All lectures are open to the public free of charge; no tickets are required. Programs begin at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium in George Washington Hall. For further information, contact the Office of University Events and Conferencing Events Information line, at (540) 654-1065.
[Please note that the summary schedule is followed by a more detailed one describing the lectures and the speakers. Clicking on any item in the summary schedule will take you to a description of that lecture.]
|Thursday,January 16||John Wilkes Booth||David O. Stewart|
|Tuesday,January 28||Jim Henson||Brian Jay Jones|
|Tuesday,February 4||Martin Luther King, Jr.||David Garrow|
|Thursday,February 6||Bob Dylan||Sean Wilentz|
|Tuesday,February 11||The Hatfields and McCoys||Dean King|
|Thursday,February 20||Jim Thorpe||Kate Buford|
|Tuesday,February 25||Mata Hari||Pat Shipman|
|Thursday,February 27||Augustus||Karl Galinsky|
|Tuesday, March 11||Henry Ward Beecher||Debby Applegate|
|Thursday, March 13||Atomic Girls||Denise Kiernan|
|Tuesday, March 18||Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald||Therese Anne Fowler|
|Thursday, March 27||Titans of the Gilded Age: Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Morgan||H.W. Brands|
|Tuesday, April 1||Henry VIII||Jeremy Black|
|Tuesday, April 8||Shakespeare||Lois Potter|
|Thursday, April 10||Spartacus||Barry Strauss|
|Tuesday, April 15||Machiavelli||Miles Unger|
|Thursday, April 17||Simon Bolivar||Marie Arana|
|Tuesday, April 22||Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh||Reeve Lindbergh|
Thursday, January 16
David O. Stewart, Author of The Lincoln Deception
John Wilkes Booth’s father and two brothers were legendary actors of their day, celebrated throughout the nation. He entered the family business, becoming a special favorite of theater audiences in the South. Blessed with extraordinary looks and an athlete’s grace, his romantic legend rivaled his professional reputation. With the catastrophe of the Civil War, though, Booth’s acting career foundered. He became alienated from his talented family, which rejected his pro-Confederate sympathies. By 1864, Booth was intimate with Confederate secret agents and sympathizers from Washington, D.C. to New York City to Montreal. He assembled a band of misfits and incompetents around an outlandish scheme to kidnap President Abraham Lincoln and hold him as a hostage for peace negotiations. After that plan misfired, and while the South gasped its way to surrender in the early spring of 1865, the 26-year-old Booth turned his odd group to the business of assassinating Lincoln and his top officials – as much an attempted coup d’etat as a murder plot. In a nation of conspiracy theorists, the Booth Conspiracy remains one of the least-understood, though it committed America’s greatest political crime. David O. Stewart will explore its surprising twists and turns.
After practicing law for many years, David O. Stewart began to write books. His first, The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution, was a Washington Post bestseller and won the Washington Writing Award as Best Book of 2007. Two years later, Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy, was a Davis-Kidd Bestseller and was called “by all means the best account of this troubled episode” by Professor David Donald of Harvard. In 2011, his American Emperor, Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America, an examined Burr’s Western expedition, an undertaking that shook the nation’s foundations at a time when those foundations were none too solid.
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Tuesday, January 28
Brian Jay Jones, Author of Jim Henson: The Biography
Jim Henson’s bearded image was recognized around the world, but until the publication of Brian Jay Jones’s biography, most people knew him mainly through the iconic characters he created: Kermit the Frog, Bert and Ernie, Miss Piggy, Big Bird. In his presentation, Jones will discuss Henson’s creation of the Muppets and his contributions to Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live, as well as some of his less successful ventures. He will explore his work as a master craftsman who revolutionized the presentation of puppets on television and as a savvy businessman whose deal-making prowess won him a reputation as “the new Walt Disney.” Also, drawing upon insights gained from hundreds of hours of interviews with Henson’s family, friends, and collaborators, he will examine Henson’s intensely private personal life: his Christian Science upbringing, his love of fast cars and expensive art, and his weakness for women.
Brian Jay Jones was born in the Midwest and raised in the Southwest, and earned a degree in English Literature from the University of New Mexico. An award-winning biographer, he spent nearly two decades as a writer, speech writer, and public policy analyst, serving elected officials at three levels of government, including nearly ten years in the United States Senate. His first book, Washington Irving: An American Original, has been praised as the definitive biography of American literature’s first popular author and pop culture icon. The Associated Press called it “authoritative” and the New York Times summed it up simply as “charming.” His Jim Jenson biography was published to high praise in October, 2013. Jones serves as Vice President of Biographers International Organization and serves as liaison between that organization and the Great Lives program.
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Tuesday, February 4
David Garrow, University of Pittsburgh, Author of Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
It might well be argued that Martin Luther King, Jr., was the most instrumental figure for change in twentieth-century America—certainly among those who were not elected officials (e.g., Franklin D. Roosevelt). His career from his leadership of the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 until his assassination in 1968 at the age of 39 placed him at the pinnacle of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. His 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech is regarded as the most powerful speech in American history, save perhaps Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. David Garrow brings to the topic extensive research including more than 700 interviews with all of King’s surviving associates, as well as with those who opposed him, and enhanced by the author’s access to King’s personal papers and tens of thousands of pages of FBI documents. His talk will be structured around the theme of “the political education of Martin Luther King, Jr.”
David J. Garrow was born in Massachusetts in 1953, graduated magna cum laude from Wesleyan University in 1975, and received his PhD from Duke University in 1981. Currently Research Professor of History and Law at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Law, he taught previously at Duke University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and held prestigious visiting professorships and research appointments at the College of William and Mary, American University, Emory University, and Cambridge University. He has published on a wide range of subjects, particularly in the areas of legal history, civil rights, and women’s issues. He contributes regularly to major publications such as the Washington Post, New York Times, LA Times, New Republic, Atlantic Monthly and the New York Review of Books, as well as academic journals including The Supreme Court Review, Yale Law Journal, and Virginia Law Review. He served as series advisor for “Eyes on the Prize,” the award-winning PBS television documentary on the Civil Rights Movement. His book Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for biography and the annual Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.
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Thursday, February 6
Sean Wilentz, Princeton University, Author of Bob Dylan in America
Few, if any, musical performers have had a more pervasive or profound impact on American culture during the past five decades than singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, whose work has ranged across multiple genres: folk, rock-and-roll, blues, county, and gospel. Through songs such as “The Times They Are a-Changing” (1964) he became an icon of the cultural change wrought by the Civil Rights and anti-war movements—and he is still performing today. Sean Wilentz’s lecture will analyze Dylan’s life and music, drawing upon the insights of his book Bob Dylan and America, about which one reviewer wrote “combining a scholar’s depth with a sense of mischief appropriate to the subject, Wilentz hears new associations in famous songs and sends us back to listen to Dylan’s music with fresh insights.”
Sean Wilentz is one of the nation’s most prominent historians. His books and commentary on music, politics, and the arts have gained a wide reputation for their force, originality, and elegance. Wilentz was born and raised in New York City. His family owned the famed 8th Street Bookshop in Greenwich Village, where as a boy and young teenager he was immersed in the currents of beat literature and folk singing that would profoundly change the nation’s culture — and the world’s. It is out of this formative experience that Wilentz writes about the music and literature of that time and its legacies – notably his recent book, Bob Dylan in America. While Wilentz’s writings on music have focused on folk traditions and contemporary rock and roll, his historical scholarship has concentrated additionally on the political and social history of the United States from the American Revolution to recent times. His wide-ranging works have won numerous prestigious prizes for historical writing. A long-time contributing editor at The New Republic, Wilentz also writes regularly for the New York Times Book Review, the New York Times Op-Ed page, the Los Angeles Times, and other major newspapers and periodicals. He has appeared on numerous network television and radio programs, including The Charlie Rose Show, Morning Joe, Fresh Air, Radio Times, and NPR’s Talk of the Nation. He is currently the George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History at Princeton University, where he has taught since 1979.
Tuesday, February 11
Dean King, Author of The Feud: The Hatfields and the McCoys: The True Story
Although the word “feud” instantly brings to almost any American mind the Hatfields and McCoys, few people actually know much about the legendary blood feud. Dean King has pursued the subject in great detail and at personal peril, having been shot at in the wilds of Appalachia in the course of his research. In the process, he notes that he “rode on ATVs with the Hatfields up onto the ridges where they once hid out and explored the ‘angry gene’ with the McCoys.” In his talk he will, in his words, “show images, old and new, from both sides….The story busts some of the legends of yore but—as we all know—sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.”
Based in Richmond, Virginia, Dean King is an award-winning author of ten books and dozens of articles in national magazines, many dealing with historical and adventure stories. His earliest works are companion books to the twenty-novel Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian, about whom he wrote a groundbreaking biography. He has appeared in a BBC documentary about O’Brian and on ABC World News Tonight and NPR’s Talk of the Nation. He has been chief story-teller on two History Channel documentaries and is the co-executive producer of a History Channel documentary series on the Hatfields and McCoys. King is a founder, past co-chair, and advisory board member of James River Writers, a non-profit that promotes reading and writing and sponsors the annual James River Writers Conference.
Thursday, February 20
Kate Buford, Author of Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe
Jim Thorpe (1887-1953) was the greatest multi-sport athlete the world has ever seen – and likely to remain so as sports since his heyday have been marked by an irreversible movement to specialize. One of the best collegiate football players when the sport was in its infancy, twice an All-American, for the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The first international celebrity athlete as double gold medal winner – by huge margins – in both the pentathlon and decathlon in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. The athlete who put the struggling sport of professional football on the map in Canton, Ohio and, in recognition of his contribution, was voted in 1920 the first president of the organization that became in 1922 the National Football League. A major league baseball player who, in 1919, playing for the Boston Braves, was the leading batter in the National League, ahead of Ty Cobb (in the American League) and Joe Jackson, until an injury took him out of the running. Born in Oklahoma as a Potawatomi and Sac & Fox American Indian, Thorpe became a symbol in that highly socially stratified time of the ethnic or racial outsider who transcended such barriers by sheer excellence on the supposedly equal playing ground of sports. When he was stripped of his amateur Olympic gold medals in 1913 for being a professional – he had played minor league baseball in 1909-1911 – he became an even more potent example of the outsider humiliated and banished by an exclusionary elite. Intelligent, genial, generous, Jim Thorpe was not a complicated man, but what happened to him was.
Kate Buford’s Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe (Knopf 2010) was an Editors’ Choice of The New York Times and won awards from the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and the Professional Football Research Association (PFRA). The paperback was published in 2012 by the University of Nebraska Press. Burt Lancaster: An American Life (Knopf/Da Capo/Aurum UK), also a New York Times Editors’ Choice, was named one of the best books of 2000 by the Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and others. In 2013 Knopf released an ebook edition in honor of the centennial of Lancaster’s birth. Buford has written for The New York Times, Film Comment, Bluegrass Unlimited, History Now, and Readex, among other publications, appeared on Charlie Rose and C-SPAN, and was a commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition and APM’s Marketplace from 1995 – 2004, and on Virginia’s NPR affiliate, WMRA. A member of PEN, the NYU Biographers Seminar, and Biographers International Organization (BIO), she lives in Virginia and New York.
Tuesday, February 25
Pat Shipman, Author of Femme Fatale: Love, Lies, and the Unknown Life of Mata Hari
In the early years of the twentieth century, Mata Hari was known as the most desirable woman in Europe, an artistic and utterly novel dancer who brought sacred temple dances from Asia to the European public. She was the woman every man wanted on his arm — glamorous, beautiful, cultured and sensual — and was seen with most of the wealthy and powerful men of Europe and performed in sold-out theatres everywhere in Western Europe. Despite her fame and adoration, she was arrested and shot in 1917 as a spy for Germany (and against France) in World War I. After 6 months of constant surveillance, opening her mail, reading her telegrams, listening in on her phone calls, and questioning nearly everyone she dealt with in any way, the prosecution could not produce a single document or secret she had passed to the Germans, nor any evidence of clandestine contact with the enemy. The main witness against her was the man who had recruited her to spy for France. Was she executed as a scapegoat to explain why the war was going badly? Or was she condemned for being an openly sexual, single woman who lived an extravagant life in time of war?
Pat Shipman is an anthropologist specializing in human evolution and a freelance writer communicating the mystery and fun of science to non-scientists. She earned a B.A. at Smith College and an M.A. and Ph.D. at New York University. In addition to hundreds of popular and scholarly papers, she has written 13 books, three of which are biographies of people she finds fascinating. Her subjects include African explorers Sam and Florence Baker, Dutch scientist Eugene Dubois, who found the fossil “missing link” in Java, and Mata Hari, known both as the most desirable woman in Europe and a traitorous spy during WWI. Shipman has won literary awards for several of her books and a scientific award for her contributions to paleoanthropology. She has been elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sigma Xi, and the Royal Geographical Society. She also blogs for Psychology Today.
Thursday, February 27
Karl Galinsky, University of Texas, Austin, Author of Augustus: Introduction to the Life of An Emperor
Augustus (63 B.C.-14 A.D.) was born Gaius Octavius (later Octavian) into a wealthy plebian family and was adopted posthumously by his uncle Gaius Julius Caesar following Caesar’s assassination. After a series of civil wars Octavian managed to consolidate his power and, while claiming to restore the old Roman Republic, essentially created the Roman Empire with autocratic power vested in himself. Praised by some for his statesmanship and reviled by others for his ruthlessness, Augustus (as he became known) ruled from 27 B.C. until his death in 14 A.D. at the age of 75, creating during that time the era of (relative) peace known as the Pax Romana. Professor Galinski will examine Augustus’s personal story within the larger context of political and social conditions of the day.
Karl Galinsky was born in 1942. He completed high school in Germany, earned a B.A. from Bowdoin in 1963, and his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1966. He has been at UT Austin since 1966 and was tenured at age 26, a full professor at age 30, and department chair at age 32. Galinsky has numerous publications, especially on Roman civilization, and numerous grants, including a Guggenheim, NEH Fellowships, and many NEH projects, such as seminars for college and school teachers. He is a frequent consultant to other universities on academic programs, and a frequent lecturer or director of study tours for various organizations to the Mediterranean. He has numerous off-campus distinctions, such as the National Phi Beta Kappa Lecturer in 1989-90. He is a specialist on the Augustan Age in Rome, which has included work for NPR and PBS.
Tuesday, March 11
Debby Applegate, Author of The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher
No one predicted success for Henry Ward Beecher at his birth in 1813. The boisterous son of the last great Puritan minister, he seemed destined to be overshadowed by his brilliant siblings – especially his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the classic best-selling novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. But Beecher found international fame by shedding his father’s fire-and-brimstone theology and instead preaching a gospel of unconditional love and healing, becoming one of the founding fathers of modern American Christianity. He became what might be called “the Forest Gump” of the 19th Century, throwing himself into many of the era’s greatest events. He championed controversial causes like abolitionism, Darwinism, and women’s rights, and his church was one of the country’s first mega-churches and New York’s top tourist site. He was famous for his spectacular stunts, like auctioning beautiful light-skinned slave girls to freedom from his church pulpit. Then, at the peak of his fame, Beecher was accused of seducing his female parishioners, creating a sex scandal that garnered more newspaper headlines than the entire Civil War. In our own time, when religion and politics are again colliding and adultery in high places still commands headlines, Beecher’s story sheds new light on America’s culture and conflicts.
Debby Applegate is a historian whose first book, The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher, won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. She is currently at work on a biography an infamous brothel-keeper in Prohibition-era New York City entitled Madam: The Notorious Life and Time s of Polly Adler, forthcoming from Doubleday. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut with her husband Bruce Tulgan, author of It’s OK To Be the Boss.
Thursday, March 13
Denis Kiernan, Author of The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win WWII
The topic will delve into a top-secret world where young women and men lived and worked surrounded by spies and secrecy, forbidden to speak of their work, even to each other, as the United States worked to face the challenges of World War II and the Manhattan Project raced to harness nuclear power. At the height of World War II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, consuming more electricity than New York City. But to most of the world, the town did not exist. Thousands of civilians—many of them young women from small towns across the South—were recruited to this secret city, enticed by solid wages and the promise of war-ending work. Kept very much in the dark, few would ever guess the true nature of the tasks they performed each day in the hulking factories in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. That is, until the end of the war—when Oak Ridge’s secret was revealed. Kiernan will discuss this story of adventure, intrigue, sacrifice and controversy.
Denise Kiernan has been working as a writer for nearly 20 years. She has been published in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Village Voice, Ms. Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Discover, Saveur and many more publications. She has also worked in television, serving as head writer for ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” during its Emmy Award-winning first season, and producing for places such as ESPN and MSNBC. She has authored several popular history titles including Signing Their Lives Away, Signing Their Rights Away and Stuff Every American Should Know and has ghost written books for athletes, entrepreneurs and actresses. An an author, she has discussed her work on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, MSNBC Morning Joe, PBS NewsHour, NPR Weekend Edition, and other national and regional programs.
Tuesday, March 18
Therese Anne Fowler, Author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
One of the twentieth century’s most iconic literary geniuses, and his insane, disruptive wife—the woman who married him for his fame and fortune, then became the architect of his ruin. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were two young, intense, intelligent, creative, energetic, often naïve people whose strengths warred—daily, almost—with their weaknesses. According to Fowler, they were victims of circumstance, and of themselves — idealists who somehow couldn’t quite break away from their conservative roots, or from each other. “Nothing with the Fitzgeralds has ever been simple,” she says. “Would we still be reading the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald today had he not met the young Montgomery, Alabama debutante Zelda Sayre in 1918 and married her at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan two years later, a mere week after the publication of his first novel, This Side of Paradise? What is it about Zelda that made her irresistible to Scott and anathema to Ernest Hemingway? ‘First flapper,’ feminist icon, subject of numerous biographies and stage plays, Zelda continues to fascinate us even today.”
Therese Anne Fowler is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. Raised in the Midwest, she migrated to North Carolina in 1995 and then, as a newly single parent, proceeded to earn a B.A. in sociology and cultural anthropology from North Carolina State University. She followed that with an MFA in creative writing, a position teaching creative writing to undergraduates, and the publication of four novels to date. A lover of literature, history, culture, and society, Therese often speaks at literary festivals, luncheons, and conferences, and has contributed essays to several national publications. Recommended by O, Glamour, People, Manhattan, Harper’s Bazaar, EW, Huffington Post, The Millions, Publisher’s Weekly, and USA Today, among many others, Z has been called “a richly imagined novel…Zelda’s touching story is also fascinating and funny; it animates an entire era.”
Thursday, March 27
H.W. Brands, University of Texas
America at the beginning of the 20th century was dominated by the rise of business titans who accumulated unprecedented wealth. Admired by some for their successful methods and vilified by others for their apparent rapaciousness (“robber barons”), few were more famous (or notorious, in the minds of many) than Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller. Born within a few years of one another during the 1830s, six decades later they dominated the American industrial economy as no small group had ever done before or would do again. Though conservative politically, they were revolutionaries in the most profound sense, for they overturned old orders and utterly changed how millions of people lived their lives.
Henry William Brands was born in Oregon, went to college in California, and earned graduate degrees in mathematics and history in Oregon and Texas. He taught at Vanderbilt University and Texas A&M University before joining the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, where he holds the Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History. He writes on American history and politics, with books including The Man Who Saved the Union, Traitor to His Class, Andrew Jackson, The Age of Gold, The First American and TR. Several of his books have been bestsellers; two, Traitor to His Class and The First American, were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. He lectures frequently on historical and current events and can be seen and heard on national and international television and radio. His writings have been translated into Spanish, French, German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Ukrainian.
Tuesday, April 1
Jeremy Black, University of Exeter
Henry VIII was King of England from 1491, when he succeeded his father, Henry VII, until his death in 1547. The second monarch in the Tudor line, he is among the best-known of all English rulers. Much of the popular interest in Henry derives from his succession of six wives, including Anne Boleyn, mother of Queen Elizabeth I. Aside from his matrimonial escapades, his popular image is dominated, on a personal level, by his enormous girth, (reportedly 54-inch waist) in his later years, and on the political level, by his role in the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. Professor Black, a dynamic lecturer who has spoken multiple times in the Great Lives Series will address these and the lesser known aspects of the monarch’s time.
Jeremy Black studied at Queens College Cambridge, St. Johns College Oxford, and Merton College at Oxford. He began his teaching career at the University of Durham in 1980 before moving to Exeter University in 1996, where he is the current holder of the Established Chair in History. In addition to his teaching, Professor Black has held a number of important public roles, including that of editor of Archives, the journal of the British Records Association. His prodigious scholarly output encompasses more than 100 publications, mainly on, but not limited to, British and continental European history, with particular emphasis on international relations and military history. He has held numerous teaching positions outside of England, having lectured extensively in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, and Denmark—as well as in the US, where he has taught at the Universities of Maryland, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgetown, and Rutgers, among others. At UMW, he has delivered hugely popular Great Lives lectures on George III, Winston Churchill, and James Bond.
Tuesday, April 8
Louis Potter, Author of The Life of William Shakespeare: A Critical Biography
William Shakespeare is the best known writer in the world, and the one about whom we know least of what we really want to know. His achievements are easier to feel than to describe, and his life and works often seem to bear little relation to each other. This lecture will suggest some new connections between the two. Its focus will be primarily on the dramatist as a professional whose acting and writing career was the most important part of his life. It will also draw on the increasing awareness of the possible role of collaboration in Shakespeare’s work and the diversity of the audiences for which he was writing.
Lois Potter is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and earned her PhD at Cambridge University, where she was a Marshall Scholar. She lived in the UK for thirty years, teaching at the universities of Aberdeen and Leicester. In 1991 she returned to the US as Ned B. Allen Professor of English at the University of Delaware, of which she is now Professor Emerita; she has also been a visiting professor at Paris III/Sorbonne Nouvelle and Tsuda College, Japan. Her publications include books on Milton, the literature of the English Civil War, the history of drama, the Arden edition of The Two Noble Kinsmen, the theatrical history of Twelfth Night and Othello, and Robin Hood, and many theater reviews. The Life of William Shakespeare (2012), her first biography, was chosen by reviewers in The Guardian and The Times Literary Supplement as one of their “books of the year.”
Thursday, April 10
Barry Strauss, Cornell University, Author of The Spartacus War
To revolutionaries he was a proletarian rebel. To idealists, he was a liberator who abolished slavery. To moviegoers and television viewers he was a sword-and-sandal icon. Marx and Lenin both praised Spartacus and he was a major figure in Soviet ideology. US President Ronald Reagan considered him a freedom fighter. Who was Spartacus? He wasn’t a fictional character but a genuine historical figure. Spartacus led a revolt (73-71 BC) of gladiators and slaves that shocked Roman society at the time and that has echoed through the ages. Barry Strauss’s lecture will examine the man, the myth, and the legacy. According to him, the real, historical Spartacus is even more fascinating than the swashbuckling Hollywood creation.
Barry Strauss is Bryce and Edith M. Bowmar Professor in Humanistic Studies and Chair of the Department of History, Cornell University. He is the author of seven books, including The Battle of Salamis (2004), The Spartacus War (2009), and Masters of Command: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar and the Genius of Leadership (2012), named respectively as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post, Books & Culture, and Bloomberg. He is currently writing a book on the death of Julius Caesar. Publishers Weekly writes, “No one presents the military history of the ancient world with greater insight and panache than Strauss….”
Tuesday, April 15
Miles Unger, Author of Machiavelli: A Biography
He is the most infamous and influential political writer of all time. His name has become synonymous with cynical scheming and the selfish pursuit of power. Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine diplomat and civil servant, is the father of political science. The Prince, his most notorious work, is a primer on how to acquire and retain power without regard to scruple or conscience. Machiavelli’s philosophy was shaped by the tumultuous age in which he lived, an age of towering geniuses and brutal tyrants. He has been called cold and calculating, cynical and immoral. In reality, argues biographer Miles Unger, he was a deeply humane writer whose controversial theories were a response to the violence and corruption he saw around him. He was a psychologist with acute insight into human nature centuries before Freud. He has been called the first modern man, unafraid to contemplate a world without God. Rising from modest beginnings on the strength of his own talents, he was able to see through the piety and hypocrisy of the age in which he lived. In his talk, Unger will examine the life of a genius whose work remains as relevant today as when he wrote it.
Miles Unger is the author of two books on Renaissance Italy: Magnifico: The Brilliant Life and Violent Times of Lorenzo de’ Medici (Simon & Schuster, 2008) and his new Machiavelli: A Biography (Simon & Schuster, 2011). He is also the author of The Watercolors of Winslow Homer (W. W. Norton & Co, 2001). From 1999-2010, he was a contributing writer for The New York Times. From 1996-2002 he served as the Managing Editor of Art New England. He has written for numerous national and regional publications, including The Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, and ARTnews. Unger’s extensive knowledge and love of the Italian language and culture was fostered during the five years he lived in Florence. He continues to travel as often as he can to the country.
Thursday, April 17
Marie Arana, Author of Bolivar: American Liberator
Simon Bolivar, known as the liberator of South America, is the greatest figure in Latin American history. Having freed six countries from Spanish rule and traveled more than 75,000 miles on horseback from the Amazon Jungles to the Andes Mountains to do so. His life is the stuff of Hollywood legend: epic and heroic, he fought battle after battle in punishing terrain, forged uncertain coalitions of competing forces and races, lost his beautiful wife soon after they married (and never remarried), and died relatively young. Marie Arana will examine Bolivar’s dramatic and many-faceted life: fearless general, brilliant strategist, the consulate diplomat, passionate abolitionist, gifted writer, and flawed politician.
Marie Arana was born in Lima, Peru, the daughter of a Peruvian father and American mother, and moved to the United States at the age of nine. She completed her BA in Russian Language and Literature at Northwestern University, her MA in Linguistics and Sociolinguistics at Hong Kong University, and earned a certificate of scholarship (Mandarin language) at Yale University in China. She began her career in book publishing, becoming Vice President and Senior Editor at both Harcourt Brace and Simon & Schuster publishers in New York. In 1993, she started work at The Washington Post as Deputy Editor of the book review section, “Book World.” She was promoted to Editor in Chief of that section, a position she held for 10 years. In 2008, Washingtonian magazine called her one of the Most Powerful People in Washington. She has written widely in several genres, including a memoir about her bicultural childhood, American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood, which was a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award. Her most recent novel, published in January 2009, is Lima Nights. She has written the introductions for many books on Latin America, Hispanicity and biculturalism. Her latest book is Bolívar: American Liberator, a biography of the Latin American founder Simón Bolívar. Currently, she is a Writer at Large for The Washington Post, a guest op-ed columnist at the New York Times, and a senior consultant on hemispheric affairs to the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington.
Tuesday, April 22
Reeve Lindbergh, Author of Under a Wing: A Memoir
Charles Lindbergh was known as a daring aviator, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and controversial isolationist during World War II. His wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, was a best-selling author. In her memoir, Under a Wing, the Lindbergh’s youngest daughter, Reeve, provides a candid look at her legendary family including the impact of her brother’s kidnapping and death and her parents’ long and complicated marriage. In her presentation, Ms. Lindbergh will pursue these themes, appraising her remarkable parents, her unusual childhood, and the troubling questions that remain.
Reeve Lindbergh, a daughter of aviator-authors Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, was born in 1945 and grew up in Connecticut. After graduating from Radcliffe College in 1968 she moved to Vermont, where she still lives on an old farm near St. Johnsbury with her husband, writer Nat Tripp. Reeve is the author of more than two dozen books for children and adults, including Under a Wing, a memoir about growing up in the Lindbergh family, Forward From Here, Leaving Middle Age and Other Unexpected Adventures, and Homer, The Library Cat. With other family members, she recently edited the final volume of her late mother’s diaries and letters, Against Wind and Tide.