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Lowell Humanities Series Begins Fall Schedule Next Wednesday

James Wood is among this semester’s speakers in the Lowell Humanities Series. (Photo courtesy of James Wood)

By Rosanne Pellegrini | Chronicle Staff

Published: Sep. 19, 2013

The popular Lowell Humanities Series — a storied Boston College tradition and its most prominent forum for intellectual, artistic and literary discourse — begins its 56th year next week. Under the leadership of Professor of English and American Studies Program Director Carlo Rotella, the series once again has a stellar line-up of distinguished speakers.

Sept. 25: James Wood, “Why? Fiction and the Biggest Question”—A New Yorker staff writer and book critic, Wood was the chief literary critic at the Guardian in London and a senior editor at The New Republic. His critical essays are collected in two volumes, The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief and The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He also is the author of a novel, The Book Against God, and a study of technique in the novel, How Fiction Works. He is a professor of the practice of literary criticism at Harvard University.

Oct. 9: Paul Tough, “How Children Succeed”—Tough is the author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, which followed Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America. As a New York Times Magazine contributing writer, he has published extensively about education, parenting, poverty and politics. His writing also has appeared in the New Yorker, Slate, GQ, Esquire and other prominent publications. He was an editor at New York Times and Harper’s magazines, a reporter and producer for the public radio program “This American Life,” and founding editor of the online magazine Open Letters. [Presented with the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics.]

Oct. 24: Bill McKibben: “350: The Most Important Number in the World”—One of America's best known environmentalists, McKibben founded, the first big global grassroots climate change initiative. A bestselling author, over the last quarter-century he has written books that have shaped public perception — and action — on climate change, alternative energy and the need for more localized economies. His books include The End of Nature, regarded as the first volume on climate change for a general audience, and Deep Economy, a bold challenge to move beyond growth as the economic ideal and pursue prosperity in a more local direction — an idea that is the cornerstone of much sustainability discourse today. [Presented with the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics.]

Oct. 30: Heather Nathans, “Seeing Ourselves Through Others’ Eyes: Struggling with Stereotypes on the Nineteenth-Century American Stage”—A Tufts University professor and chair of its Department of Drama and Dance, Nathans is editor of the University of Iowa Press’s award-winning series, “Studies in Theatre History and Culture” and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of American Drama. Her publications include Early American Theatre from the Revolution to Thomas Jefferson; Slavery and Sentiment on the American Stage, 1787-1861; Shakespearean Educations: Power, Citizenship, and Performance, and the forthcoming Hideous Characters and Beautiful Pagans: Performing Jewish Identity on the Antebellum American Stage. She has held more than 25 prestigious research fellowships, authored numerous journal articles, book chapters and book reviews, and is president of the American Society for Theatre Research.

Nov. 6: Paul Elie, “Technician of the Sacred: J.S. Bach”—A senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Elie received the PEN/Martha Albrand Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle award finalist in 2003 for his first book, The Life You Save May Be Your Own. In his second book, Reinventing Bach, he tells the electrifying story of how musicians of genius have made Bach’s music new in our time, at once restoring Bach as a universally revered composer and revolutionizing the ways that music figures in our lives.

Lowell Humanities Series events are free and open to the public. Complete series details — including event times and locations, and spring semester speakers — can be found at The series is sponsored by the Lowell Institute, BC's Institute for the Liberal Arts and the Office of the Provost.