her the Distinguished Teaching Award, the Distinguished
Research Award, and the Eminent Faculty Award.
Her performance is co-sponsored by the Women’s Leadership & Philanthropy Council,
the Center for Research on Women, and the Persian Students Association..The event will be held at the University Center Theater, with a reception at 6:00
p.m. and the lecture/recital at 6:30 p.m.
Fall 2012 Events
Thursday, September 13
Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats
Kristen Iversen, Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Memphis, discusses
her blockbuster new book, Full Body Burden. Gorgeously written and impressively researched, the book blends a tragedy of public
health, a backdrop of the Cold War, a grassroots movement for justice, and the author's
own poignant personal story. Part investigative journalism and part memoir, it is
a story of secrets – of not only the government's cover-up of nuclear contamination,
but also her own family's silences.
Full Body Burden is described as "terrifyingly brilliant" (Simon Winchester), "as personal and powerful
as Silkwood" (Rebecca Skloot), and as "a hauntingly beautiful memoir that is a devastating investigation
into the human costs of building and living with the atomic bomb" (Kai Bird).
This event will be at the IMAX Theatre at the Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central Avenue,
with a reception at 6:00 p.m. and lecture at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, September 27
Partisanship and the Presidency
Karlyn Campbell, Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Minnesota, delivers a timely
lecture on presidential politics and the growth of executive power. The President
of the United States possesses a complicated relationship with Congress: he is a domestic
executive, symbolic head of state, and commander in chief. Campbell focuses particularly
on American military engagements. In the last sixty-two years, the United States
military has intervened in Korea, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama,
Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, among other nations. Yet Congress has not passed a
declaration of war since December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor. Presidents,
moreover, have appropriated key ideas from their predecessors, such as applying the
Monroe Doctrine in new contexts. Through such instances, the power of the presidency
has ballooned. As Campbell looks back, she also looks forward, examining how these
issues are influencing the 2012 presidential candidates.
Dr. Campbell is the author or editor of eight books, including Deeds Done in Words: Presidential Rhetoric and the Genres of Governance. She is a winner of the Distinguished Scholar Award by the National Communication Association.
Her address is the keynote lecture for the "On Civic Learning" conference sponsored
by the Department of Communication. This event will be held at the University Center
Theater, with a reception at 6:00 p.m. and lecture at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, October 18
Transforming Scriptures: African American Women Writers and the Bible
Katherine Bassard, Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University, speaks about her latest
book, the first sustained treatment of how African American women writers have engaged
with the Bible. She examines not only how the Bible initially inscribed black women
as "cursed" victims, but also how African American women writers have recast the Bible
into an instrument of "blessing." Bassard analyzes poetry, novels, speeches, sermons,
and prayers, discussing how such texts respond as a collective "literary witness"
to the use of the Bible for purposes of social domination. She reads the lives of
the writers, too, from Maria Stewart and Harriet Jacobs to Zora Neale Hurston and
Toni Morrison. Their historic encounters with the Bible were, indeed, transformational;
while "turning cursing into blessing," they were shaped and reshaped by the scriptures.
Dr. Bassard's latest book, Transforming Scriptures: African American Women Writers and the Bible, was published by the University of Georgia Press in 2010. "The book is illuminating,
daring and, perhaps most important, suggests new areas of meaningful transdisciplinary
research," writes the scholar Vincent Wimbush.
Her address is the Naseeb Shaheen Lecture, an annual event sponsored by the Department
of English. The Program in African and African-American Studies and the Center for
Research on Women are co-sponsoring this lecture. It will be held at the University
Center Theater, with a reception at 6:00 p.m. and lecture at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, November 1
Brown Sugar Melts: African American Women at the Turn of the Millennium
Deborah Gray White, Board of Governors Professor of History and Women's Studies at Rutgers University,
trains her historical eye on the recent past, asking the question, "What do black
women want?" The decade of the 1990s witnessed some fascinating public demonstrations:
the Million Man and Woman Marches, the LBGT marches, the Promise Keeper gatherings,
and the Million Mom March. These events offer an extraordinary lens into the opinions
and feelings of ordinary black women. "Brown Sugar Melts" explores their ideas about
marriage, family, gun control, and men. Looking at their ideals of nationhood in
the context of the black and white America, it gives voice to their anxieties and
their senses of belonging.
Dr. White is the author or editor of books that include Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894-1994; Ar'n't I A Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South; Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower; and Let My People Go: African Americans, 1804-1860.
Her address is the keynote lecture of the 14th annual conference sponsored by the
Graduate Association of African American History. It is also part of a weeklong celebration
of events, both at the University of Memphis and at Rhodes College, in honor of the
150th birthday of Ida B. Wells. It will be held at the University Center Theater,
with a reception at 6:00 p.m. and lecture at 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, November 14
Sex and World Peace
Valerie Hudson, the George H.W. Bush Chair at The Bush School of Government and Public Service at
Texas A&M University, reveals some groundbreaking conclusions about gender and international
security. With three colleagues, she created the largest database on the status of
women in the world today. Their subsequent book, Sex and World Peace, reveals an ironclad link between the well-being of a state and its women. In fact,
the very best predictor of a state's peacefulness is not its level of wealth, its
level of democracy, or its ethno-religious identity; the best predictor of state security
is its treatment of women.
Dr. Hudson co-edited the book Sex and World Peace, which was published in 2012 by Columbia University Press. She is the author or
editor of several other books, including, with Andrea Den Boer, the award-winning
Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population. She was named one of Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2009 by Foreign Policy.
Her address is sponsored by the Department of Political Science and the Program in
International Studies. The Center for Research on Women is providing additional support.
It will be held at the University Center Theater, with a reception at 6:00 p.m. and
lecture at 6:30 p.m.
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