Hannibal Lectures started as a way to get people talking about the texts taught in Carthage’s core Western Heritage seminars. Now they are among the best-attended academic events at Carthage.
Featuring Carthage faculty and scholars from around the country, Hannibal Lectures are a way for students and faculty to come together to discuss key texts from the Greek and Roman worlds through the Renaissance and into our modern era. “They are a vibrant conversation, that keeps going from year to year,” says English and Great Ideas Professor Seemee Ali, who founded the lecture series with Great Ideas and Philosophy Professor Michael McShane.
Most Hannibal Lectures are held at 4:15 p.m. Thursdays in the Niemann Media Theatre. Refreshments are provided. All are welcome.
2017-2018 Hannibal Lecture Series
Prof. Brendan Cook: Homer’s “Odyssey”
Oct. 10, 2017 — Translation is never easy, and translating a poem is all but impossible. At Carthage, students in the Western Heritage program explore Homer’s “Odyssey” through the 1951 translation of Richmond Lattimore. This lecture explored the strengths and weaknesses of Lattimore’s version by comparing it to a very different English “Odyssey,” the 1724 rendering of Alexander Pope.
Prof. Virginia L. Emery: Plato’s “Republic”
Oct. 10, 2017 — In Plato’s “Republic,” when Socrates delays relating to Glaucon the “Noble Lie” to be told to the citizens of the utopian city they are imagining, he explains his reluctance in part by blaming the strangeness of his story on the fact that it is a foreign tale, one that came from Phoenicia (modern Lebanon).
2016-2017 Hannibal Lecture Series
Prof. Donald Russell: Shakespeare and Ovid
Feb. 23, 2017 — By examining The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Hamlet, we discover three distinct ways in which Shakespeare makes use of Ovid’s Metamorphoses in telling intricately layered stories centered on the human condition.
Prof. Annette Duncan: “The Revolutionary Nature of Luke’s Gospel”
Nov. 3, 2016 — Into a culture fraught with injustice and oppression, the Gospel of Luke brings a message: the good news of hope through Jesus for the downtrodden, the discounted, the forgotten. Join us as we explore the revolutionary nature of his words — words that dismantle barriers of race, class, gender and religion in his day, and that offer a challenge to ours.
Prof. Paul Ulrich: “Entering Plato’s Republic”
Oct. 20, 2016 — Plato’s Republic is well known for its visions of a truly just community and an individual whose life transcends petty concerns. But Plato does not start at a high elevation. He pulls the reader in at the ground-level, and perhaps in doing so he shows us something about the human desire to bring to life the inspiring pictures he presents us.
Prof. Virginia Emery: “Constructing Narrative: Tales of Ancient Egypt”
Sep. 26, 2016 — Humans from around the world and from all time periods tell stories, but do their stories have much in common? What makes a story popular, both in its own time and for all times? Millennia before Homer’s Iliad, the ancient Egyptians were writing about what was important to them. What kinds of stories did the ancient Egyptians tell? How have these stories been used to reconstruct a narrative of ancient Egyptian life and culture centuries later?
Past Hannibal Lectures
Prof. Sam Stoner: “Inequality, Race, and the Human Condition: Reflecting on Rousseau on Du Bois”
May 5, 2016 — The parallels between J.J. Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin and the Foundations of Inequality Among Men and W.E.B DuBois’s The Souls of Black Folk. How do questions regarding race and inequality illuminate the human condition? How should we approach such questions today? How are social and political problems rooted in abiding tensions within the human soul?
Prof. Katharine Keenan: “The Culture of Callipolis: A Structuralist Reading of Plato’s Republic”
Oct. 15, 2015 — The structural patterns underlying this utopian city and modern analogues as an illustration of the structuralist theory that cultural systems of thought may determine the whole organization of society.
Prof. Joseph McAlhany: “When Two Go Together: Homer, Sappho & Bashō in between”
Oct. 1, 2015 — An exploration of how ancient Greek poetry and Japanese haiku teach us about the importance of our everyday encounters with other people.
Prof. Katharine Kennan: “The Struggle for Existence: Marx, Darwin, and the Emergence of Human Consciousness”
April 16, 2015 — The difference and similarities between Marx’s theory of Historical Materialism and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, and how they both changed the way we think about the human species as a whole.
Prof. Kathryn Davis: “What Virgil Sees in Dante’s Divine Comedy”
Feb. 26, 2015 — The role Virgil plays as Dante’s guide through Inferno and Purgatorio, all the way to the Earthly Paradise.
Baylor University Prof. Julia Dyson Hejduk: “The Liberal Arts and Virgil’s Aenied: What Can the Greatest Text Teach Us?”
Nov. 6, 2014 — As the Classic of Classics and the bridge between pagan antiquity and the Christian era, Virgil’s Aeneid stands at the center of the humanities’ Great Conversation. Yet this poem of Empire, with its flawed hero and its ambivalence toward divine and temporal power, raises more questions than it answers about the nature of human history. Reflecting on centuries of readers’ deeply emotional relationships with the Aeneid (including her own), Dr. Hejduk discussed how even today the “greatest text” can provide companionship and inspiration on our life’s journey.
UW-Madison Prof. Barry B. Powell: “Homer, First Poet of the West”
Sept. 18, 2014 — Prof. Barry B. Powell is the Halls-Bascom Professor of Classics Emeritus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A world-renowned expert on Homer and the origins of the Greek alphabet, he has just published the exciting new translation of Homer’s Iliad that Carthage is using in Western Heritage I. As a prolific author, he has published an astonishing number of seminal works on Homer, Greek history and culture, Classical Myth, and the Greek alphabet. Prof. Powell’s visit was sponsored by the Classics Department, the Great Ideas Program, the Western Heritage Program, and the Division of Interdisciplinary Studies.
Yuri Maltsev: “The Many Faces of Marxism”
April 30, 2014 — Economics professor Yuri Maltsev will speak about the many ways in which Marxism has been reinvented and repackaged into ideologies that often conflict – from social democracy to Leninism, from Trotskyism to national socialism, African socialism and Maoism. Prof. Maltsev’s experience with Marxist economic theory is personal as well as academic. Before defecting to the United States, he worked as a member of a senior economic team tasked by Mikhail Gorbachev with creating the history-making reforms of perestroika.
Michael McShane: “The Life of Cordelia in Shakespeare’s King Lear”
March 12, 2014 — Michael McShane, associate professor of Great Ideas and philosophy, presents a talk titled “The Life of Cordelia in Shakespeare’s King Lear.” A young woman named Cordelia dies violently in Shakespeare’s King Lear. Audiences have functionally rejected her shocking death; critics agonize over it. To think of Cordelia’s death, one must see her life. It is almost invisible, but Cordelia does live fully, although not for the 18 years — or whatever — of her animal existence. She lives — really lives — for all of one gorgeous, terrifying moment. Framed in the drama is Cordelia’s minute-short lifespan. It burns with intensest vitality. The gods themselves stand awed by her transcendent humanity. Cordelia achieves more human life in one crisis moment, perhaps, than many of us will manage across our whole allotment of 78.7 years. Then Cordelia is a hero.
Dimitri Shapovalov: “Listening. Reading. Music.”
Feb. 27, 2014 — In this talk, Carthage music professor Dimitri Shapovalov asks what it means to listen to music. For some time now, the particular manner of listening to music, advocated by Roland Barthes and other scholars, has been rather oddly linked to the experience of reading texts. How is listening to music like reading? When we listen to music, to what extent are we encouraged to visualize it? to think of it as a plot? as an image?Remarkably, the manner of listening to music as a kind of reading has received widespread recognition in the 20th century American higher education, which means that this is how we often teach our students to listen — at Carthage and beyond. Is this a desirable way to experience and promote listening? What, if anything, is amiss here?
Wendy Doniger: “The Logical Paradox of Hindu Creation Myths”
Beginnings and their Ends: An East/West Dialogue
Dec. 5, 2013 — Creation myths tackle the problem of the ultimate origin of it all, of the beginning of life out of non-life, at three different basic levels: creation of the universe, of the human race, or of the individual human being, the embryo. What sort of origins do we regard as “our” origins? A consideration of Hindu and Biblical approaches to this question reveals the hidden assumptions built into both of them. Prof. Doniger is the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions in the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. She also holds appointments in University of Chicago’s Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the Committee on Social Thought. Her courses in mythology address themes in cross-cultural expanses, such as death, dreams, evil, horses, sex, and women; her courses in Hinduism cover a broad spectrum that, in addition to mythology, considers literature, law, gender, and zoology. Prof. Doniger is the author of many books, among them Other People’s Myths: The Cave of Echoes; Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India; The Hindus: An Alternative History and a translation of the Kama Sutra.
Christian von Dehsen: “What Went Wrong at Galatia? Getting Into the Mind of Paul”
Oct. 31, 2013 — Prof. von Dehsen is a professor of religion at Carthage. Could St. Paul’s understanding of the very meaning of Christianity evolve over time? What dialectical pressures could have occasioned such a shift in his mind? By reading Paul’s letter to Galatians through the lens of his later letter to the Romans, Prof. von Dehsen hoped to show that Paul’s own concept of the meaning of the defection of the Galatian believers and the larger impact of the Christ event matured over time, and only came to a fuller, more comprehensive, understanding when confronted by the challenge of trying to address similar questions anticipated from the dual audiences in Jerusalem and Rome who thought that Paul “had some ‘splainin’ to do.”
Leonard Muellner: “How to Get Halfway Home”
Sept. 19, 2013 — Leonard Muellner, Ph.D. is a professor of classical studies at Brandeis University. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the Homeric epics, director of publications at Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies, and one of the driving forces behind “The Homer Multi-text Project,” a digital endeavor that works to document the multiform, oral performance of the Homeric epics.