Selected Book Highlights
The following books were on display in the original exhibit. The books highlighted in the exhibit were selected in order to give a glimpse of the astonishing array of creative individuals who over the years have made the Humanities Series a consistently stimulating event.
Clicking on a lecturer's name will provide more information about that person from Literature Online. Clicking on a book title will bring you to Quest Library Catalog.
Seán O'Faoláin (1900-1991)
Irish short story writer and novelist.
Dates of Humanities Series Lectures: 25 February 1960; 29 November 1962; 17 February 1965; 3 March 1965; 10 March 1965; 25 March. 1965; 13 October 1966; 6 December 1966.
O'Faoláin, Seán. The Heat of the Sun; Stories and Tales. Boston: Little, Brown, 1966.
O'Faoláin, Seán. Vive moi! Boston, Little, Brown, 1964.
During the 1960s, Seán O'Faoláin spoke at Boston College eight times as the Humanities Series lecturer, making him one of the most frequent speakers in the series. O'Faoláin, the pen name of John Whelan, was born in Cork city. He attended University College Cork, and after earning an MA in English literature at Harvard University he returned to Ireland in 1933 to devote his life to writing. While a fine novelist, O'Faoláin’s main achievements were in the short story form. He wrote “As I see it a Short Story, if it is a good story, is like a child’s kite, a small wonder, a brief bright moment. It has its limitations; there are things it can do and cannot do but, if it is good, it moves in the same element as the largest work of art – up there, airborne.” The Heat of the Sun is the second volume of a collection of his short stories.
Karl Rahner, S. J. (1904–84)
Date of Humanities Series Lecture: 29 October 1967.
Rahner, Karl. Spirit in the World. Translated by William Dych, S.J. New York: Continuum, 1994.
Karl Rahner (1904–84), one of the foremost theologians of the 20th century, was born in Freiburg im Breisgau and entered the North German province of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in 1922. Ordained a priest in 1932, he studied at the University of Freiburg where he attended classes given by Martin Heidegger. Rahner’s doctoral dissertation, a new interpretation of the thought of Aquinas, was rejected at Freiburg but accepted at the University of Innsbruck and published in 1939 as Geist in Welt (Spirit in the World). He was a peritus (official theologian) at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), and in 1969 he was one of 30 theologians appointed by Pope Paul VI to evaluate theological developments since the Council. According to Thomas Sheehan, “Rahner's Copernican revolution in theology consists precisely in this turn toward the human. Dogmatic theology, he says, must be reformulated as theological anthropology. Thus Rahner carries out Feuerbach's program of transforming theology into anthropology—but without reducing God to man, because to turn toward man is to discover the place where mystery is inscribed in the world.” (New York Review of Books, February 4, 1982).
Adrienne Rich (1929- )
American poet, feminist, teacher, and writer.
Dates of Humanities Series Lectures: 27 February 1975; 30 March 1978.
Rich, Adrienne. Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972. New York, London: W.W. Norton, 1973.
Sickels, Amy. Adrienne Rich. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2005.
According to Deborah Pope, “There is no writer of comparable influence and achievement in so many areas of the contemporary women's movement as the poet and theorist Adrienne Rich. Over the years, hers has become one of the most eloquent, provocative voices on the politics of sexuality, race, language, power, and women's culture” (The Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States, 1995). Rich began as a poet using more traditional forms whose first work, A Change of World was selected by W.H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets Award. Deeply influenced by the social and political currents of the 1960s, her later poetry became much more emotionally engaged with the issues of her time. The poet and critic Richard Howard in his review of Diving into the Wreck in Harper's (December 1973) wrote, “She is not a reporter, for all her concentration upon the truth. The poet is telling of something now standing before her eyes of which her heart is full.” Diving into the Wreck won the National Book Award in 1974.
Susan Sontag (1933-2004)
American essayist, short story writer, novelist, playwright, film director, scriptwriter.
Dates of Humanities Series Lectures: 2 October 1975; 21 April and 1 December 1977; 29 March 1979; 17 April 1980, 9 April 1981; 10 March 1983; 2 November 1988.
Conversations with Susan Sontag. Edited by Leland Poague. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1995.
Veruschka, and Holger Trülzsch. 'Veruschka': Trans-figurations. Introduction by Susan Sontag. Boston: Little, Brown, 1986.
Appearing in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, Art in America, Antaeus, Parnassus, The Nation, Granta, and many other magazines, Susan Sontag’s essays are sharp observations about a wide range of topics including photography, AIDS, radical politics, and aesthetics. Born in New York City, Sontag received her B.A. from the College of the University of Chicago and did graduate work in philosophy, literature, and theology at Harvard and Oxford. Next to the display copy of Conversations with Susan Sontag is a book of photographs of Veruschka, a German supermodel, actress, and artist who worked with famous photographers in photo shoots of her wearing nothing but body paint. In her introduction to the book, Sontag wrote “[These pictures] are a celebration of one person, as much as they are a record of (the staging of) that person’s disappearance”.
Stephen Spender (1909-1995)
British poet, novelist, and essayist.
Dates of Humanities Series Lectures: 1 February 1959; 12 March 1964; 24 March 1966; 29 February 1968; 24 September 1974; 10 April 1978; 8 November 1979; 21 April 1983.
Spender, Stephen. Letters to Christopher : Stephen Spender's Letters to Christopher Isherwood, 1929-1939 : with "The Line of the Branch"--Two Thirties Journals. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1980.
Stephen Spender was considered a member of the Oxford Poets (or the Thirties Generation) who came into prominence in the 1930s and included W.H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, C. Day Lewis, and Louis MacNeice. He printed his and Auden’s first books of poems in 1928 on his own hand press. His poetry was often inspired by social protest. Letters to Christopher is one of several books appearing in the 1980s which documented his past. In his New York Times Book Review (February 1, 1981) article on Spender's published letters and journals, Samuel Hynes offered the opinion that "the person who emerges from these letters is neither a madman nor a fool, but an honest, intelligent, troubled young man, groping toward maturity in a troubled time. And the author of the journals is something more; he is a writer of sensitivity and power." The cover portrait in this handsome edition of Letters to Christopher is by Wyndham Lewis, a Canadian-born British painter and author.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922-2007)
American novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright.
Date of Humanities Series Lecture: 9 October 1969.
Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. Edited and with an Introduction by Harold Bloom. Modern Critical Interpretations. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2001.
While attending Cornell University during World War II, Kurt Vonnegut was drafted into the military. He was captured by the Germans and put to work in an underground meat locker of a slaughterhouse in Dresden when that city was devastatingly fire-bombed by U.S. and British aircraft. The photo on the cover of the displayed book shows the extent of the destruction. Vonnegut’s Dresden experience provided the material for Slaughterhouse Five, published in 1969 (the year of his visit to the Heights) and considered by some to be his best work. His writing style contained elements of realism, science fiction, fantasy, and satire. After his death, Dinitia Smith wrote “His books were a mixture of fiction and autobiography in a vernacular voice, prone to one-sentence paragraphs, exclamation points and italics. . . . Some critics said he had invented a new literary type, infusing the science-fiction form with humor and moral relevance and elevating it to serious literature” (New York Times, April 12, 2007).
Derek Walcott (1930- )
West Indian poet and playwright.
Date of Humanities Series Lecture: 1 October 1981.
Walcott, Derek. Omeros. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1990.
Walcott, Derek. Conversations with Derek Walcott. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996.
Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott was born on the West Indies island of St. Lucia. The first language of the island is Creole, but the English they learned at school became the sonorous medium of his poetry and plays. Omeros (the Greek name for Homer), arguably his best work, was published in 1990, two years before he won the Nobel for literature. One critic compared the worknot with one of Homer’s poems, but with “Ovid's Metamorphoses, with its panoply of characters, its seamless episodic structure, and its panoramic treatment of a mythic world both actual and legendary” (Michael Heyward, Washington Post Book World, November 11, 1990). Considered by many to be the major poet of the Caribbean, he was deeply concerned with the conflict between European and West Indian cultures. Both his plays and poetry display his mastery of Creole vocabulary and calypso rhythms, and they are filled with rich evocations of Caribbean and European landscapes. The watercolor on the book jacket is by Walcott.
Frederick Wiseman (1930- )
Film and television documentarian.
Date of Humanities Series Lecture: 16 October 1983.
Benson, Thomas W. and Carolyn Anderson. Reality Fictions: The Films of Frederick Wiseman by Thomas W. Benson and Carolyn Anderson. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989.
The works of Frederick Wiseman are in the “direct cinema” school of documentary filmmaking characterized by direct observation of conversations and everyday activities in particular settings, and by lack of narration, interviews, or music. In the past forty years, Wiseman has made nearly a film a year, examining a variety of American social institutions and their impact upon individuals and groups. His first and still most controversial film, Titicut Follies, is a detailed look at life in a prison for the criminally insane in Bridgewater, Massachusetts; it caused an uproar and demands for institutional reform. A court order forbade public viewings of the documentary until 1993 because it was deemed to be a violation of inmates’ privacy. The book displayed here, Reality Fictions: The Films of Frederick Wiseman by Thomas W. Benson and Carolyn Anderson, is opened to a page with an outline of scenes in Titicut Follies. To the left of this annotation are stills from the film. Other films include High School, Basic Training, and The Store (the Neiman-Marcus department store in Dallas, Texas).
Azar Nafisi (1950- )
Iranian academic and writer residing in the U.S.
Date of Humanities Series Lecture: 31 March 2004.
Nafisi, Azar. Reading Lolita in Teheran: A Memoir in Books. New York: Random House, 2003.
The New York Times reviewer Michiko Kikutani described Reading Lolita in Teheran as “an eloquent brief on the transformative powers of fiction -- on the refuge from ideology that art can offer to those living under tyranny, and art's affirmative and subversive faith in the voice of the individual” (New York Times, April 15, 2003). Nafisi was born in Iran but educated in England and the U.S. When she returned to Iran, she returned to a country that had transformed itself into a conservative Islamic Republic. Hired to teach literature at the University of Teheran, she was fired because she refused to wear the veil. In a Newsweek interview, she admitted that “The Islamic Republic took away everything I'd taken for granted. It made me appreciate the feel of the wind on my skin. How lovely the sun feels on your hair. How free you feel when you can lick ice cream in the streets. And a lot of my women students, when they went abroad and came back, said the same thing” (May 5, 2003). She now teaches at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of The Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C.
Stanley Hauerwas (1940- )
Date of Humanities Series Lecture: 2 February 2006.
Hauerwas, Stanley. With the Grain of the Universe: The Church’s Witness and Natural Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2001.
Stanley Hauerwas is the Gilbert T. Rowe professor of Theological Ethics at Duke University. Time described him as “America’s best theologian” (September 17, 2001). A reviewer of a collection of Hauerwas’s works wrote that “of all the great theologians, he seems to be having the most fun” (Stewart H. Webb, Reviews in Religion and Theology, February 2003). He earned his Ph.D. from Yale University and the D.D. from the University of Edinburgh. After 14 years on the faculty of the University of Notre Dame (1970-1984), he joined the faculty of Duke University in 1984. As a scholar and theologian, he focused on the need for one’s faith to be a lived reality. The book on display in the original exhibit was the published version of his Gifford Lectures which he delivered in 2001. The prestigious Gifford Lectureships were established in 1888 to “promote and diffuse the study of Natural Theology in the widest sense of the term—in other words, the knowledge of God”.