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Past Symposia

2024: Celebrating Nature

World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, & Other Astonishments
by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Keynote Speaker: Aimee Nezhukumatathil
"Remembering Wonder: A Reckoning" 

2023: Displacement and Belonging

When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka

Keynote Speaker: Julie Otsuka
" An American Story: War, Memory, and Erasure"

2022: The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin

Keynote Speaker: Jeff VanderMeer
"Landscape Change and the Long Road Ahead"

2021: The Nickel Boys

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Antoinette Jackson, Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida
"Links in a Living Chain: Race, Resistance, Resilience"

2020: The Wounds of War

Theater of War: dramatic reading of Philoctetes by Sophocles
text: Redeployment, by Phil Klay

Keynote Speaker: Phil Klay
"War, Literature, and the Long Road Home"

2019: Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid

Keynote Speaker: Mohsin Hamid, international best seller and award winning author
"Rite/Rights of Passage: Migration and Movement in Exit West"

co-sponsored with the Hanway Lecture in Global Studies

2018: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Maurice Wallace, University of Virginia
"Good Religion and Bad Faith in the Age of Abolition: Frederick Douglass' Afro-Evangelicalism"
Dr. Maurice Wallace in front of portrait of Douglass

2017: Reflections on World War I

Selections from Mary Borden's The Forbidden Zone and select American, British and Canadian solider poems.
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Christopher Capozzola, Professor of History, M.I.T.
"Citizenship in Crisis: Centennial Legacies of First World War"

2016: Apology

 “Apology” in  The Trial and Death of Socrates by Plato translated by G. M. A. Grube Third Edition.
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Sara Monoson,  Northwestern University
"Socrates in the Vernacular"

2015: Rhinoceros

Eugene Ionesco's "Rhinoceros"
Keynote Speaker: Susan Rubin Suleiman, Ph.D. the C. Douglas Dillon Professor of the Civilization of France and Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University
"Why Do We Laugh at "Rhinoceros"?"

2014: Walden 

Henry David Thoreau's Walden
Keynote Speaker: Jeffrey Stout, Ph.D., Professor of Religion, Princeton University
"Walking in Our Sleep: Conformity and Transformation in Thoreau's Walden"

2013: "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail"
Keynote Speaker: J. Kameron Carter, Ph.D. Duke Divinity School
"The Post-Racial Blues: Martin Luther King's Jailhouse Intervention"

2012: Lysistrata

Aristophanes’ Lysistrata
Keynote Speaker: Jeffrey Henderson, William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of Greek Language and Literature at Boston University
"Lysistrata Through the Ages"

2011: Frankenstein

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus
Keynote Speaker: N. Katherine Hayles
"Frankenstein and Media-Specific Analysis"

2009: Communing with Food

Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma
Keynote Speaker: Lynne Rossetto Kasper
"American Cuisine: A Revolution and an Identity Crisis"

2008: Judge, Judge Not

William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure (2007)
Keynote Speaker: Albert Braunmuller
"Justice, Law and Mercy in Measure for Measure"

2007: Urban Spaces, Urban Voices

Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, (1961)
Keynote Speaker: James Howard Kunstler
"The Long Emergency and the Destiny of Cities"

2006: What Would You Die For?

Perpetua's Passion (2005)
Keynote Speaker: Terry Waite
"What Would You Die For?

2005: Searching for a Self

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Keynote Speaker: Ruthe T. Sheffey
"Janie's Mythic Heroic Quest in Their Eyes Were Watching God"

2004: The Horror

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, (1902)
Keynote Speaker: Jeffrey Tayler
"Return to the Jungle?"

2003: Post Human?

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932)
Keynote Speaker: Francis Fukuyama 
"Will the New World of Biotechnology be Human?"

2002: Crossing Boundaries

Tracy Chevalier, Girl with a Pearl Earring (2001)
Keynote Speaker: Tracy Chevalier 
"Less is More: Turning Vermeer into a Novel"

2001: N/A

There was no 2001 symposium as the event was switched from the fall to spring semester.

2000: Poverty Perceived

Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York (1890)
Keynote Speaker: Michael Katz, Sheldon and Lucy Hackney Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania
"Was Jacob Reis Right? Housing Reform and Child Saving as Solutions to Poverty"

1999: Paradise

Toni Morrison, Paradise (1998)
Keynote Speaker: Toni Morrison, Professor of Humanities, Princeton University; Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize Winner
"The Language of Paradise"

1998: West Meets East

Shusaku Endo, Silence (1969)
Keynote Speaker: Van C. Gessel, Professor of Japanese Literature, Brigham Young University; Endo translator and playwright of stage versions of Endo's works
"Can God Speak Japanese?: Reflections on the Fiction of Endo Shusaku"

1997: Friendship

Plato, Lysis (1969)
Keynote Speaker: Father James McEvoy, Dean, Faculty of Philosophy, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, Ireland; Scholar of the history of friendship and love from antiquity through the Middle Ages
"From Pagan to Christian Friendship"

1996: Culture and Tradition

Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (1969)
Keynote Speaker: Simon Gikandi, Professor of African and Latin-American Literature, University of Michigan
"Reading Achebe"

1995: Bearing Witness

St. Luke The Book of Luke (ca. 75 A.D.)
Keynote Speaker: Jaroslav Pelikan: Professor of History, Yale University; President of the Academy of Arts and Sciences
"Luke/Acts: The Believer as historian/The Historian as Believer"

1994 (Autumn): Utopia

Thomas More, Utopia (1517)
Keynote Speaker: Richard Marius, Professor of English at Harvard University, and biographer of Thomas More

1994: Creator, Creature, Creation

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
Keynote Speaker: Steven Jay Gould, Harvard University, Professor of Zoology and author of numerous books
"Creator, Creature, Creation"

1993: Justice

Martin Luther King, "Letter from Birmingham Jail" (1963)
Keynote Speaker: James Farmer, civil rights leader and co-founder of CORE

1992: Discovering America?

Bartolome de las Casas, The Devastation of the Indies (ca. 1545)
Keynote Speaker: George Winius, Latin-American historian

1991: Ideology: Practice and Theory

Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto (1848)
Keynote Speaker: Christopher Lasch, cultural critic & scholar of the history of ideas

1990: Man and Nature

Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854)
Keynote Speaker: Alfred Kazin, critic and scholar of American letters
"Man & Nature in Walden"

1989: Illusion and Reality

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1902)
Keynote Speaker: Czeslaw Milosz, Poet and Nobel Laureate in Literature

1988: Human Suffering

Elie Wiesel, Night (1958)
Keynote Speaker: Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate-the Peace Prize

1987: (Stoicism)

Epictetus, The Encheiridion (The Handbook) (*ca.100 A.D.)
Keynote Speaker: Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale

1986: (Report on Humanities in Education)

William Bennett, To Reclaim a Legacy (1985)
Keynote: William Bennett

Event Information

Theme: Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor

Keynote Address: 
Thursday, March 13, 2025
McGuire Hall
6:30 p.m.

Text: The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh

Questions? Please contact Billy Friebele, Associate professor, Visual and Performing Arts