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British Studies Lecture Series
39 minutes | Mar 10, 2020
Why Humanities Courses Are in Distress: A Modest Proposal for a Remedy
Paula Marantz Cohen DREXEL UNIVERSITY How can decline in enrollments in the humanities be explained? Nationwide in recent years estimates of the drop in liberal arts majors range from one-fourth to one-third of those in English, history, government, philosophy and other traditional subjects. English departments have been hit especially hard. One study found that faculty members seem to be in denial about the general decline. How in a practical way might interest in humanities majors be revived? One university has tried a blend, for example, of computer science and philosophy. At UT the Plan II program offers such courses as ‘Water and Society’, and ‘Law and Ethics’. Here is a hint about English majors: it has to do with Shakespeare. Paula Marantz Cohen is Distinguished Professor of English and Dean of the Honors College at Drexel University. She is the author of five nonfiction books and five best-selling novels. She writes frequently for the Times Literary Supplement, The Yale Review, The American Scholar, and The Wall Street Journal. She is a co-editor of the Journal of Modern Literature and the host of the nationally distributed TV show, The Drexel InterView (retitled for next season The Civil Discourse).
41 minutes | Mar 2, 2020
Why Did Elizabethans and Jacobeans Read Shakespeare’s Plays?
Aaron Pratt HARRY RANSOM CENTER Before the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio in 1623 and the efforts of subsequent editors and critics, England’s printed playbooks were considered “riff raff,” connected more with the world of London’s popular theaters than with what we might think of as “capital-L” Literature. Or so we have been told. This lecture will offer the beginnings of a new narrative that places quartos at the center rather than on the periphery of literary culture in Elizabethan and Jacobean England. Aaron T. Pratt is the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts at the Harry Ransom Center. With a Ph.D. in English from Yale University, he is a specialist in bibliography, the history of the book, and the literature and culture of early modern England. His academic work has appeared in a number of journals and edited collections, and he is currently working on a book to be titled Quarto Playbooks and the Making of Shakespeare.
48 minutes | Feb 25, 2020
Imperial Recessional: Sir William Luce and the Creation of the United Arab Emirates
Tancred Bradshaw LONDON One of the surprises of Britain’s withdrawal from the Middle East was the successful creation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971. Tancred Bradshaw will discuss the critical role played by Sir William Luce, previously Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Aden Colony, in that transition. Luce was responsible for establishing a viable political structure for the previously semi-independent sheikhdoms of the Gulf. Against the odds, he succeeded in his quest to create the UAE and to establish Bahrain and Qatar as independent states. Tancred Bradshaw received his Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies and has since taught at Birkbeck College, the University of London, City University, and Florida State University. His books include King Abdullah I and the Zionist Movement and Glubb Pasha and Britain’s Project in the Middle East, 1920–1945. His talk will draw on his recent book, The End of Empire in the Gulf. He is currently working on a book entitled Britain and Oman: The Illusion of Independence.
41 minutes | Feb 17, 2020
Philip Goad (Harvard) on British and American architecture
Philip Goad is the Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser Visiting Professor of Australian Studies (AY2019-20) at Harvard University and Chair of Architecture and Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor at the University of Melbourne. He was trained as an architect and gained his PhD in architectural history at the University of Melbourne where he has taught since 1992 and was founding Director of the Melbourne School of Design (2007-12). He has been President of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia & New Zealand (SAHANZ), editor of its journal Fabrications, and in 2017, was elected Life Fellow. He has been President of the Australian Institute of Architects (Victorian Chapter) and in 2014, was elected Life Fellow. In 2008, he was made a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities (FAHA). He is co-author of Modernism and Australia: Documents on Art, Design and Architecture, 1917-1967 (Miegunyah Press, 2006) and Modern Times: The Untold Story of Modernism in Australia (Miegunyah Press with Powerhouse Publishing, 2008); co-editor of The Encyclopedia of Australian Architecture (Cambridge University Press, 2012); co-author of An Unfinished Experiment in Living: Australian Houses 1950-65 (UWA Press, 2017); Architecture and the Modern Hospital: Nosokomeion to Hygeia (Routledge, 2019); Bauhaus Diaspora and Beyond: Transforming Education through Art, Design and Architecture (Miegunyah Press and Power Publishing, 2019); and AustraliaModern: Architecture, Landscape and Design (Thames & Hudson, 2019). He was co-curator of Augmented Australia at the Australian Pavilion at the Venice International Architecture Biennale (2014) and Visiting Patrick Geddes Fellow, University of Edinburgh (2016). He is currently researching his next books, one on Australian-US architectural relations, the other on Australian architect and critic Robin Boyd.
45 minutes | Feb 11, 2020
The London Review of Books
The London Review of Books was founded in 1979 during a strike at The Times that prevented the publication of the Times Literary Supplement. By the time the dispute at The Times was settled, two issues of the LRB had been published. At the beginning there was only a small circulation. A large proportion of the reviews focused on academic issues. And there was, in the words of its editor, Mary-Kay Wilmers, both “a leftish point of view” and a certain amount of condescension and even mockery directed at it. The LRB’s archive, which has found a home in the Harry Ransom Center, provided the basis for a history of the LRB’s first four decades. Sam Kinchin-Smith is Head of Special Projects at the LRB. He compiled the London Review of Books: An Incomplete History (2019) with the support of an HRC fellowship. He is the author of a monograph on Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes (2018) and the editor of a catalogue of the political artist Kaya Mar’s work, Naked Ambition (2020).
35 minutes | Feb 4, 2020
How George Washington Defeated the British Empire
Thomas Ricks NEW YORK TIMES If the best measure of a general is the ability to grasp the nature of the war he faces, and then to make adjustments, George Washington was one of the greatest the United States ever had. This is not perceived even today because he had few victories during the entire War for Independence. But it was not a war that would be won by battles. It was a different sort of conflict. Washington came to understand this, and he changed, moving away from the offensive strategy that was natural to him. Washington adjusted, while the British did not. And that made all the difference. Thomas Ricks is the military history columnist for The New York Times Book Review and a visiting fellow in history at Bowdoin College. Before becoming a full-time author, he covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal for 25 years, receiving two Pulitzer Prizes as part of reporting teams at those newspapers. He is the author of six books, including Pulitzer finalist Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2003-05. His most recent book was Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom. He is married to Mary Kay Ricks, author of Escape on the Pearl.
53 minutes | Jan 27, 2020
P. G. Wodehouse and Politics: What Did He Know, and When Did He Know It?
Speaker - David Leal, Nuffield College, Oxford P.G. Wodehouse was England’s greatest comic writer. His new memorial at Westminster Abbey celebrates his achievements as “Humorist, Novelist, Playwright, Lyricist.” He continues to be widely read and written about. Wodehouse is best known for creating sunny fictional worlds into which we can escape, yet he found himself embroiled in a dark real-world controversy for making five radio broadcasts from Berlin, at the behest of the Nazi government, in 1941. Friends such as George Orwell commented at the time that he was politically ignorant and unaware of the implications of his actions. Others in Britain called for his execution as a traitor. But what were the facts? Could he be accused of anything more damning than gross naïveté? What did Wodehouse actually know about politics, and what does that knowledge, or lack thereof, mean for his legacy? David Leal is Professor of Government and an Associate Member of Nuffield College, Oxford. His research interests include Latino politics, religion and politics, and immigration policy as well as Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle. His works include over forty journal articles, including a recent one in the Baker Street Journal. He is the co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Racial and Ethnic Politics in the United States (in progress) and Migration in an Era of Restriction and Recession (2016). In the Government Department, he teaches a course on British government and politics.
53 minutes | Nov 12, 2019
Churchill’s Most Difficult Decisions
Speaker - Allen Packwood, Churchill College, Cambridge Allen Packwood will use his knowledge of the Churchill Papers, held at Churchill College, Cambridge, to analyze the contents of Churchill's despatch boxes. He will go behind the iconic image and the famous oratory to look in detail at Churchill's leadership and shed light on how the Prime Minister conducted wartime operations. One of his first agonizing challenges was how to respond to the collapse of France in May 1940. The Director of the Churchill Archives Centre, Packwood is a Fellow of Churchill College. The center houses the papers of Margaret Thatcher and many other leading British figures as well as those of Winston Churchill. Packwood recently published How Churchill Waged War: The Most Challenging Decisions of the Second World War, an extensive study of Churchill's wartime command. He holds the rank of OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society."
42 minutes | Nov 6, 2019
‘When I feel very near to God, I always feel such a need to undress’: Religion, Nakedness and the Body Divine
Speaker - Philippa Levine Diverse institutions have attempted to order and to organize, to regulate and to banish, to promote and to sell nakedness. Focusing on religion's always ambivalent relationship with the human body, this talk explores a cultural history with surprisingly powerful contemporary resonance. Philippa Levine holds the Walter Prescott Webb Chair in History and Ideas at UT. Her most recent book, part of the Oxford University Press Very Short Introduction series, is on eugenics. The third edition of her The British Empire: Sunrise to Sunset will be out in January, and a Japanese translation will follow in the spring.
48 minutes | Oct 28, 2019
Jane Austen’s Lost Books
Speaker - Janine Barchas In the nineteenth century, inexpensive editions of Jane Austen's novels were made available to Britain's working classes. They were sold at railway stations, traded for soap wrappers, and awarded as school prizes. At pennies a copy, these reprints were some of the earliest mass-market paperbacks, with Austen's stories squeezed into tight columns on thin, cheap paper. Few of these bargain books survive, yet they made a substantial difference to Austen's early readership. These were the books bought and read by ordinary people. Janine Barchas is the Louann and Larry Temple Centennial Professor in English Literature at the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently a Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies. She has also written for the Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Review of Books. In addition to her scholarly publications, she created the digital project What Jane Saw, which reconstructs two popular, commercially successful Georgian art exhibits witnessed by Austen. The Ransom Center is currently selling her new book in conjunction with the 'Austen in Austin' exhibition in the Stories-to-Tell gallery.
52 minutes | Oct 22, 2019
Facts, Censorship, and Spin: Covering the Pacific War from Australia, 1942
Speaker - Michael J. Birkner, Gettysburg College This lecture is about journalists based in Australia practicing their craft in 1942, when the prospect of a Japanese invasion was impending. How did professional standards compare with daily practice? Most information came from official sources, and draft articles had to run the gantlet of military censors. What were the trade-offs for reporters, including self-censorship? How well did the journalists manage to inform their readers back home? Michael J. Birkner is Professor of History at Gettysburg College, where he has taught since 1989. He is the author or editor of fourteen books and many articles on nineteenth- and twentieth-century American political history, including three edited volumes on Pennsylvania’s only president, James Buchanan, and three books on Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 2003 and 2006 he served as a member of the history jury for the Pulitzer Prize, chairing the jury in 2006.
49 minutes | Oct 14, 2019
Political Leadership in Macbeth and Coriolanus
Speaker - Gwyn Daniel OXFORD In many of his plays, Shakespeare deals with profound political questions that have continuing relevance for the contemporary world. His tragedies often have a family drama at their heart. They include conflicts between personal and family loyalties, on the one hand, and on the other the demands of realpolitik. In Macbeth and Coriolanus, his themes include the violent seizure of power, dilemmas of political representation, and the perspectives of ordinary citizens on leaders and their personalities. Gwyn Daniel is a family therapist and clinical supervisor in the National Health Service at the Tavistock Clinic, London, and the co-founder of the Oxford Family Institute. She is the co-author of Gender and Family Therapy (1994). Her most recent book is Family Dramas: Intimacy, Power and Systems in Shakespeare’s Tragedies (Routledge, 2018).
55 minutes | Sep 30, 2019
The Novels of Benjamin Disraeli and Oscar Wilde
Speaker - Sandra Mayer Oscar Wilde once described Benjamin Disraeli’s life as ‘the most brilliant of paradoxes’. It served as a model for someone who, as an Irishman and aspiring literary celebrity, shared Disraeli’s outsider status, his Byronic dandyism, his mastery of the quotable epigram, and his quest for fame in the British establishment. This lecture will look at the performances in which Wilde and Disraeli catered to the desires of an increasingly pervasive Victorian celebrity culture. Sandra Mayer is the Hertha Firnberg Research Fellow in English Literature at the University of Vienna and the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing at Wolfson College, Oxford. She is the author of Oscar Wilde in Vienna: Pleasing and Teasing the Audience (2018). She is now working on a book that will explore literary celebrity and politics from the nineteenth century to the present.
49 minutes | Sep 23, 2019
The Cultural Identity of American Libraries
Speaker - Ellen Cunningham-Kruppa Since 1981, conservators who work in libraries and archives to preserve cultural records have been educated typically in three-to four-year graduate programs. Before 1981 in the U.S., however, no higher education opportunities existed—neither undergraduate nor graduate—targeted to the field of library and archives conservation. Why was this case? Ellen Cunningham-Kruppa locates the beginnings of the modern field of library and archives conservation during the early Cold War period, positing that its path from apprentice training to the academy was shaped by a maelstrom of forces in the U.S. that counterbalanced a scientific and technological agenda with the construction of the nation’s cultural identity. The seminar discussion will raise issues of the cultural identity of American libraries. Ellen Cunningham-Kruppa is Associate Director for Preservation and Conservation at the Harry Ransom Center. She has been a practitioner and educator in the preservation field for 35 years. In 2016, Ellen was awarded the American Library Association’s Paul Banks and Carolyn Harris Preservation Award for her contributions to the field. She holds the PhD in American studies and an MLIS from UT Austin, and received an Endorsement of Specialization in Administration of Preservation Programs from Columbia University’s School of Library Service. Her book, Mooring a Field: Paul N. Banks and the Education of Library Conservators (The Legacy Press), will be released in late October.
51 minutes | Sep 16, 2019
Carnival in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night
Speaker - Wayne A. Rebhorn Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night has long been associated with the festive aspects of carnival, especially in its rejection of authority and the exploration of gender confusion in its main, romantic plot. But ‘carnival’ as used by Shakespeare also meant a time of grotesque liberation and indulgence. The carnivalesque can be disturbing as well as exhilarating. While rejection of authority finally yields to a return to the norms of ordinary social life, Twelfth Night preserves the disruptiveness of carnival to the very end. Wayne A. Rebhorn holds the Vacek Chair in English. He has given talks at Yale, Princeton, and Chicago, has lectured in France, Italy, and Germany, and has won fellowships from the ACLS and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 1990, his Foxes and Lions: Machiavelli’s Confidence Men won the Marraro Prize of the Modern Language Association. His translation of Boccaccio’s Decameron won the PEN Center USA’s 2014 Prize for Literary Translation.
54 minutes | Sep 9, 2019
C. P. Snow and the Two Cultures of Medicine and the Humanities
Speaker - Stephen Sonnenberg While a student at Princeton in the late 1950s and early 1960s Stephen Sonnenberg was influenced by the ideas of the literary critic and poet R. P. Blackmur, and read C. P. Snow's The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (1959). He will explain Snow's influence on his thinking throughout his life, as reflected in his memoir now in its third draft, which looks closely at doctor-patient exchanges. A physician and humanities scholar, Sonnenberg will further discuss how his thinking on health care has evolved and how he structures his conversation with patients. The lecture will include an explanation of how medical psychoanalysts traditionally made clinical decisions. Stephen Sonnenberg, M.D., was educated at Princeton University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he earned his medical degree in 1965. He is now Professor of Psychiatry, Population Health, and Medical Education at the Dell Medical School, as well as Professor of Instruction at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work and a Fellow of the Trice Professorship in the Plan II Honors Program. Like C. P. Snow, he tries to bridge the two cultures of science and the humanities.
48 minutes | Sep 4, 2019
Walter Scott, the Stuarts, and Stewardship
Speaker - Sam Baker Often described as the inventor of the historical novel, the Scottish author Walter Scott (1771-1832) was also a poet, lawyer, pioneering editor, and popular historian. This talk will explore the theme of stewardship in Scott's fiction—with particular reference to his best remembered work, Ivanhoe, and one of his least remembered, The Fair Maid of Perth—and will connect that theme with the historiography of feudalism that Scott discovered in the writings of early modern antiquaries. Scott turns out to have been fascinated by the idea that aristocrats abandon at their peril their responsibilities as stewards for the people. What if the ultimate story of failed stewardship told by Scott is the story of a storied royal dynasty—the Stuarts themselves? Samuel Baker has been teaching in the English Department at UT Austin since 2001. He has published a book, Written on the Water: British Romanticism and the Maritime Empire of Culture (Virginia, 2010), and essays on eighteenth and nineteenth century authors including Ann Radcliffe, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, and Matthew Arnold. His current interests include media studies, gothic antiquarianism, and, of course, the poetry and fiction of Walter Scott.
30 minutes | May 28, 2019
Book Launch: 150 Highly Recommended Books
Speaker - Dean Robert King This occasion celebrates the end of the five-year process, sponsored by Randy Diehl and the College of Liberal Arts, that resulted in 150 Highly Recommended Books. The other committee members for the project were Robert Abzug (Rapoport Chair of Jewish Studies), Roger Louis (Kerr Professor of English History and Culture), Al Martinich (Vaughan Centennial Professor in Philosophy), Elizabeth Richmond-Garza (Director of Comparative Literature), and Steven Weinberg (Welch Chair in Physics). The thoroughly illustrated book assesses the authors of the works selected for inclusion as well as the books themselves. Copies will be distributed at the meeting.
72 minutes | May 28, 2019
Fake News, Alternative Facts, and the Question of Truth
Speaker - David Edwards (GOVERNMENT) David Edwards has been a dedicated reader of American and British newspapers and opinion magazines since the 1950s. In fact, he still subscribes to more than one hundred print editions of newspapers, magazines, and journals. He will talk about how fake news has evolved into the versions of it that increasingly pervade politics today. And he will answer the question, what are some possible ways of understanding and coping with the challenge to democracy posed by fake news? Having taught government courses at UT for fifty years, David Edwards three years ago became Professor Emeritus. He has written books on international relations (Creating a New World Politics and Arms Control in International Politics) as well as American politics (The American Political Experience). He has served as a consultant to the Institute for Defense Analyses, the Industrial Management Center, and the Danforth Foundation. He has written for the Washington Post, the Nation, and La Quinzaine Littéraire.
60 minutes | May 28, 2019
Biographies: Research, Writing, and Reviews
Speakers - Bill Brands (HISTORY) Bat Sparrow (GOVERNMENT) Ellen Cunningham-Kruppa (HARRY RANSOM CENTER) Bill Brands and Bat Sparrow will discuss the difference between writing history and biography, and between writing the life of a living person and that of someone dead, perhaps long ago dead, as well as the attitudes of biographers toward their subjects. And what of reviews that criticize a book seemingly other than the one the author thought he or she had written? Brands and Sparrow will also comment on their experiences of working with archival sources and the perils as well as benefits of interviews. Ellen Cunningham-Kruppa will comment on the dilemmas she has encountered writing professional biography. How does the historian determine where to draw the line between the personal and the professional?
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