Saturday, February 23, 2019 9:30 am - 1:15 pm
Seth Lerer / University of California at San Diego
Literature has always shaped societies, built cultures, and helped readers grow. This course explores four great novels that have helped to change our modern, western world – the world of personal feeling, social experience, family belonging, and moral imagination. Charles Dickens's Great Expectations stands as the defining novel of the individual in society, struggling to become a person and a writer in the heart of a new empire. George Orwell's 1984 remains the classic of dystopia – a satire on a totalitarian past, but also a lesson for a democratic future. Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man makes us all aware of how race and region bear on our culture, while Viet Nguyen's brilliant new book, The Sympathizer, reveals just how much our world has changed, now, in response to different communities in contact and in conflict.
All of these books are stories not just of politics and people, but of writers. All of these books show the power of the literary imagination to make and remake our world. They dramatize how our modern ideas of the hero have adapted to new pressures. They make us laugh, cry, ponder, and pause. They teach that the art of reading is essential to negotiating unfamiliar landscapes in our cities and our classrooms. These books have changed, and will continue to change, the ways we think and feel. Whatever happens, books will survive. These are four of them that will live on, both to instruct and to delight us in the future.
Seth Lerer is Distinguished Professor of Literature and former Dean of Arts and Humanities at the University of California at San Diego. He has published widely on literature and language, most recently on Children’s Literature, Jewish culture, and the life of the theater. He has been awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Truman Capote Prize in Criticism. His book, “Tradition: A Feeling for the Literary Past,” appeared in 2016, and his most recent book, “Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage,” was published in 2018.
Jennifer Keene / Chapman University
Most Americans possess only a hazy understanding of World War I or its significance for the United States. So why not leave it there? Why bother with this history lesson? How the nation responded to the challenge of fighting its first modern war re-made America, leading to female suffrage, the modern civil rights movement, the drive to protect civil liberties, new conceptions of military service, and an expanded role for the United States in the world.
There are striking parallels between the problems Americans faced a hundred years ago in 1917-18 and the challenges we face now. How do we balance protecting national security with civil liberties? Is it appropriate for Americans to continue to debate a war once the fighting has begun? Are immigrants importing terrorism? Do Americans have a responsibility to participate in global humanitarianism? Can soldiers ever convey to those at home the reality of what they’ve encountered on the battlefield? Can they ever leave the war behind? Americans grappled with these issues in World War I, and these are once again relevant questions for a society at war.
Jennifer Keene is a professor of history and dean of the Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Chapman University. She has published several books and numerous articles on the American experience in the world wars, including “Doughboys, the Great War and the Remaking of America”, “World War I: The American Soldier Experience”, and “World War II: Core Documents”. She has received numerous awards for her scholarship, including Fulbright Senior Scholar Awards to France and Australia and Mellon Library of Congress Fellowship in International Studies. She has served as a historical consultant for exhibits and films, and was recently featured in the PBS documentary mini-series, “The Great War”.
David Helfand / Columbia University
For few issues is the public debate conducted with so much misinformation and irrational exuberance. So now for something completely different: a dispassionate analysis of what we actually know and what we don’t yet know about climate change. In this class, Professor David Helfand carefully distinguishes facts from fiction, and physics certainties from feedback uncertainties.
Every planet’s temperature is controlled by a simple balance between the energy it receives and the energy it radiates back into space. We will examine each of the main factors affecting this balance. He will begin by exploring the astronomical phenomena that have driven climate change in the past: solar variability, changes in the Earth’s orbit and other factors over which we have absolutely no control. He will then go on to show how the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere has changed in the past and is changing today using measurements of prehistoric climate derived from tree rings and ice cores. Examining the current energy balance and what we can expect over the next few decades, we will conclude by exploding a few myths and providing a rational basis for decisions about our future.
David Helfand has been a Professor of Astronomy at Columbia University for 42 years where he served as chair of the Department for nearly half that time. He is also the former President of the American Astronomical Society and of Quest University Canada, and currently serves as Chair of the American Institute of Physics. He has received the Columbia Presidential Teaching Award and the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates. He is the author of the new book, “A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age.”