The Lunch Colloquium

Until further notice, Emeritus College Lunch Colloquiums will be held online. Sign up on the calendar on the home page.

Click on the sub-navigation to the left to view past speakers and topics. The 2021 speakers and topics are listed below by month. Because we webcast most colloquiums and archive the results, many are available to view online. Click on the blue titles to view past lectures as they become available.


Monday, January 11
Anthony J. Martin, Professor of Practice, Department of Environmental Sciences
“Tracking the Golden Isles: What Traces Tells Us about the Natural and Human Histories of the Georgia Coast”

The Georgia coast is world-famous for its natural and human histories. Still, the evidence for these histories isn’t always obvious to casual visitors. In this lively presentation based on his new book Tracking the Golden Isles, Tony Martin will teach us how to detect and understand the clues to these histories via ichnology, the study of traces. In his talk, you will learn how trace fossils allowed geologists to find ancient barrier islands, how modern traces tell stories of animals’ everyday lives, and how human traces ranging from Native American shell rings, to the effects of invasive species, to the consequences of climate change, have affected the Georgia coast.

Tuesday, January 19
Polly J. Price, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law, Emory University School of Law and Professor of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health
“Pandemics and the Law of Social Distancing”

COVID-19 familiarized many Americans with “social distancing,” a term encompassing a variety of actions intended to mitigate the spread of contagious disease. Elected leaders, especially state governors, varied remarkably in their attitudes toward social distancing for business and school closures, size limits on gatherings, dining at indoor restaurants, travel restrictions and quarantine policy, and the use of face masks. The dizzying patchwork of COVID-19 policies looked more like the response of 50 different nations than that of the resource-rich and technologically advanced single nation the United States is. Some governors opposed mandates in favor of voluntary compliance on the grounds that citizens should be “allowed to exercise their constitutional freedoms,” as Georgia Governor Brian Kemp stated. Polly Price will explain the law of social distancing and why it can vary so markedly between states. Who decides what safety measures are necessary? Where is the line between emergency mandates and what sometimes seems to be a politically charged view of constitutional freedoms? When might public health orders violate individual rights? The answers to these questions inform the prospects for legal reform in advance of the next pandemic.

Monday, January 25
Angelika Bammer, Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Humanities, Department of Comparative Literature
“German Family Memory and the Nazi Past: A Reckoning across Generations”

Angelika Bammer’s recent book Born After: Reckoning with the German Past, explores the relationship between history and memory in the wake of a traumatic past. Arguing that, as William Faulkner famously said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” she considers the ways in which history is transmitted through family memories—the stories we tell and the silences we carry. Drawing on her own family history, she traces the legacy of Nazi history across several generations of a German family to explore the affective impact of this legacy. In response to the question, “What do we do with pasts that carry guilt or shame?” she proposes that the shifting ground between remembering, forgetting, and misremembering is the ethical foundation on which we build our lives. Her presentation will interweave a reading of selections from her book with reflections on how and why she wrote it. 


Monday, February 1
John Sitter, Charles Howard Candler Professor of English Emeritus, Emory University and Mary Lee Duda Professor of Literature Emeritus, University of Notre Dame
“What is Climate Fiction Saying? And Should We Listen?”

Novels about climate and environmental change have emerged in our century as a major part of literary fiction. Both the fact and the prospect of climate change are shaping plots, characters, and innovations in the novels of our time. This emergence of "cli-fi" raises several interesting questions: What motivates climate fiction? How has it changed over the last two decades? How well does it reflect scientific thinking? How do serious novelists, working in a form traditionally well suited to record ordinary life and personal experience, broaden their artistic vision to include planetary time, space, and consciousness? Are dystopias (one strand of cli-fi) inevitably fatalistic or potentially a means of grasping our moment and imagining better futures? What can we learn from climate novels, and eco-fiction broadly, that we might not learn from newspapers and journals and other nonfiction sources?

Monday, February 8
Talea Mayo, Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics
“Water, Water Everywhere: Numerical Modeling to Simulate the Impact of Climate Change on Hurricane Storm Surge”

Climate change, which will cause global mean sea level rise and increase coastal flood risk in many places, has significant implications for tropical cyclone climatology. Hurricane intensity, size, and translation speed are all expected to increase in the future, influencing the generation and propagation of storm surge. Talea Mayo, a computational mathematician with expertise in the development and application of hydrodynamic models for coastal hazards, will discuss two approaches to understanding what climate change means for storm surge risk.  One approach uses a numerical model to simulate synthetic storm surges for coastal communities along the US North Atlantic coast, seeking to understand the present-day flood risk and how it will change over the next century. In the second approach, other numerical models are used to simulate historical storm surges that impacted the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Coast of the continental United States from 2000–2013 and then to simulate the same storm surges under projected end-of-century climate conditions. Both approaches suggest there will be notable increases in inundation in the areas involved. Perhaps such simulations of a future of flooding can help us prevent that from becoming a reality? 

Monday, February 15
Mahlon DeLong, Professor Emeritus, Neurology
"Brain Circuits and Their Disorders: My Life and Times in Neuroscience"

The fields of neurology and psychiatry have undergone rapid growth over recent decades, fueled by advances in neuroscience. Mahlon DeLong’s initial studies in primates were centered on understanding the role of structures deep in the brain, in the basal ganglia in the control of movement and their suspected role in Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. In the course of these studies, DeLong identified separate neural circuits for the control of movement, cognition, and emotion/reinforcement, fundamentally changing the prevailing view that these circuits were funneled together within the basal ganglia. In subsequent studies in animal models, he demonstrated that the signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s were correlated with altered neuronal activity in specific nodes of the motor circuit and that they could be reversed by selective interruption of the motor circuit. New treatment approaches to movement disorders, especially in Parkinson’s, followed including lesioning and the less invasive and reversible technique of deep brain stimulation (DBS) of specific areas of the “motor circuit.” In combination with new pharmacologic and other forms of neuromodulation, these studies have transformed neurology from a largely diagnostic practice to an increasingly therapeutic discipline. The older idea of brain centers in neurologic and psychiatric disorders has now been largely replaced by the understanding of both as circuit disorders, dispelling the notion that psychiatric disorders are fundamentally different from neurologic ones and suggesting that both are potentially treatable by future less invasive approaches of neuromodulation.

Monday, February 22
Oded Borowski, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Archaeology and Hebrew
“Sennacherib in Judah: The Archaeology of Destruction”

In 701 BCE, King Sennacherib of Assyria attacked the Kingdom of Judah, an event documented in the Bible, in Assyrian literary and artistic sources, and even mentioned by Herodotus. Sennacherib besieged but did not conquer Jerusalem. He conquered Lachish, the second most important city in Judah. He claimed to have destroyed 46 towns and villages, put down the rebellion in all the member countries of the coalition as far as Cyprus, and took away land belonging to Judah and gave it to its neighbors. The widespread destruction left many materials for archaeologists to study and reconstruct what daily life was like in the 8th-century BCE. Oded Borowski’s recent archaeological activity has focused on Tell Halif, one of the sites destroyed by Sennacherib. The fieldwork he and his staff have been doing, supported in part by Emory’s Heilbrun and Bianchi/Bugge grants, is completed and they are busily analyzing the finds and preparing for final publication. Oded’s presentation will briefly touch on the site, its history, the finds, and the work presently being conducted.


Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Stephen Crist, Professor of Music History and Chair, Department of Music
Dave Brubeck’s Time Out: An Insider’s View of an Iconic Jazz Album”

 In his newest book, Dave Brubeck’s Time Out, Stephen Crist draws on nearly 15 years of archival research to offer the most thorough examination to date of this seminal jazz album. Supplementing his research with interviews with key individuals, including Brubeck's widow, Iola, and daughter Catherine, as well as interviews conducted with Brubeck himself prior to his death in 2012, Crist paints a complete picture of the album's origins, creation, and legacy. Couching careful analysis of each of the album’s seven tracks within historical and cultural contexts, he offers fascinating insights into the composition and development of some of the album’s best-known tunes. From Brubeck’s 1958 State Department–sponsored tour, during which he first encountered the Turkish aksak rhythms that would form the basis of “Blue Rondo à la Turk,” to the backstage jam session that planted the seeds for “Take Five,” Crist sheds an exciting new light on one of the most significant albums in jazz history.

Monday, March 8, 2021
Voracious Viewers Anonymous, Assorted Members of the Emeritus College
“Binge-Fest 2020–2021: Seen Any Good Shows Lately?” 

It has now been a year since the COVID crisis began to work its transformations on our lives. We considered marking the anniversary by inviting those among us who’ve spent their versions of quarantine reading more than ever before to share their recommendations for “good reads.” But we’ve decided to schedule a “Binge-Fest” instead of a “Book-Fest”—and ask for volunteers to recommend the shows through which they have (also) sought to escape the realities of these trying times. If you have found some movies marvelous, some series irresistible, please let Gretchen Schulz know if you’d like to describe them to others who might enjoy them, too. First come, first scheduled until there’s no time left. And fair warning, if volunteers are lacking, Gretchen may claim leftover time to rave about the Australian soap she recently binged on herself—80-plus episodes. Just sayin’. 

Monday, March 15, 2021
Dianne Stewart, Associate Professor of Religion and African American Studies
“Forbidden Black Love: America’s Hidden Civil Rights Issue” 

It is no secret that marriage is not what it used to be in America. Over the last century, marriage rates declined, and divorce rates increased by record numbers for all Americans, regardless of racial/ethnic background. Trends are already indicating similar patterns for the beginning of the 21st century. The data pertaining to rates of marriage among Black women across every demographic, however, register a distinctive social reality. Over 70 percent of Black women are unmarried in America, and most are not single by choice. When the search for love is a struggle, or a relationship ends, the “failure” can feel entirely personal. But as Dianne Stewart will reveal, Black women seeking satisfying long-term relationships with Black men are working against the headwinds of 400 years of history, racist policies, and deep-seated prejudice. Sharing insights from her 2020 book, Black Women, Black Love: America’s War on African American Marriage, Stewart will draw on research in American history, social science, and theology to track how the sociopolitical arrangements of white supremacy have systematically broken the heart of Black America from the era of racial slavery to the period of the prison-industrial complex. Beyond exposing this tragedy of “forbidden Black love” as America’s unrecognized civil rights issue, Stewart will discuss steps that activists, institutions, public servants, and ordinary Americans must take to create the conditions for healthy Black love and family life to flourish in our nation.

Monday, March 22, 2021
Raymond Hill, Senior Lecturer in Finance, Goizueta Business School
“Considerations for a Post-COVID Economy”

Forecasting the future path of the economy is always an uncertain business, but even more so now, when the path of medical recovery from the COVID virus is uncertain. In this colloquium, Ray Hill will discuss how we might think about the path to the post-COVID-19 economy. How quickly is the economy likely to snap back? Should we expect that the experience of the last year will result in permanent changes for some sectors of the economy? What does the tremendous increase in federal government borrowing mean for future interest rates? Should we expect higher inflation as a result of the Federal Reserve’s injections of liquidity and the government’s huge fiscal deficit? Do economists have reliable answers to any of these questions? And will Hill have any reliable answers to ours? Do come and find out. 

Monday, March 29, 2021
Bradd Shore, Goodrich C. White Professor of Anthropology Emeritus
“The Body Poetic: Julius Caesar and Legacy of ‘The King’s Two Bodies’”

Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, long a staple of American high-school English classes, has found new and disturbing relevance in contemporary American politics. Despite its familiarity to audiences, the play is far from easy to interpret. Generations of critics have failed to agree on the hero of Julius Caesar. Neither Caesar nor Brutus seems to qualify. Despite all the gorgeous speeches in the play, Shakespeare's view of Caesar's assassination remains murky. The old and politically sensitive “tyrannicide debate” made it hard for an Elizabethan playwright to condone Caesar’s assassination, while Caesar’s ambitions and personal weakness made (and still make) him an unlikely hero. But Shakespeare does have a point we can understand if we recognize the conflicted “body politic” of Rome itself as the play’s tragic hero. The opposed representations of Rome in the play mirror changing ideas on the nature of society alive in Shakespeare’s day (and far from dead in our own). Julius Caesar comes into view in a surprising new way when we see it as Shakespeare’s staging of grand social theory framed as a political tragedy.


Monday, April 5, 2021
Kristin Mann, Professor Emerita, Department of History, Heilbrun Distinguished Emeritus Fellow, 2019–2020
“Transatlantic Lives: Slavery and Freedom in West Africa and Brazil”

Kristin Mann’s most recent book pioneers a new approach to the recovery of transatlantic slave biographies on the cutting edge of studies of slavery, the slave trade, and the African diaspora. The stories of the individual enslaved people reconstructed in the text bring to life and make real and concrete the history of an ignoble commerce that can too often be presented only in aggregated, impersonal terms. By restoring subjectivity to a number of enslaved women and men, the book casts powerful new light on how the many thousands of Yoruba speakers forcibly transported from Africa to Brazil and Cuba during the 19th century forged relationships of different kinds among themselves and with others that helped them endure slavery, find paths to manumission, and, in some cases, return to their African homelands. The work presents an important new interpretation of the origins and early transformation of the Yoruba diaspora that still powerfully connects West Africa, Brazil, and other parts of the Atlantic world.

Monday, April 12, 2021
Julie Schwietert Collazo, 97Ox, 99C, Co-Founder and Director, Immigrant Families Together (IFT), and Rosayra (“Rosy”)
Pablo Cruz, Guatemalan Immigrant and Activist for Others Like Her
“Shifting the Locus of Power in Immigration Narratives”

Historically, US-published narratives about immigration and immigrants—both nonfiction and fiction—are not written from the perspectives of people who have lived migration experiences, but rather by (usually white) journalists whose commitment to the ideal of objectivity and often limited grasp of relevant history obscure crucial aspects of such experiences. While there are notable exceptions (namely Reyna Grande’s memoirs and the memoirs of undocumented and formerly undocumented writers like José Antonio Vargas and Karla Cornejo Villavicencio), the publishing industry continues to privilege white writers’ narratives of experiences they have not lived. In this Lunch Colloquium, an asylum seeker from an indigenous background and a white, US-born (and Emory-educated) writer, co-authors of The Book of Rosy (named one of the best nonfiction books of 2020) will discuss the experiences that yielded that book (including Rosy’s long separation from two of her children) and what they’ve learned from their mutual endeavor about the need to shift the locus of power in immigration narratives for more just and inclusive storytelling. 

Monday, April 19, 2021
Delia Fabbroni-Giannotti Nisbet, Associate Professor of Modern Languages Emerita, Oxford College of Emory University
“The Plague in Literature”

The combination of our current experience of pandemic and a lifetime of studying and teaching the literature of many ages in many languages has inspired Delia Nisbet to offer us a program on major Western texts depicting plague of one sort of another from Greek and Roman times to the present, arguing that many authors dealing with the subject have handled the disease as metaphorical, representative of the moral corruption that can threaten whole populations. Nisbet will take us first to Classical Antiquity, moving from Homer’s Iliad to Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex to Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, and then Lucretius’ De rerum natura. She will speak next about plague texts from the Middle Ages, especially Boccaccio’s Decameron, and its story-telling by young people sheltering from the Black Death decimating Florence at the time. Discussion of the great 19th century Italian novel by Alessandro Manzoni, I Promessi Sposi (or The Betrothed), will allow her to discuss the devastating return of the bubonic plague to Italy in the 1600’s, the time period in which the novel is set. And she’ll conclude with comments on Camus’ novel La Peste (or The Plague), which, though set in Algeria in 1947, reads much like a description of what we are living through right here and now.



Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Samuel Sober, Associate Professor of Biology, Co-Director, Simons-Emory International Consortium on Motor Control
"The Songbird and the Mouse: The Neuroscience of Skilled Behavior”

Humans and animals excel at learning complex behavioral skills. During learning, the brain collects information from the senses to detect errors in behavior and uses this information to rewire itself to improve future performance—a process of “sensorimotor learning” that underlies crucial behaviors such as speaking, walking, and tool use. However, our understanding of how the brain accomplishes such feats of dexterity remains rudimentary due to a lack of tools to measure brain activity and scientific frameworks to understand the complexity of the resulting data. Samuel Sober will discuss the work he and his fellow researchers are doing (in a consortium of eight groups from three countries) that combines neurobiology, mathematics, and technology development to understand how the brain controls skilled behaviors as diverse as birdsong and mammalian locomotion—manifest, indeed, all across the tree of life.