Temple University Home Page CHAT Home Page

Distinguished Faculty Lectures

Alternate Thursdays, 12:30-1:50 p.m.
CHAT Lounge, 10th Floor, Gladfelter Hall

Each talk showcases current research by Temple faculty. Presentations are 30-40 minutes, followed by open discussion. Lectures begin at 12:30 p.m. in the CHAT Lounge, on the 10th floor of Gladfelter Hall, and end at 1:50 p.m., to allow participants to move on to other obligations.

For talks by external speakers, see Invitational Lectures in the Humanities.

For other events, see Co-Sponsored Events

This year's series has ended. Check back soon for list of speakers in the 2011-2012 Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series

Past Talks: Academic Year 2010-2011

Fall 2010

PortraitSeptember 23, 2010
Laurence Steinberg, Psychology

Should the Science of Adolescent Brain Development Inform Public Policy?

It has become fashionable in recent years to refer to findings from the study of adolescent brain development in discussions about how young people should be viewed and treated under the law. One factor that has contributed to confusion in these discussions people is a blurring of three very different issues that need to be separated: (1) what science does and does not say about brain development in adolescence; (2) what neuroscience does and does not imply for our understanding of adolescent behavior; and (3) what these implications suggest for public policy.  In this talk, I argue that we know a good deal about adolescent brain development, that this knowledge has in fact been useful in shaping our understanding of adolescent behavior, and that neuroscience, like behavioral science, can usefully inform policy discussions. I caution, however, that non-experts may be unduly swayed by neuroscience evidence and thus that such evidence should be presented with special care.

PortraitOctober 7, 2010
Nora Alter, Film and Media Arts

The Essay Film

Professor Alter will discuss the historical  emergence of the Essay Film as a cinematic genre located between art films and documentary/science films. Drawing on theories of the literary/philosophical genre of the essay, Alter argues for a translation and expansion of these theories into the audio-visual medium of film.

Portrait October 21, 2010
Vladislav Zubok, History

Soviet Intelligentsia and the End of the Cold War: A Research Problem

The book project from which this talk is taken explores the complex relationship between Russian nationalism and liberalism in the writing and discussions of intellectuals during the late-Soviet regime and the post-Soviet years. The project focuses on the intellectual biography of Dmitry Sergeevich Likhachev (1906-99), Slavist and scholar of ancient Russian history, who became a great public cultural figure during the Gorbachev years.

PortraitNovember 4, 2010
Lawrence Venuti, English

Genealogies of Translation Theory: Locke and Schleiermacher

What is the Enlightenment legacy in translation theory? And to what extent should we uphold, revise, or abandon this legacy to develop an understanding of translation today? John Locke’s empiricism projected an instrumental model of translation as the reproduction or transfer of a semantic invariant contained in the source text and ultimately reducible to sensory observation. His rare comments on translation, however, reveal the unremarked presence of an interpretive activity that submits the source text to cultural and social variation during the translation process. Friedrich Schleiermacher, although considered a Romantic rather than an Enlightenment thinker, nonetheless sought to bring a rational precision to textual analysis which enabled him to formulate a hermeneutic concept of translation as communicating, not the source text, but an interpretation that varies according to different cultural and social determinations. Yet a residual empiricism unexpectedly emerges when Schleiermacher privileges a specific kind of translating, recommending its interpretation as more adequate to the source text, regardless of its determinate nature. The juxtaposition of these two thinkers can point to conceptual paths not yet taken in translation theory.

PortraitNovember 18, 2010
Judith Levine, Sociology

The Production of Distrust in Low-Income Mothers in the Era of Welfare Reform


The trust literature focuses on the benefits of trust as an integral part of social capital and the resources it brings.  Low-income mothers transitioning from welfare to work are particularly in need of these potential benefits, yet much work documents their distrust in a variety of realms.  This talk will be based on my current book project, Reaching for the Bottom Rung: Low-Income Mothers Climb into the Labor Market before and after Welfare Reform, which draws on  interviews with a total of 95 low-income mothers across two crucial time periods in American welfare policy -- the mid-1990s, before the passage of welfare reform, and the mid-2000s, once reform was fully entrenched.  I will argue that low-income mothers’ distrust is learned through experience in a variety of settings – romantic relationships, social networks, child care systems, workplaces, and welfare offices -- and mothers often interpret the risk of trust as too great to take.  Thus, turning our focus from the distrustful nature of low-income mothers themselves toward the nature of social interaction and trustworthiness within the social contexts in which low-income mothers find themselves may prove a more enlightening perspective. 


PortraitDecember 2, 2010
Britt Rusert, External Humanities Fellow

Calculating Escape: Fugitive Science and the Remapping of American Literature

This talk will focus on the intersection between narratives of escape and minor race sciences in the nineteenth century.  The antebellum period witnessed the rise of a number of scientific fields put in the service of defending and justifying institutions of enslavement.  However, fugitive slaves, freemen and women, anti-slavery agents, as well as many well-known writers of the period, not only participated in a general critique of racist scientific theories, but also were actively involved in the production of oppositional scientific knowledges and experiments in freedom. I argue that fugitive science restores a dynamic concept of experimentation to both antebellum science and literature.

Spring 2011

Speaker portraitFebruary 3, 2011
Karen Klaiber Hersch, Greek and Roman Classics

Crying for the Gods: Roman Religion and the Roman Wedding

This talk investigates the recurring motif of the lamenting virgin bride and the close connection these laments have to Roman religion. Scholars of Roman literature have recently argued that depictions of wedding rites show a transition for a virgin made smooth by rituals.  I argue instead that the Roman bride’s path was purposefully strewn with obstacles and that Roman wedding rituals represent a heightening of tensions leading to the bride’s rape. I discuss the disturbing connection of Roman religion and violence enacted upon the bride. I show that the bride was not incorporated into her groom’s family.  A more violent and disjunctive rite of passage, I argue, can scarcely be imagined.  I propose that if the laments of the bride were clearly heard by the onlookers both human and divine, then her violent transition would receive the blessing of the gods, and indeed her laments may have constituted worship of these divine beings who protected Rome.

February 17, 2011
PortraitNaomi Schiller, Anthropology

Channeling Chávez: Community Media and the State in Caracas, Venezuela

Multiple times a week people from Caracas’s poor neighborhoods request help from Catia TV, Venezuela’s most prominent community television station, to publicize their denuncias (complaints) about government welfare programs. Visitors often imagine that the television station serves as a direct conduit to President Chávez, who they hope will resolve their problems. In this paper, I draw on ethnographic fieldwork I conducted in 2006-2007 to explore what the social practice of denunica reportage reveals about the liberal regime of truth that Chávez’s “Bolivarian revolution” threatens freedom. (more... )

PortraitMarch 3, 2011
Patricia Melzer, French, German, Italian and Slavic Languages

The Other Half of the Sky: Revolutionary Violence and Feminist Politics in Germany and Abroad in the 1970s and 1980s

View the video capture of this event

How do masculinity and femininity operate as cultural parameters for political action? How does gender as an analytical variable contribute to our understanding of terrorism? This talk is part of a book-length study, The Gender of Political Violence: Women in Left Militant Groups in West Germany, 1970-1992 that examines how gender shapes our perception of women’s political choices and of political violence more generally. The lecture provides a context for a gendered analysis of the RAF as a politically violent group: a historical overview of the New Left movement in West Germany and the formation of the RAF and other militant groups in the early 1970 sets the stage for a discussion of how the women’s movement, in conjunction with a growing peace and disarmament movement, began formulating feminist rejections of a perceived masculine glorification of revolutionary violence. The claim to non-violence as inherent to feminist politics that underlies these theories clearly is contradicted by RAF women’s commitment to armed struggle. I argue that their actions need to be reviewed from within a conceptual framework that recognizes the gendered dimensions of their decisions without denying the contradictions these decisions pose for feminist politics. (more... )

PortraitMarch 24, 2011
Lewis Gordon, Philosophy

Black Existence in the Philosophy of Culture

This talk will examine an Africana philosophy of culture of black existence through, after offering a critique of a theodicy of textuality and social reality, exploration of the construction of “problem people,” of people whose existence, marked by blackness, has been treated as a challenge to reason and the search for knowledge in the modern world.   As Africana philosophy raises concerns of philosophical anthropology, philosophy of freedom, and a metacritique of reason, it offers, as well, a case for the central importance of philosophy of culture in modern and late modern thought.  I will conclude with a brief outline of my theory of cultural reality.


PortraitApril 7, 2011
Ashley West, Art History

Printed Relics and Reliquaries, c.1500: Images of Objectivity before the Age of Science

Printed relic and reliquary pamphlets represent a distinct phenomenon in the Holy Roman Empire from c.1475-1525. Usually comprised of simple woodcuts and accompanied by brief textual descriptions, these printed booklets and sheets were created as advertisements or souvenirs of a local church’s treasury and sold to visiting pilgrims. While often carrying the devotional force of the holy objects to which they refer, such pamphlets nonetheless teeter between the sacred and profane in the years before the height of the Reformation. As objects of Christian devotion and participants in religious spectacle, these printed visual records stand at an important junction leading ultimately in two directions: the one toward scientific objectivity and documentation; the other toward ‘modern art.’

PortraitApril 21, 2011
Hector Postigo, Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Mass Media

The Digital Rights Movement:  Free Culture Activism and the YouTube Generation

This talk will explore the emerging “Free Culture Movement,” discussing its dynamics, ideology and impact on consumption and creation of mass media content. The case of the Free Culture Movement is used to weave together a number of themes currently debated by internet and digital media scholars in the field of mass communication. These include 1) the tensions between optimistic participatory audience viewpoints on the power of a Web 2.0 audience and critical perspectives on the cooptation of audience “labor” by increasingly complex corporate owned systems of participation 2) the tensions between techno-legal regimes that regulate and shape participation and the resistance to those regimes through legal and extra –legal means and 3) the emergence of participatory rights discourses among media consumers vs. the legal and corporate discourse legitimating authors’ rights.

Center for the Humanities
10th Floor, Gladfelter Hall (025-45)
1115 Polett Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19122-6089
Phone - 215-204-6386
Fax - 215-204-8371
Email - chat@temple.edu