Saturday, April 14, 2018 9:30 am - 1:15 pm
Austin Sarat / Amherst College
As is well known, America's founding political commitments were to democracy and the rule of law. Some have described them as the soul and spirit of our nation. And over the generations citizens have given their lives to preserve those commitments. But it turns out that their meanings are contested and open to interpretation. This lecture will discuss those contested meanings as they have played out in American history. We will, in addition, assess the health of democracy and the rule of law in the United States. We will consider challenges posed by the Watergate scandal, life in an age of terrorism, and the relationship between the Executive and Judicial branches of our national government.
Today some believe that the rule of law and democracy are under attack by President Trump and his administration. But, could it be this is be a symptom rather than a cause of what some see as our current crisis? Does America face an erosion of public faith in long taken-for-granted aspects of our political life? As we answer those questions we will discuss the meaning and advantages of the rule of law and democratic governance.
Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts. He has written, co-written, or edited more than ninety books in the fields of law and political science. Professor Sarat has received the Stan Wheeler Award for his excellence as a teacher and mentor, awarded by the Law and Society Association.
Louis Masur / Rutgers University
Abraham Lincoln is considered our greatest President and one of the most controversial. People have debated various aspects of his personality and politics. Was he depressed? Why did he tell so many stories? Was he truly opposed to slavery? Did he free the slaves? Did the Union prevail because of his leadership or despite him? This class aims to uncover the man and not the myth. In 1922, the historian W.E.B. DuBois proclaimed that Lincoln was “big enough to be inconsistent.” To be sure, there were tensions in Lincoln’s character and ideology: he could be happy and melancholy, could promote democracy and suspend civil liberties, could oppose slavery yet have doubts about the place of blacks in American society.
Some of what DuBois saw as inconsistency had more to do with political reality, especially in regard to the issue of the abolition of slavery. Lincoln had to contend with various pressures knowing that any misstep could very well lead to the destruction of the Union. Here is where his temperament becomes so important. As we shall see, Lincoln’s storytelling had a purpose, as did his gradual approach to decision making. But once he made up his mind, he seldom looked back. In the end, it is not that he was inconsistent, but that he was thoughtful and deliberate and was not afraid to change his mind and grow in the process.
Louis Masur is a Distinguished Professor of American Studies and History at Rutgers University. He received outstanding teaching awards from Rutgers, Trinity College, and the City College of New York, and won the Clive Prize for Excellence in Teaching from Harvard University. He is the author of many books including “Lincoln’s Last Speech,” which was inspired by a talk he presented at One Day University. His essays and articles have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and Slate. He is an elected member of the American Antiquarian Society and serves on the Historians’ Council of the Gettysburg Foundation.
Tina Rivers Ryan / Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo), Formerly Columbia University
A leader of the High Renaissance of the early sixteenth century, Michelangelo Buonarroti was legendary even in his own time for his inventiveness as an artist: Giorgio Vasari, the godfather of art history, wrote that he had been endowed by God with "universal ability in every art and every profession…to the end that the world might choose him and admire him as its highest exemplar in the life, works, saintliness of character, and every action of human creatures, and that he might be acclaimed by us as a being rather divine than human."
In this talk, we will trace the arc of Michelangelo's storied life, from his upbringing by the powerful Medici family, to his glory days as architect and artist to the Popes, and his spiritual re-awakening late in life. Along the way, we will look closely at his paintings and sculptures, including the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the Last Judgment, the Pietà, and the David, in order to understand the importance of his unique artistic vision. Through his works, we will come to better understand the man behind the legend–a passionate artist and competitive rival to the likes of Raphael and Bramante–whose outstanding achievements and temperament gave rise to the modern notion of the artistic "genius.”
An art historian by training, Dr. Tina Rivers Ryan is currently Assistant Curator of contemporary art at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. She holds a BA from Harvard, three Master’s Degrees, and a PhD from Columbia, and has taught classes on art at institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, the Pratt Institute, and Columbia, where she was one of the top-ranked instructors of the introduction to art history, “Art Humanities: Masterpieces of Western Art.” A regular critic for Artforum, her writing has also appeared in periodicals such as Art in America and Art Journal, and in catalogs published by museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Walker Art Center. As a public speaker and scholar, Dr. Ryan has delivered lectures on topics ranging from Michelangelo to Warhol in more than 50 cities internationally.