2017 Colloquia

The 2017 speakers and topics are listed below by month. Because we webcast most colloquiums and archive the results, many are available to view online. Click the blue titles to view.


January 9 at OLLI, 6 Executive Park [note location change]
“Reconciling History: The Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project at Emory”
Hank Klibanoff, Professor of Practice, Creative Writing Program/nonfiction

For the first of the Emeritus College Lunch Colloquiums of the Happy New Year, we bring you a presentation by Emory’s own Hank Klibanoff, a veteran journalist whose claims to considerable fame include co-authoring the book that won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 2007, The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation. He has also won much acclaim for his leadership in the important work he’ll be discussing, the work of the Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project, where Emory undergraduate students examine Georgia history in the classroom and in the field through the prism of unsolved or unpunished racially motivated murders of the modern civil rights era. Klibanoff will help us also better understand this history and the efforts being made to bring it to the fore of consciousness (and conscience), where it most assuredly belongs. 

January 23
“A Spirit of Charity: Restoring the Bond between America and Its Public Hospitals”
Mike King, Journalist

As a reviewer for the New York Times put it, “Mike King’s decades of experience as an Atlanta-based journalist covering health care in the South” prepared him well to deal with the subject of his new book, the trials and tribulations (and remarkable achievements) of this country’s public hospitals. Though the story of such hospitals (including Atlanta’s own Grady Memorial Hospital) is “a moving, ridiculously complicated target,” King hits that target squarely, rousing “outrage on behalf of [these] continuously threatened [institutions]” that contain “the few square miles in this country where health care is an unquestioned right, not a grudgingly granted privilege.” 


February 6
Clark Poling, Professor of Art Emeritus
"Surrealist Themes"
(Because of copyright restrictions on some of the art, the video for this Lunch Colloquium cannot be made publicly available.)

Clark Poling will share insights on Surrealism, from his many decades of research, presentation, and publication at Emory pre-retirement, where he served as chair of the Art History department, director of the Michael C. Carlos Museum, and Faculty Curator of Works of Art on Paper, and in California, post-retirement. We're pleased he's back in Atlanta, ready to tell us how Surrealism arose in Paris in the 1920s and 30s as a critique of society at the time, promoting the virtues of irrationality and freedom from stylistic, moral and political constraints. Major contributors to the movement included the painters Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Frida Kahlo, and Joan Miró, and the sculptor Alberto Giacometti as well as the sometime participant Pablo Picasso. Poling's talk will focus on themes shared by these artists: war and violence, the psychoanalysis of sex, and the creation of personal mythology.

February 20
Caroline Schaumann, Associate Professor, Department of German Studies
“Icecapades: James David Forbes and Louis Agassiz in the Alps”

In August 1841, the Scottish physicist James Forbes and the Swiss biologist Louis Agassiz together scaled the Jungfrau (4,158 m. /13,642 ft.) in the Alpine mountain’s fourth ascent. They’d met that year while camped out on the ice, both fascinated by glaciers and the new theory of an ice age.  Soon, however, they would find themselves engaged in a bitter dispute and on non-speaking terms. This presentation uses their descriptions of scientific research on snow and ice to tease out some key aspects of the emergence of 19th-century mountaineering narratives in the context of science, aesthetics, and gender, a subject central to Schaumann's current book project on that century’s depictions of explorations in the Alps as well as the Andes and the Sierra Nevada. There’s little doubt that this book, like the earlier Heights of Reflection: Mountains in the German Imagination from the Middle Ages to the Twenty-First Century that she co-edited in 2012, will confirm Schaumann’s status as a leader in the new field of ecocriticism, the study of environmental concerns reflected in literature (and the other arts), which has come to fore as our increasing consciousness of such concerns has done the same.


March 6
Jaap de Roode, Associate Professor, Department of Biology
“Beautiful and Smart? The Use of Medicinal Plants by Monarch Butterflies”

Jaap de Roode and the colleagues and students with whom he works at the de Roode lab here at Emory study the ecology and evolution of parasites and their hosts. Their work with monarch butterflies has revealed how the insects act so as to counter the virulence of the protozoan parasite that threatens them when they use milkweeds as their larval food plants. Milkweeds contain toxins, which monarchs use as a defense against predators. What's more, these toxins also function as herbal medicine, suggesting monarchs may use the plants to treat their diseased offspring. However, it seems, like that of humans, the butterflies’ “medical practice” can have a downside—an evolution of the very virulence it protects against, making it more threatening than before. With a combination of experiments, field work, theoretical models, and molecular biology, Jaap and his fellow lab workers are investigating this phenomenon—important enough in its implications that Popular Science named Jaap one of the 10 most promising US scientists under 40 several years ago.

March 20, 11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m. [note earlier time]
Laura Otis, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of English
“Representing Emotions That Are Hard to Love”

In human emotions, physiology and culture meet. Rather than debating whether biology or culture predominates in shaping human emotions, this presentation will analyze the ways that they combine in metaphors for some unpopular emotions: self-pity, resentment, spite, repressed anger, and personal hate. Emotions are notoriously difficult to describe in words, and the creative metaphors writers and ordinary people have devised to express them reflect both their bodily experiences and the social and political forces nudging them toward some feelings and away from others. In developing her thesis, Otis will reference both literary works and scientific studies. And few can be as well equipped to deal with so interdisciplinary a topic as she, who followed up a BS in molecular physics and biochemistry and an MA in neuroscience with a PhD in comparative literature and who’s been collaborating on this and similarly innovative work with faculty from many other disciplines since she came to Emory. It’s no wonder she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for creativity in 2000. 


April 3
John Bugge, Professor of English Emeritus
“Re-Inventing The Canterbury Tales: Hypertext and ‘The General Prologue’”

Among the four major English poets from before 1700, only Chaucer wrote in an English that is not modern. His work presents challenges that readers of Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton do not normally face. And because simple aesthetic justice demands that The Canterbury Tales be read in their original Middle English, one might posit an even stronger need for “reinventing” Chaucer. But the supposed language impediment turns out to be something of a paper tiger, and readers soon discover that Chaucer is a poet of surprisingly contemporary sensibility, particularly in his use of a compositional mode that bears a striking resemblance to hypertext—a term coined 50 years ago to signify a collection of documents containing cross-references, or “links,” that allow a user to move easily from one document to another. Excerpts from “The General Prologue” provide examples of such Chaucerian hypertext, which invites readers to search a richly complicated and multinodal network of meanings lying beyond the immediate textual site. It turns out Chaucer needs no reinvention, but rather only a recognition that how his texts mean is entirely conducive to the way we read in the age of the Internet.


May 1

Gretchen Schulz, Professor of English Emerita, Oxford College of Emory University

“Something wicked this way comes”: The Problem of Evil in Shakespeare’s Plays

There is much talk today about “wicked problems,” problems so complex they require interdisciplinary solutions. But of course, such problems have been around for a long time, with our greatest artists among those attempting to deal with them, not least the problem that may be the “wickedest” of all, the problem of wickedness itself, the problem of evil. Shakespeare’s greatest villains and the plays they inhabit address this problem, raising questions about the nature of human nature and suggesting answers from a variety of perspectives that deserve designation as “interdisciplinary.” Schultz discusses how Shakespeare “anatomizes” the “hard hearts” of his villains in Richard III, Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear—positing (and portraying) causes (possible causes) for their behaviors that might well be labeled theological, psychological, sociological, and even biological (if we were to use the labels we use today when discussing the evil characters we find in our own midst—and in our own drama—Frank Underwood and his real-life.

May 15

Angela F. Amar, Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing
“Violence and Crime: The Health Care Response”

Victims of violence are unfortunately ever-present in health care today, and nurses are often the first to interact with victims, stepping into uncomfortable or difficult situations. To ensure patient and provider safety and to ensure the best possible outcomes, every nurse should be well versed in forensic and theoretical issues of violence. Perhaps no one has done more to ensure that’s the case than Angela Amar, an early pioneer in forensic nursing, who has been instrumental in developing relevant nursing curriculum and establishing standards that have been accepted as applicable nationwide and worldwide. The book on the subject she recently co-authored won two (that’s right, not one but two) Book of the Year Awards from the American Journal of Nursing in 2016. 


June 5
W. Virgil Brown, MD, Charles Howard Candler Professor Emeritus, Emory University School of Medicine; Editor, Journal of Clinical Lipidology
“Heart Attack and Stroke: The Role of Genes and Drugs”

The bad news? Arteriosclerosis continues to rank No. 1 among major causes of death and disability for women and men in developed countries. Approximately 40% of all deaths are caused by this type of vascular disease. Women are now at equal risk of heart attack as men and at greater risk for stroke. The good news? Through therapy based on our understanding of certain genes, it is possible to treat those with arteriosclerotic vascular disease and thereby markedly reduce the incidence of heart attack and stroke. There is perhaps no one better suited to share the good news about such possible treatment than Emory’s own W. Virgil Brown. With our unfolding knowledge of genetics, researchers have been able to develop drugs that affect the function of a specific protein, apolipoprotein B (apoB), a primary factor in vascular disease. As a result, doctors can now set these proteins and blood cholesterol to virtually any chosen level through drug therapy—even in those with known vascular disease. Recent studies have shown that these drugs have reduced heart attacks and strokes by more than 50% in such individuals. A good news gospel, indeed.

June 19
Jeffrey Watkins, CEO and Artistic Director, Atlanta Shakespeare Company
“The Keys to the Kingdom: An Everyman’s Guide to Loving Shakespeare”

Jeff Watkins, the man (and some of us might say the genius) most responsible for the fact that Shakespeare is alive and well and available for our viewing pleasure year-round in Atlanta, will begin his presentation-cum-demonstration with a brief contextualization of Shakespeare’s work and its relation to how we define ourselves as human beings through myth and story. He will then present five keys to understanding Shakespeare in performance: (1) Shakespeare’s playhouse, (2) the role of the audience, (3) the Elizabethan worldview, (4) Shakespeare’s verse structure, and (5) Shakespeare’s dirty jokes. He will be using illustrations from performance to emphasize his points—not the least references to the handling of scenes from the production of Richard III scheduled through June at the Shakespeare Tavern, a production members of Emeritus College will be able to attend on a date to be determined. (We’ll be in touch about that. Keep the two Sunday dates of June 18 and 25 open, if you can.)


July 10 (note location change: OLLI, 6 Executive Park)
Craig Hill, Goodrich C. White Professor, Department of Chemistry
“Artificial Photosynthesis: Tackling both Global Energy Needs and Climate Change”

“Globally, our energy requirements are expected to double in the next 30 to 40 years, maybe less. This and the remarkable international consensus (174 signatory countries to the 2016 Paris convention) that fossil fuel use is already changing the global climate in deeply worrisome ways, constitute a research challenge as great as any.” So says Emory’s Goodrich C. White Professor of Chemistry Craig Hill, who has spent years now consulting and collaborating with experts in many disciplines working on ways to solve these problems. The only energy source that can come close to sustainably powering our long-term needs is sunlight. We’re at the point now where we have solar-powered buildings and electric cars, but we are never going to run airplanes, ships and most other forms of transportation on electricity. The solution to these dual crises of energy availability and climate protection, as Hill will explain, is learning to do what plants do, only better—that is, learning to make fuel from sunlight to generate carbon-neutral fuels without pollution. 

July 24
Donna Brogan, Professor of Biostatistics Emerita, Rollins School of Public Health
“Why the 2016 US Presidential Polls Were ‘Wrong’: Implications for Future Polling”

After the election’s surprising outcome, there has been much discussion in the media about why the polls were “wrong.” In this presentation, Donna Brogan, professor of biostatistics emerita, will focus on postmortems among professionals who work in sample survey methodology, the area of her expertise. She will share the results of a report the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) published in May. Perhaps the useful suggestions for better sampling methods and better interpretation of the results of sampling methods that survey methodology professionals have already offered to all, combined with further suggestions likely to appear in the AAPOR report, will lead to better polling the next time around—and fewer people stunned beyond belief on election night.


Tuesday, September 19 (rescheduled from September 12 due to weather closing)
Benjamin Reiss, Professor of English and Co-Director, Disability Studies Initiative
“Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World”

Benjamin Reiss, who specializes in 19th-century American literature, disability studies, and health humanities, won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2015 to support work on Wild Nights, the book he discusses in this lecture. As he’ll explain, sleep is a biological necessity for all living creatures, yet among humans, it is practiced in an astonishing variety of ways. Contemporary Western society has developed a rigid set of rules for sleeping: seven to eight hours in one straight shot, sealed off in private bedrooms, with two consenting adults sharing a bed at most, children apart from parents (and each other), everyone on a rigid schedule that is more or less invariant across the seasons. For most of human history, practically no one slept in this way, yet today failure to sleep according to the rules is a sign of either a medical disorder or social failure. Reiss’s talk will uncover some of the historical causes and economic, psychological, racial, and environmental consequences of our peculiar manner of sleeping.

Monday, September 25
Dabney P. Evans, Assistant Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health
“‘Regardless, you are not the first woman’: An Illustrative Case Study of Missed Opportunities to Protect Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights”

Dabney Evans is a mixed-methods researcher of issues affecting vulnerable populations at the intersection of public health and human rights. She’ll share some insight into her current research into sexual and reproductive health and rights, focusing on the particularly sensitive topics of rape, unintended pregnancy, and abortion. Evans shares the story of Eve, a 19-year-old woman who was raped, became pregnant, and almost died of complications from an unsafe abortion. Her case presents unique challenges related to the fulfillment of sexual and reproductive rights due to legal restrictions on abortion and impunity for perpetrators of violence against women. This in-depth personal history reveals missed opportunities for public health intervention and important lessons for the realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights in countries with restrictive legal policies and conservative cultural norms around sexuality. 


Tuesday, October 10
Sam Dixon, Executive and Artistic Director, Spivey Hall
“The Courage to Think Small: Emilie Spivey’s Creation of Spivey Hall”

In the words of legendary conductor Robert Shaw, “Spivey Hall is to music what light is to painting.” The dream of organist, entrepreneur, civic leader and philanthropist Emilie Parmalee Spivey, this elegant recital hall opened in 1991, built with private funds totaling $4.5 million. With just 392 seats, Spivey has superb acoustics that enable artists and audiences to feel a strong and deeply satisfying connection to the performance of fine music. How this gem came to be situated at Clayton State University, how its programming enriches lives in far-reaching ways, and how the beautiful “body” of Spivey Hall has also come to possess a beautiful “soul,” are among the topics to be explored in this talk by its executive and artistic director, Sam Dixon.

Monday, October 23
Pellom McDaniels III, Curator of African American Collections, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library
“A Question of Manhood: African Americans and WWI”

Fresh from receiving the Center for Research Libraries 2017 Source Award for Research for curating an Emory exhibition inspired by Natasha Trethewey’s book, Native Guard, Pellom McDaniels turned his attention to an exhibition inspired by the memoir of an African American soldier who served as a valet in WWI, which he has edited for Oxford University Press. In this presentation, McDaniels offers an overview of the materials and major theses of the exhibition, which will be on view at Rose Library from early in the fall. In this “war to end all wars,” there were some African American leaders who saw participation as not in the best interest of American blacks, who were constantly fighting for their lives in the country of their birth. Other African American leaders felt it imperative to continue to serve as citizen-soldiers so that blacks would not lose ground to nor simultaneously risk accusations of disloyalty to the nation in its time of need. In the end, African American men gravitated towards the image of the black soldier as a beacon of hope and dignity for the community as well as a symbol of American manhood realized.


November 6
Gene Bianchi, Don Saliers, Holly York: Professors Emeriti of Religion, Theology, and French
“An EUEC Poetry Slam: Members Share Their Own Poetry (Plus)”

In this very special Lunch Colloquium, Gene Bianchi (founding director of the Emeritus College and continuing contributor to its success) will share poetry from his most recent collection, The Hum of It All, and other works. As Dana Greene put it in the blurb she wrote for the book (revealing her own poetic capacities), “In [these] poems of nature, illness, aging, and every kind of unfixable brokenness, one hears a cosmic hum, whittling down belief to heart wood. It is the hum, the sound of all sounds, the ur-sound, taught by cat and owl, birch and wind which is the inspiration for these wonderful poems.” As in the past, Gene has insisted we invite other emeriti poets to present along with him—and we’re delighted that Don Saliers and Holly York have agreed to do so. We also invite attendees who might want to share a poem they have written themselves (or one by another author) to “stand and deliver” in the final 20 minutes of this program—using poetry to celebrate poetry, which is, according to Marianne Moore, “the art of creating imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” 

November 20
Tawni Tidwell, TMD, Rangjung Tibetan Medicine, Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology
“Bridging Ancient Tibetan Medicine and Modern Western Science: Journeys in Becoming an Amchi Physician”

Tibetan medicine has historically existed as a comprehensive health care system throughout Tibetan regions across Asia and the Trans-Himalaya and as a treatment modality of choice, particularly for chronic illness, with origins predating the 7th century CE. As the first Westerner to be certified in Tibetan medicine among Tibetan peers, by Tibetan teachers, and in the Tibetan language, Tidwell, who is now completing her work for the Ph.D. in Emory's Department of Anthropology, will describe her experiences training as an amchi, a traditional Tibetan medical physician. She studied for her first three years at the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan Medical Institute, Men-Tsee-Khang, in northern India and her final years in eastern Tibet at the largest institution of Tibetan medicine in the world, where she focused her internship on gastrointestinal disorders and cancers. She will also discuss her work in bridging Tibetan and Western knowledge systems of the body.


December 4 (Extended session includes holiday party)
Susan Socolow, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor Emerita of Latin American History
“Life, Luck, Language, and How I Became a Historian”

In 2015, in response to widespread demand, Cambridge University Press released a second (and thoroughly updated) edition of Susan Socolow’s much-acclaimed text, Women of Colonial Latin America. We had thought we might persuade her to address that subject matter in her presentation to us, but instead, she has decided to address the subject that made it possible for her to do the work represented in that text and indeed in all of the scholarly work she has done. That subject? It is habilidades lingüísticas, compétences linguistiques, Sprachkenntnisse, or abilità linguistiche. Linguistic competence. As her experience has shown her, it can open professional (and social) doors well worth walking through—all over the world.

It can even help globalize holiday celebrations like the one we’ll enjoy after Susan’s presentation concludes. In the meantime, by way of prologue to the party, we hereby wish you all Feliz Navidad! Joyeux Noël! Fröhliche Weihnachten! or Buon Natale!, or (here’s an all-American phrase) Whatever.