Spring 2015 Calendar of Events

Common Hour with Dallas Denery: "How We Learned to Live with Lies"

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January 30, 2015 12:30 PM  – 1:30 PM
Visual Arts Center, Kresge Auditorium

Is it ever acceptable to lie? This question plays a surprisingly important role in the story of Europe's transition from medieval to modern society. According to many historians, Europe became modern when Europeans began to lie, that is, when they began to argue that it is sometimes acceptable to lie. In this lecture, Dallas Denery examines the trajectory of historical progression from a medieval world of faith, in which every lie is sinful, to a more worldly early modern society in which lying becomes a permissible strategy for self-defense and self-advancement.

Denery uncovers the complicated history of lying from the early days of the Catholic Church to the Enlightenment, revealing the diversity of attitudes about lying by considering the question from the perspectives of five representative voices, the Devil, God, theologians, courtiers, and women. Examining works by Augustine, Bonaventure, Martin Luther, Madeleine de Scudry, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and a host of others, he shows how the lie, long thought to be the source of worldly corruption, eventually became the very basis of social cohesion and peace.

Dallas G. Denery II is an associate professor specializing in medieval and early modern European history. He is the author of Seeing and Being Seen in the Later Medieval World: Optics, Theology, and Religious Life and the coeditor of Uncertain Knowledge: Scepticism, Relativism, and Doubt in the Middle Ages. His most recent book, The Devil Wins: A History of Lying from the Garden of Eden to the Enlightenment, is now available from Princeton University Press.

Note: This talk will also be live streamed on Bowdoin's Live Webcasts page.

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MIT's Craig Steven Wilder: 2015 John Brown Russwurm Lecturer

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March 31, 2015 6:30 PM  – 8:30 PM
Moulton Union, Main Lounge

Craig Steven Wilder, Professor of History at MIT, will deliver the annual John Brown Russwurm Lecture in the Main Lounge of Moulton Union.  A reception in the Russwurm House Library at 5:00 pm will precede the lecture, and both are free and open to the public.

Professor Wilder will examine the contrasting figures of "the matriculating Indian" and "the uneducable Negro" to explore the limits on access to higher education in the second half of the 18th century. Looking closely at the experiences of two friends, the Reverend Samson Occom - a member of the Mohegan nation who became a Presbyterian minister, and poet Phillis Wheatley - the first African-American woman to be published, Professor Wilder will demonstrate how illusory were even the modest hopes of education held by Native and enslaved Americans. Though hailed by well-wishers as possessors of exceptional talents, Occum and Wheatley could find no institutional structures that would support them in intellectual, literary, or religious pursuits. This lecture stems from his important and widely reviewed new study, Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America's Universities, where he argues that many of America's revered colleges and universities were soaked in the sweat, the tears, and sometimes the blood of people of color. 

Professor Wilder is a senior fellow at the Bard Prison Initiative, where he has served as a guest lecturer, commencement speaker, academic advisor, and visiting professor. For more than a decade, this innovative program has given hundreds of men and women the opportunity to acquire a college education during their incarcerations in the New York State prison system.

He has advised and appeared in numerous historical documentaries, including the celebrated Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon film, The Central Park FiveKelly Anderson's highly praised exploration of gentrification, My Brooklyn; the History Channel's F.D.R.: A Presidency Revealed; and Ric Burn's award-winning PBS series, New York: A Documentary History.

Named after the first African-American graduate of Bowdoin College (class of 1826), the lecture series explores the "legacy and status of Black Americans".  Notable speakers include Robert Levine, Lani Guinier, Carl Stokes, Vernon Jordan, Shirley Chisholm, Bayard Rustin, Benjamin Hooks, and Julian Bond, among others.

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Russian Language Table

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April 16, 2015 5:30 PM  – 7:30 PM
Thorne Hall, Mitchell South

Come enjoy a meal and conversation while strengthening your language skills.

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