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Colorado Center for Public Humanities

Past Programs & Events: Fall 07 - Spring 08

Microphone at a podium

New Visions of the American Scholar: Annual Fall Lecture Series 2007

  • Sept. 6, 2007: Michael Berube (Paterno Family Professor in Literature, Penn State University)
  • Oct. 4, 2007: Stephen Prothero (Chair of Religious Studies, Boston University)
  • Nov. 1, 2007:  Patricia Limerick (Director, Center of the American West, University of Colorado Boulder)
  • Dec. 11, 2007:  Philip  Joseph (Director, Colorado Center for Public Humanities)

"New Visions of the American Scholar" brought together four public intellectuals who have succeeded in descending from the ivory tower and engaging audiences beyond the walls of the university. We asked these scholars, each one from a different discipline in the humanities, to reflect on the roles that scholars can play and the contributions they can make to contemporary American democracy.

The series took up the challenge that Ralph Waldo Emerson posed in his "American Scholar" address. Speaking to Phi Beta Kappa members at Harvard in 1837, Emerson invited his audience to inquire "what light new days and events have thrown on the [scholar's] character and hopes." We asked our four invited speakers to update Emerson's inquiry, applying it to the "days and events" of our own times.

Emerson envisioned an independently minded scholar, celebrating the common man and providing ethical direction to the life of an early democratic society. What might be an appropriate vision of the scholar for our own late democratic society? What needs to change in order for this vision to be realized? In this series, speakers and audiences reflected together on the opportunities, responsibilities and pitfalls facing the contemporary American scholar.

Medical Narrative: Critical Perspectives on Storytelling — Health and Humanities Colloquia

March 12, 2008

In this, the inaugural meeting of the Health and Humanities Colloquia, we explored the benefits and risks of encouraging patients to “tell their stories.” The colloquia was informed by two readings. The first was an article by Rita Charon, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Clinical Medicine and Director of the Program in Narrative Medicine at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Charon brought her dual background in medicine and literature together in the concept of “narrative medicine,” which reframes the doctor-patient interaction via storytelling and close reading. We also read a critique of narrative medicine from disability and cultural perspectives by Felice Aull, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Department of Physiology and Neuroscience at NYU. During the colloquia, we also viewed clips from movie Wit (directed by Mike Nichols and starring Emma Thompson).