Saturday, October 06, 2018 9:30 am - 1:15 pm
Caroline Winterer / Stanford University
Benjamin Franklin was truly a genius, recognized as such at home and abroad, in his own time and still today. George Washington referred to him as “that great philosopher.” Thomas Jefferson called him “the greatest man of the age and country in which he lived.” John Adams said of him, “Franklin had a great genius, original, and inventive, capable of discoveries in science no less than of improvements in the fine arts and the mechanical arts”. The lightning rod was the most spectacular. After that invention, the world began to look upon natural phenomena in a different light, recognizing man’s ability to understand and control them through science and invention. But for Franklin it was only one of many. Another of his original creations, bifocal eyeglasses, was very simple and came to him without any previous experimentation. One contemporary claimed Franklin invented them so he could watch the girls across the room while still keeping his eyes on the one next to him. A third original invention of Franklin’s is daylight saving time, which gives extra hours of daylight to enjoy in the evening.
A stickler for economy, Franklin’s dictum “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” urged his fellow countrymen to work during daylight and sleep after dark, saving money on candles. He calculated that if all the families of Paris who caroused until late at night and then slept until noon would arise with the sun six hours earlier, 64 million pounds of candle wax would be saved in six months’ time. In fact, both Mozart and Beethoven wrote music for an instrument invented by Franklin, the glass armonica. In Europe, Franklin’s fame for the armonica rivaled the reputation he had achieved for his electrical experiments and lightning rod. Franklin never patented any of his inventions, saying, “I never made, nor proposed to make, the least profit by any of them.” It was a matter of principle with him that, as he had benefited from past inventions and discoveries, present and future generations should be able to benefit freely from his inventions. Among his other inventions were an improved printing press, a flexible catheter, an extension arm for grasping items beyond one’s reach, his famous stove and room heater, a modified odometer, a three-wheel clock that displayed seconds, minutes and hours, an improved oil lamp, flippers to aid swimming, and even a sea anchor.
Caroline Winterer is William Robertson Coe Professor of History at Stanford University. Her latest book is, “American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason.” She is a recipient of an American Ingenuity Award from the Smithsonian Institution for mapping the social network of Benjamin Franklin, and is also a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.
Marc Lapadula / Yale University
Great film directors all have one thing in common — lofty artistic ambitions. They choose to take on the toughest issues and most provocative themes of their day hoping to eloquently bring them to life on screen. They regard the movie screen the same way great artists gaze upon their canvases. Every inch of the frame offers a crucial opportunity to leave audiences spellbound by their handiwork. The most challenging directors disguise their bold artistic intentions behind the mask of easily accessible genre forms, oftentimes burying something quite profound beneath a story’s glossy surface. This sort of “subtext” and the prospect of unraveling a hidden, encoded message in a film is what drives some movie lovers (and Yale film professors) to attempt to decipher what is really going on beneath the scenes playing out before our eyes. There is always something much more mesmerizing to be uncovered in a great film once it’s been brought out into the light. This presentation will illustrate some remarkable examples of cinematic mastery through technical innovation and complex thematic construction. The films selected for this presentation accomplish their missions by eliciting some of the most memorable (and timeless) moments and performances ever captured on celluloid.
Film Clips Include:
CASABLANCA (Michael Curtiz), CITIZEN KANE (Orson Welles), PSYCHO (Alfred Hitchcock), THE GODFATHER & THE GODFATHER: Part II (Francis Ford Coppola)
Marc Lapadula is a Senior Lecturer in the Film Studies Program at Yale University. He is a playwright, screenwriter and an award-winning film producer. In addition to Yale, Marc has taught at Columbia University’s Graduate Film School, created the screenwriting programs at both The University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins where he won Outstanding Teaching awards and has lectured on film, playwriting and conducted highly-acclaimed screenwriting seminars all across the country at notable venues like The National Press Club, The Smithsonian Institution, The Commonwealth Club and The New York Historical Society.
Edward O'Donnell / Holy Cross College
In the relatively short history of the United States, there have been many turning points and landmark movements that irrevocably altered the direction of the nation and signaled the dramatic start of a new historical reality. Some took the form of groundbreaking political and philosophical concepts; some were dramatic military victories and defeats. Still others were nationwide social and religious movements or technological and scientific innovations.
What all of these turning points had in common, is that they forever changed the character of America. Sometimes the changes brought about by these events were obvious; sometimes they were more subtle. Sometimes the effects of these turning points were immediate; other times, their aftershocks reverberated for decades. Certainly, no turning point was more influential and reflective of a changing America than the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1919 – often referred to as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. Sometimes the effects of these turning points were immediate; other times, their aftershocks reverberated for decades.
The first and most crucial turning point for the newly independent United States was the presidency of George Washington. His leadership unified the country and set the model for democratic executive leadership in the modern world. The Civil War posed the most profound threat to Washington’s vision, and it is the second great turning point in American history. The Union victory in the Civil War gave way to decades of uncertainty and corruption. The Progressive reforms in American domestic and foreign policy during the early twentieth century transformed the United States into a modern world power — our third turning point. The Great Depression, the Second World War, and the early Cold War — the great mid-twentieth century crises — were a fourth turning point, as profound as the Civil War in many ways. The lecture will close with reflections on 9/11/01 and the subsequent “War on Terror” as a fifth turning point in American history that conditions our current economy, society, and troublesome presidential election. Each of these historical turning points has important lessons to teach us about our future as a nation, and the precarious continuity of the American Dream.
Edward O’Donnell is a professor of History at College of the Holy Cross. He is the author of several books, including Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality: Progress and Poverty in the Gilded Age. He frequently contributes op-eds to publications like Newsweek and The Huffington Post. He has been featured on PBS, the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and C-SPAN. O’Donnell also has curated several major museum exhibits on American history and appeared in several historical documentaries. He currently hosts a history podcast, “In the Past Lane.”