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Bluhm Lectures AY 16-17

heinz bluhm memorial lecture series



"What the Best College Students Do: Reading, Writing, Creating. A Personal Account"

Thursday, October 27, 2016
5:30 p.m., Higgins Hall, Room 300

Video of the lecture from October 27, 2016

Co-sponsored by the Institute for Liberal Arts, the Office of the Associate Dean for the Core, and the Dept. of Romance Languages and Literatures.

Nationally renowned urban planner, museum exhibition designer, and author, Sherry Kafka Wagner is perhaps most known as one of the co-creators of the much-beloved "River Walk" system in San Antonio, Texas (among her many commissions, she also designed the Tip O'Neill Exhibition in BC's O'Neill Library). The story of her life was featured in the acclaimed Harvard University Press book by Ken Bain, What the Best College Students Do (2012), which opens with this description of her childhood beginnings: "Sherry Kafka came from a small town in the Arkansas Ozarks. Her little community in the backwoods of that largely rural state had none of the artistic trappings that would later define her life and make her one of the most celebrated designers and planners in the country.... Her family didn't have much money, and they moved around a lot trying to make ends meet. She went to 16 schools in 12 years."

Ms. Wagner's professional success has in large part been due to her singular ability to "think outside the box." In her lecture she will analyze the development of the creative powers of the human mind, beginning with a description of the roots of her own creativity in the kind of curriculum and extra-curricular activities she pursued as an undergraduate. Prominent among these are the study of literature and language. "For me," Ms. Wagner writes, "books and literature led the way. I would like to explore three main pillars of my experience: reading and listening, the receiving modes of language; writing and speaking, the sending modes; and, finally and most important, creating. This last point, exploring the creative process would receive the most emphasis, with investigation of both individual creativity and collaborative creativity. In my life, literature and language have been the dominant foundation for my experience and understanding of the creative process - but not the only one. As E. O. Wilson has written, 'Science and the humanities, it is true, are fundamentally different from each other in what they say and do, but they are complementary to each other in origin and they arise from the same creative processes in the human brain (emphasis added)'."

Ms. Wagner's lecture is, in effect, meant to be not only a deeply felt defense of the humanities as integral to the undergraduate experience but also very practical advice (to especially young people) about maximizing one's own creative potential (in any field) through the study of literature and language.

Ms. Wagner will be introduced by Dr. Jean F. MacCormack, Chancellor Emerita of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and currently President of the Edward Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate in Boston.



"Momentary Presence and Manuscript Permanence in Digital Space"

Thursday, November 17, 2017
5:30 p.m., Higgins Hall, Room 300

This lecture will discuss the manuscript as a vessel that carries the memorialized presences of people from the past into the present. From medieval "Books of Life" to nineteenth-century autograph books, often the only vestiges of a person’s existence are the names recorded on pages that have withstood the passage of time. Prof. Treharne will discuss multiple examples of this phenomenon of human endurance, both within the physical book and as demonstrated through the medium of the digital. How can the digital realm be best deployed to represent the permanent record of those who made even the most fleeting of efforts to be remembered?

Elaine Treharne is Roberta Bowman Denning Professor of Humanities at Stanford University. She is the author of Living Through Conquest: The Politics of Early English, 1020 to 1220 and A Very Short Introduction to Medieval Literature and editor of Old and Middle English: An Anthology (now moving into its fourth edition), among numerous other publications in the areas of medieval studies, manuscript studies, and English literature. Current writing projects include The Phenomenal Book, 500-1200; The Aesthetic Book: Arts and Crafts to Modernism; and Invisible Things (on medieval materiality and culture). Professor Treharne is currently the Principal Investigator of the NEH-funded portion of an inter-institutional grant, "Global Currents: Cultures of Literary Networks, 1050-1900". She is also the Director of Stanford Text Technologies. Formerly, she was Principal Investigator of the AHRC-funded research project and co-authored ebook, The Production and Use of English Manuscripts, 1060 to 1220 (University of Leicester, 2010). Professor Treharne is also a keen advocate and critic of the use of digital technologies in the classroom and in research. With colleagues at Stanford and at Cambridge, she has launched an exciting new online course, ‘Digging Deeper,’ currently featuring two parts: ‘Making Manuscripts’ and ‘Interpreting Manuscripts,’ and a third planned part, ‘Reading Manuscripts.’

Alexei Bayer


"Post-Soviet Crime Fiction: A Genre in Search of Identity"

Wednesday, March 29, 2017, 5:30 pm.
Stokes Hall South 209

Video of the lecture from March 29, 2017

Alexei Bayer is a Russian-born business economist, fiction writer, and translator based in New York. Having come to the United States at the age of 19 in 1975, he received his B.A. from Columbia University and a Master's in International Economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He has worked as an economist and economic consultant, writing for a variety of newspapers and journals on Russian economics, politics, and political economy. He has been writing fiction since the early 1990s. His short stories have appeared in the Kenyon Review, New England Review, Salamander and other US literary journals. A collection of his short stories, Eurotrash, was published in Moscow in 2004, in a Russian translation by writer Andrei Gelasimov. He is the author of a series of detective novels set in Moscow in the early 1960s: Murder at the Dacha (2013), Latchkey Murders (2015) and Murder and the Muse (2016). The fourth in the series is currently in progress. Bayer has also translated from Russian a number of works of poetry and prose, both by modern authors and classics, most of them published by Readings/Chteniya, a journal of Russian literature in English.

Mr. Bayer's lecture will discuss the development of the crime novel into a literary genre in the post-Soviet era, focusing on a small number of Russian works that has influenced his own writing. During the Soviet Union period, crime fiction had to toe the official line, since communist society was supposed to be crime-free and "thugs" had to be either outliers or foreign spies. "Noir" was not a possibility. Following the end of censorship, imitations of Western examples flooded the market—gorier, more extravagant and darker than their Western prototypes in order to compete with news items in the Russian media during the "Wild East" days of early, lawless Russian capitalist society. But a series of new, very Russian, and very post-modern novels have also emerged, breathing new life into the genre and attracting millions of readers tired of the older type of ponderous literature. Playing with the Russian concept of “high” literature, which was formed in the 19th century to encompass the works of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov and other “classics”, these authors adapt this "high" literary genre of tradition to the “low” genre of the new crime fiction. At the same time, they often piggyback didactic, social reformist ideas in the manner of Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky onto a satisfying whodunit yarn.