Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Jefferson Lecturer. From 1972 to 2007.

1.       1972 Jefferson Lecturer Lionel Trilling
“Mind in the Modern World”
2.       1973 Jefferson Lecturer Erik Erikson
“Dimensions of a New Identity”
3.       1974 Jefferson Lecturer Robert Penn Warren
“Poetry and Democracy”
4.       1975 Jefferson Lecturer Paul A. Freund
“Liberty: The Great Disorder of Speech”
5.       1976 Jefferson Lecturer John Hope Franklin
“Racial Equality in America”
6.       1977 Jefferson Lecturer Saul Bellow
“The Writer and His Country Look Each Other Over”
7.       1978 Jefferson Lecturer C. Vann Woodward
“The European Vision of America”
8.       1979 Jefferson Lecturer Edward Shils
“Render Unto Caesar: Government, Society, and Universities in their Reciprocal Rights and Duties”
9.       1980 Jefferson Lecturer Barbara Tuchman
“Mankind’s Better Moments”
10.   1981 Jefferson Lecturer Gerald Holton
“Where is Science Taking Us?”
11.   1982 Jefferson Lecturer Emily T. Vermeule
“Greeks and Barbarians: The Classical Experience in the Larger World”
12.   1983 Jefferson Lecturer Jaroslav Pelikan
“The Vindication of Tradition”
13.   1984 Jefferson Lecturer Sidney Hook
“Education in Defense of a Free Society”
14.   1985 Jefferson Lecturer Cleanth Brooks
“Literature and Technology”
15.   1986 Jefferson Lecturer Leszek Kolakowski
“The Idolatry of Politics”
16.   1987 Jefferson Lecturer Forrest McDonald
“The Intellectual World of the Founding Fathers”
17.   1988 Jefferson Lecturer Robert Nisbet
“The Present Age”
18.   1989 Jefferson Lecturer Walker Percy
“The Fateful Rift: The San Andreas Fault in the Modern Mind”
19.   1990 Jefferson Lecturer Bernard Lewis
“Western Civilization: A View from the East”
20.   1991 Jefferson Lecturer Gertrude Himmelfarb
“Of Heroes, Villains and Valets”
21.   1992 Jefferson Lecturer Bernard Knox
“The Oldest Dead White European Males”
22.   1993 Jefferson Lecturer Robert Conquest
“History, Humanity and Truth”
23.   1994 Jefferson Lecturer Gwendolyn Brooks
“Family Pictures”
24.   1995 Jefferson Lecturer Vincent Scully
“The Architecture of Community”
25.   1996 Jefferson Lecturer Toni Morrison
“The Future of Time”
26.   1997 Jefferson Lecturer Stephen Toulmin
“A Dissenter’s Story”
27.   1998 Jefferson Lecturer Bernard Bailyn
“To Begin the World Anew: Politics and the Creative Imagination”
28.   1999 Jefferson Lecturer Caroline Walker Bynum
“Shape and History: Metamorphosis in the Western Tradition”

29.   2000 Jefferson Lecturer James McPherson
  “No period of American history makes greater demands on the historian than that of the Civil War,” C. Vann Woodward once wrote. That being true, then historian James M. McPherson’s achievements are manifold. In 1988, his book Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era moved beyond the pillars of academia and into the public realm. Although historians had been McPherson at Gettysburg writing about the Civil War for decades, McPherson’s book broke ground in combining the complexities of the war while maintaining the narrative that made it appealing to the American public. Battle Cry went on to win the Pulitzer Prize and has since sold more than six hundred thousand copies.
  Battle Cry of Freedom helped launch an unprecedented national renaissance of interest in the Civil War. Because of it and other books, followed closely by Ken Burns’s documentary, now thousands of Americans every year choose to visit historic battlefields and homes of Civil War generals and leaders. New histories, biographies, miniseries, novels, and reenactments continue to capture the American imagination about the turbulent years between 1861 and 1865, partly because, as McPherson explains, the issues that caused the war are still with us. “Even though the war resolved the issues of Union and slavery, it didn’t entirely resolve the issues that underlay those two questions,” McPherson says. “These issues are still important in American society today: regionalism, resentment of centralized government, debates about how powerful the national government ought to be and what role it ought to play in people’s lives. The continuing relevance of those issues, I think, is one reason for the continuing fascination with the Civil War.”
  Born in North Dakota and raised in Minnesota, McPherson’s first fascination with the Civil War began as a graduate student in 1958 under the mentorship of C. Vann Woodward at Johns Hopkins University. But it was not the war McPherson focused on then. McPherson writing his dissertation. His subject for study were the abolitionists whose passions and protests helped put Abraham Lincoln in office and shape the social reforms brought about by the war. While McPherson was in Baltimore, events similar to the abolition movement he was studying were taking place all around the country. “I was struck by all of these parallels between what was a freedom crusade of the 1860s and a freedom crusade of the 1960s. My first entrée in Civil War scholarship focused on that very theme,” says McPherson. His dissertation about the abolition movement went on to be published in 1964 as The Struggle for Equality: Abolitionists and the Negro in the Civil War and Reconstruction.
  He has since written several books about abolition, the war, Abraham Lincoln, and Reconstruction. His latest work, which won the Lincoln Prize for 1998, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, delves into the hearts and minds of the soldiers on both sides. “Three million soldiers fought in the Union and Confederate armies. How does a historian discover and analyze the thoughts and feelings of three million people?” asks McPherson. To begin, McPherson went to the letters and diaries of the soldiers themselves and combed through twenty-five thousand of them. What he found were a group of men who were deeply religious, fatalistic, and true believers in ideas of freedom. “A great tragedy, in many ways, is that both sides look back to the same revolution of 1776 as the inspiration for the liberty that they were fighting for from 1861 to 1865,” says McPherson. “The Northern definition of liberty was the preservation of the Union. . . .the South professed to be fighting for self-government.”
  One catalyst for his interest in the private lives of the Civil War volunteer soldiers came out of the yearly tours to battlefields that he makes with his students at Princeton University. McPherson has taught at Princeton since 1962 and is the George Henry Davis ‘86 Professor of American History. He lives in New Jersey with his wife of forty-three years, Patricia. They have one daughter. While visiting the battlefields and re-examining the gruesome events there, his students often ask, “Why were men willing to cross this territory when they knew that may of them would not come back?”
  Knowing the value of place and memory in the process of history has made McPherson a crusader for preservation. He was appointed in 1991 by the United States Senate to the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, which determined the major battle sites, evaluated their conditions, and then recommended strategies for their preservation. He has since argued publicly against the commercial exploitation of historic sites and continues to guide new students and the general public through the sites of our nation’s bloodiest war.
  Six hundred and twenty-five thousand men died in the Civil War, nearly as many as all the Americans who lost their lives in all of the American wars combined. That alone makes it is no surprise that it would be the subject of weighty scholarship and also public fascination. The wonder is that McPherson is able to bridge both worlds as few historians have. “There are all kinds of myths that a people has about itself, some positive, some negative,” says McPherson. “I think that one job of a historian is to try to cut through some of those myths and get closer to some kind of reality.”
  --Amy Lifson

30.   2001 Jefferson Lecturer Arthur Miller
  “The American Dream is the largely unacknowledged screen in front of which all American writing plays itself out,” Arthur Miller has said. “Whoever is writing in the United States is using the American Dream as an ironical pole of his story. People elsewhere tend to accept, to a far greater degree anyway, that the conditions of life are hostile to man’s pretensions.” In Miller’s more than thirty plays, which have won him a Pulitzer Prize and multiple Tony Awards, he puts in question “death and betrayal and injustice and how we are to account for this little life of ours.”
  For nearly six decades, Miller has been creating characters that wrestle with power conflicts, personal and social responsibility, the repercussions of past actions, and the twin poles of guilt and hope. In his writing and in his role in public life, Miller articulates his profound political and moral convictions. He once said he thought theater could “change the world.” The Crucible, which premiered in 1953, is a fictionalization of the Salem witch-hunts of 1692, but it also deals in an allegorical manner with the House Un-American Activities Committee. In a note to the play, Miller writes, “A political policy is equated with moral right, and opposition to it with diabolical malevolence.” Dealing as it did with highly charged current events, the play received unfavorable reviews and Miller was cold-shouldered by many colleagues. When the political situation shifted, Death of a Salesman went on to become Miller’s most celebrated and most produced play, which he directed at the People’s Art Theatre in Beijing in 1983.
  A modern tragedian, Miller says he looks to the Greeks for inspiration, particularly Sophocles. “I think the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing-his sense of personal dignity,” Miller writes. “From Orestes to Hamlet, Medea to Macbeth, the underlying struggle is that of the individual attempting to gain his ‘rightful’ position in his society.” Miller considers the common man “as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were.” Death of a Salesman, which opened in 1949, tells the story of Willy Loman, an aging salesman who makes his way “on a smile and a shoeshine.” Miller lifts Willy’s illusions and failures, his anguish and his family relationships, to the scale of a tragic hero. The fear of being displaced or having our image of what and who we are destroyed is best known to the common man, Miller believes. “It is time that we, who are without kings, took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it can possibly lead in our time-the heart and spirit of the average man.”
  Arthur Asher Miller, the son of a women’s clothing company owner, was born in 1915 in New York City. His father lost his business in the Depression and the family was forced to move to a smaller home in Brooklyn. After graduating from high school, Miller worked jobs ranging from radio singer to truck driver to clerk in an automobile-parts warehouse. Miller began writing plays as a student at the University of Michigan, joining the Federal Theater Project in New York City after he received his degree. His first Broadway play, The Man Who Had All the Luck, opened in 1944 and his next play, All My Sons, received the Drama Critics’ Circle Award. His 1949 Death of a Salesman won the Pulitzer Prize. In 1956 and 1957, Miller was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee and was convicted of contempt of Congress for his refusal to identify writers believed to hold Communist sympathies. The following year, the United States Court of Appeals overturned the conviction. In 1959 the National Institute of Arts and Letters awarded him the Gold Medal for Drama. Miller has been married three times: to Mary Grace Slattery in 1940, Marilyn Monroe in 1956, and photographer Inge Morath in 1962, with whom he lives in Connecticut. He and Inge have a daughter, Rebecca. Among his works are A View from the Bridge, The Misfits, After the Fall, Incident at Vichy, The Price, The American Clock, Broken Glass, Mr. Peters’ Connections, and Timebends, his autobiography. Miller’s writing has earned him a lifetime of honors, including the Pulitzer Prize, seven Tony Awards, two Drama Critics Circle Awards, an Obie, an Olivier, the John F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish prize. He holds honorary doctorate degrees from Oxford University and Harvard University.
  Throughout his life and work, Miller has remained socially engaged and has written with conscience, clarity, and compassion. As Chris Keller says to his mother in All My Sons, “Once and for all you must know that there’s a universe of people outside, and you’re responsible to it.” Miller’s work is infused with his sense of responsibility to humanity and to his audience. “The playwright is nothing without his audience,” he writes. “He is one of the audience who happens to know how to speak.”
  --Rachel Galvin

31.   2002 Jefferson Lecturer Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  “I’ve always thought of myself as both a literary historian and a literary critic,” says Henry Louis Gates, Jr., “someone who loves archives and someone who is dedicated to resurrecting texts that have dropped out of sight.”
  Gates, this year’s Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities, has been untiring in his quest. He has unearthed old periodicals, edited dictionaries and anthologies, and written a dozen books. For twenty years he and his colleagues have gathered fragments of a culture, amassing more than forty thousand texts for the Black Periodical Literature Project and enough material for fifty-two volumes on African American Women Writers of the Nineteenth Century for the Schomburg Center in New York. Gates’s latest effort is a multimedia digital encyclopedia of African culture, Encarta Africana.
  His projects travel with him in many instances. They are the corollary of a teaching career that has taken him from Yale to Cornell to Duke to Harvard. Through all the work runs the dichotomy of race.
  “I rebel at the notion that I can’t be part of other groups, that I can’t construct identities through elective affinity, that race must be the most important thing about me,” he once wrote in an open letter to his daughters. “Is that what I want on my gravestone: Here lies an African American? So I’m divided. I want to be black, to know black, to luxuriate in whatever I might be calling blackness at any particular time--but to do so in order to come out the other side, to experience a humanity that is neither colorless nor reducible to color.”
  It has been a remarkable journey from the mill town of Piedmont, West Virginia, where Gates grew up. After attending junior college in Piedmont, he studied at Yale and spent a year overseas working at a hospital in Africa. He was graduated summa cum laude in history in 1973 and went to Clare College at Cambridge University on a Mellon Fellowship. Gates earned a Ph.D. in English from Cambridge and became an assistant professor at Yale with a joint appointment in the English department and Afro-American studies. He is now the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of Humanities at Harvard and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research.
  In 1981, when the MacArthur Foundation gave its first fellowships, Gates was among the recipients. He capped that achievement a year later with the rediscovery of the first novel in the United States written by a black person, Harriet E. Wilson’s 1859 book Our Nig. He has recently acquired another long-lost manuscript from that period, The Bondwoman’s Narrative, which will be published this spring.
  In Gates’s view, until stories like these are part of the American fabric, the country’s literary heritage is not whole. “It is clear that every black American text must confess to a complex ancestry, one high and one low (literary and vernacular), but also one white and one black,” he writes in Loose Canons. “There can be no doubt that white texts inform and influence black texts (and vice versa), so that a thoroughly integrated canon of American literature is not only politically sound, it is intellectually sound as well.”
  He sees the challenge in broad terms: “Our generation must record, codify, and disseminate the assembled data about African and African American culture, thereby institutionalizing the received knowledge about African Americans that has been gathered for the past century, and that we continue to gather, as we chart heretofore unexplored continents of ignorance. For our generation of scholars in African-American studies, to map the splendid diversity of human life in culture is the charge of the scholar of African American Studies.”
  -- Mary Lou Beatty

32.   2003 Jefferson Lecturer David McCullough
  He is called the “citizen chronicler” by Librarian of Congress James Billington. His books have led a renaissance of interest in American history--from learning about a flood in Pennsylvania that without warning devastated an entire community to discovering the private achievements and frailties of an uncelebrated president. His biography of Harry Truman won him a Pulitzer, as did his most recent biography of another president, John Adams.
  David McCullough throws himself into the research of his subjects, tracing the roads they traveled, reading the books they read, and seeing the homes they lived in. His diligence pays off in detailed and engaging narratives. In receiving an honorary degree from Yale University the citation praised him: “As an historian, he paints with words, giving us pictures of the American people that live, breath, and above all, confront the fundamental issues of courage, achievement, and moral character.”
  Meeting Thornton Wilder at Yale as an undergraduate inspired McCullough to become a writer--his first love, in fact, had been art. While at college he also met his wife, Rosalee. He learned his craft working at Sports Illustrated, at the United States Information Agency, and at American Heritage. McCullough researched and wrote his first book in the precious hours away from his job with American Heritage; The Johnstown Flood came out in 1968. It was a story and region familiar to McCullough, who was born and raised in nearby Pittsburgh. The book was a success and he became a full-time author. Since then, McCullough has given us six more books--The Great Bridge, The Path between the Seas, Mornings on Horseback, Brave Companions, Truman, and John Adams--earning him two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards, and two Francis Parkman Prizes from the American Society of Historians. His other honors include a Charles Frankel Prize, a National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award, and a New York Public Library’s Literary Lion Award.

33.   2004 Jefferson Lecturer Helen Vendler
  “When you’re in a state of perplexity, sadness, gloom, elation, you look for a poem to match what you are feeling,” says Helen Vendler. She writes that “Poetry is analytic as well as expressive; it distinguishes, reconstructs, and redescribes what it discovers about the inner life. The poet accomplishes the analytic work of poetry chiefly by formal means.”
  It is Vendler’s skills in unraveling the forms and explaining the heart of a poem that have made her one of the most influential voices in poetry criticism today. “She is like a receiving station picking up on each poem, unscrambling things out of word-waves, making sense of it and making sure of it. She can second-guess the sixth sense of the poem,” says poet Seamus Heaney.
  Vendler’s influences include a Boston childhood immersed in poetry and hymns, an early interest in chemistry, and a wealth of wonderful teachers. Her own teaching career has spanned forty-four years and she is now the A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard University, where she received her Ph.D. in English and American literature in 1960. She previously taught at Cornell, Swarthmore, Haverford, Smith, and Boston University. She has held many fellowships, including three NEH fellowships and a Fulbright, and has frequently been a judge for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. She holds twenty-three honorary degrees from universities and colleges in the United States and abroad.
  Vendler’s views on contemporary poetry can be read regularly in the pages of The New Republic, The London Review of Books, The New Yorker, and other journals.
  Her recent books include Coming of Age as a Poet: Milton, Keats, Eliot, Plath; Seamus Heaney; The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets; The Breaking of Style: Hopkins, Heaney, Graham; The Given and the Made: Lowell, Berryman, Dove, Graham, and Soul Says: On Recent Poetry. A forthcoming book, Poets Thinking: Pope, Whitman, Dickinson, Yeats, will be published later this year.
  Vendler lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has one son and two grandchildren.
  -- Amy Lifson

34.   2005 Jefferson Lecturer Donald Kagan
  “Throughout the human experience people have read history because they felt that it was a pleasure and that it was in some way instructive,” says Donald Kagan. “Without history, we are the prisoners of the accident of where and when we were born.” Known to his students as a “one-man university,” Kagan has illuminated the history of the ancient Greeks for thousands of students and readers.
  Kagan began studying the classics while he was an undergraduate at Brooklyn College. “I felt drawn to these remarkable people,” says Kagan, who saw a “tragic spirit” in the ancient Greeks in the way they approached mortality. “They faced the fact that death would come, and it was terrible, but the fact that death would come did not mean that what we did while we were alive was unimportant.”
  Kagan’s best known work is his monumental four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War. He admires Thucydides, the original historian of that war, and credits him with changing how history is written. “Thucydides stood on the edge of philosophy. He was sufficiently a historian to feel compelled to establish the particulars, to present the data as accurately as he could, but he was no less, and perhaps more, concerned to convey the general truths that he had discovered.”
  “It’s not an accident I spend most of my life reading Thucydides. Most people who are interested in history start with him,” continues Kagan. “Herodotus is first, but there’s a continuity between Thucydides and the way he carried out his work and serious historians afterwards.”
  Born in Lithuania in 1932, Kagan was the first in his family to attend college, earning his master’s degree in classics from Brown University, and his doctoral degree in history from Ohio State University in 1958. He holds honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees from the University of New Haven and Adelphi University. Before coming to Yale in 1969, Kagan taught at Pennsylvania State University and Cornell University. From 1988-93, Kagan served as a member of the National Council on the Humanities. He has won numerous awards and fellowships, including four teaching awards at Cornell and Yale. President George W. Bush presented him with a 2002 National Humanities Medal.
  Kagan’s recent books include Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy (1991), On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace (1995), While America Sleeps: Self-Delusion, Military Weakness, and the Threat to Peace Today (2000, with Frederick W. Kagan), and The Peloponnesian War (2003), a one-volume history of the war. He also has published numerous articles and commentary for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Public Interest. Kagan lives in Hamden, Connecticut, with his wife, Myrna.
  -- Amy Lifson

35.   2006 Jefferson Lecturer Tom Wolfe
  “I think every living moment of a human being’s life, unless the person is starving or in immediate danger of death in some other way, is controlled by a concern for status,” Tom Wolfe has said. As the man in the iconic white suit with a swaggering pen, Wolfe has spent the past fifty years chronicling America’s status battles and capturing our cultural zeitgeist.
  After earning a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale in 1957, Wolfe plunged into a decade-long career as a newspaperman, beginning with a stint at the Springfield (Massachusetts) Union. A tour as The Washington Post’s Latin American correspondent followed in 1960, earning him an award from the Washington Newspaper Guild for his coverage of the Cuban revolution.
  Like other writers before him, Wolfe yearned to test his talents in New York. In 1962, he became a reporter for the New York Herald-Tribune and a staff writer for New York magazine, pounding out stories alongside Jimmy Breslin. Wolfe also produced a series of articles for Esquire and New York that laid the foundation for the New Journalism, a style of writing that combined journalistic accuracy with a novelist’s eye for description, theme, and point of view. The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (1965) assembled these articles into book form and gave Wolfe his first best seller. Others followed: The Pump House Gang (1968) featured more observations about Sixties culture and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968) captured the LSD-infused antics of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters.
  In 1979, Wolfe published The Right Stuff, a hefty account of the launching of the American space program after World War II. The book, which focused on the competition between the pilots and astronauts for glory and girls, not only became a best seller, but also earned Wolfe the American Book Award for nonfiction, the National Institute of Arts and Letters Harold Vursell Award for prose style, and the Columbia Journalism Award.
  Although Wolfe’s talent for observation and thick description had served him well as a nonfiction writer, he had yet to make the jump to fiction. Taking a page from Charles Dickens, one of his favorite writers, Wolfe pounded out The Bonfire of the Vanities as a serial for Rolling Stone in 1984 and 1985. The tale, which appeared as a book in 1987, portrayed New York as a money-obsessed, sex-seeking, power-hungry, appearance-driven urban cocktail of a city. Sherman McCoy, investment banker and “Master of the Universe,” learns just how mercurial and bitter-tasting the city can be after a wrong turn sends his high-flying life into a nosedive.
  Along with Tom Wolfe the Journalist and Tom Wolfe the Novelist, one cannot overlook Tom Wolfe the Provocateur. Wolfe has never hesitated to challenge prevailing notions. Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers (1970) delved into race relations, offering both a raucous account of the Leonard Bernstein’s party for the Black Panthers in his Park Avenue duplex, and a searing look at the mechanics of government’s war on poverty. In The Painted Word (1975), Wolfe focused his status-calibrated eye on the contemporary art world, portraying it as an insular village of tastemakers. From Bauhaus to Our House (1981) tackled twentieth century architecture, with Wolfe charging that architects were more interested in theory than in buildings. In the wake of Bonfire’s success, Wolfe stirred up the literary community, via an article in Harper’s, when he suggested that the future of the American novel lay in the novelist functioning as reporter, not psychoanalyst.
  Wolfe practiced what he preached with his next two novels, conducting extensive research on everything from quail farms to prisons to college keggers. A Man in Full (1998), set in Atlanta, the jewel of the rising New South, wades into racial politics and explores the consequences of 1980s greed. Wolfe’s latest novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons (2004), offers a critique of campus life, in which sex, not educational goals, defines social status.
  The key to Wolfe’s enduring success lies in his ability to convey the nuances of his subjects or characters--the way they walk, what they drive, how they hold their fork--while providing a modern exhortation on the seven deadly sins. Given his ability to capture a cultural moment, it is no coincidence that contemporary language is sprinkled with Wolfian phrases: “statusphere,” “the right stuff,” “radical chic,” “the Me Decade,” and “good ol’ boy.”
  Wolfe was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. He lives in New York City with his wife, Sheila, his daughter, Alexandra, and his son, Tommy.
  -- Meredith Hindley

36.   2007 Jefferson Lecturer Harvey Mansfield
  For more than forty years, Harvey Mansfield has been writing and teaching about political philosophy. His commentary “demonstrates the virtues that should guide scholars of the humanities,” writes Mark Blitz, a former student. Blitz explains those virtues as “patient exploration of the intention of a superior author, attention to other scholars and generosity to trailblazing teachers, brilliance and wit, and an eye toward what can improve us here and now.”
  Mansfield examines both contemporary politics and their historical origins. His fourteen books delve into the words of past thinkers such as Edmund Burke and Machiavelli, where he finds answers to puzzles such as why we believe today that political parties are respectable or desirable. The “Settlement of 1688,” Mansfield writes, “…resolved the religious issue by demoting it. . . . Party government required such a separation, because it was the operation of the religious issue in politics which caused great parties.”
  Mansfield credits Machiavelli as the mastermind behind modernity. “I think he was responsible for the original insight behind the American presidency,” says Mansfield. “Our country is the first republic that had strong executive power, as previously it was thought that executive power was contrary to republican principles. But we managed to combine this princely power with the people’s authority.”
  Mansfield grew up immersed in the field of politics—in New Haven, where his father was a professor of political science, and also in Washington, D.C., where his father worked for the Office of Price Administration during World War II. Mansfield remembers D.C. as an exciting place to be: “I saw many famous events, like Franklin Roosevelt’s funeral and the two parades, for victory in Europe and victory in Japan.” Years later, when he was an undergraduate at Harvard, a teaching assistant noted, “It’s in the cards for you to become a political scientist.” Mansfield recalls, “I don’t remember ever seriously considering any alternative.” He went on to earn his PhD from Harvard in 1961, and began teaching there the next year.
  Mansfield’s first book, Statesmanship and Party Government: A Study of Burke and Bolingbroke, came out in 1965. Since then he has published thirteen more books including three translations of Machiavelli and a translation of Alex de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, which he co-translated with his late wife Delba Winthrop. Articles and political analysis by Mansfield frequently appear in periodicals such as the Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal, the New Republic, the National Review, and the Times Literary Supplement.
  Mansfield’s most recent book, Manliness, looks at the effects of the sexual revolution on traditional masculine virtues. He defines “manliness” as “confidence and command in a situation of risk,” and offers examples of leaders who display this quality—from Achilles to Margaret Thatcher. “My book is a defense, but a qualified defense of manliness,” says Mansfield. “The good side is when the risk is of evil and the confidence is justified.”
  Mansfield’s numerous awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Humanities Medal. He has served as a member of the Council of the American Political Science Association and the National Council on the Humanities, as a fellow of the National Humanities Center, and as president of the New England Historical Association. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

37.   2008 Jefferson Lecturer John Updike
  His pen rarely at rest, John Updike has been publishing fiction, essays, and poetry since the mid-fifties, when he was a staff writer at the New Yorker, contributing material for the “Talk of the Town” sections. “Of all modern American writers,” writes Adam Gopnik in Humanities magazine, “Updike comes closest to meeting Virginia Woolf’s demand that a writer’s only job is to get himself, or herself, expressed without impediments.”
  Self-Consciousness: Memoirs, published in 1989, paints the landscape of his boyhood in Shillington, on the outskirts of Reading, southwest of the formerly solid mill town and extending into Pennsylvania Dutch farm country. But Updike’s interests pulled him north and east—first, toward the Reading Museum, within walking distance of his hometown (the fictional Olinger, which is the setting for many early short stories), and then, with a full scholarship in hand, to Harvard University, where, as an English major, he did a thesis on seventeenth-century English poet Robert Herrick, and graduated summa cum laude in 1954.
  He has had a sustained and sustaining interest in art, beginning in childhood when he had his first drawing lessons and, as a devotee of comic strips, wrote a perspicacious fan letter to the creator of “Little Orphan Annie,” Harold Gray. Much later, at the Harvard Lampoon, of which he was president in his senior year, he was still at it. In one of his Lampoon cartoons, two apparent seekers of universal awareness sit cross-legged and side by side, both clad in loose, open garb most appropriate for meditation, and one says to the other, “Don’t look now, but I think my navel is contemplating me.” During that senior year, Lampoon staff recall, he wrote about two-thirds of every issue. At Harvard he took art classes with Hyman Bloom, a painter who was associated with a style known as Boston Expressionism. Then a Knox Fellowship gave Updike the wherewithal to study for a year at the Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art in Oxford, England. Painting had taught him, he once said, “how difficult it is to see things exactly as they are, and that the painting is ‘there’ as a book is not.”
  In Just Looking, 1989, and Still Looking, 2005, Updike gathered the impressions he’s been making over a lifetime of observing painting and sculpture. In an essay in the former he captures in limpid prose Vermeer’s achievement in paint in View of Delft: “an instant of flux forever held.” And in the latter, in a chapter on Jackson Pollock, Updike glimpses, and so we do, too, the essence of what Pollock’s drip-painting could accomplish—”an image, in dots and lines and little curdled clouds of dull color, of the cosmos.” His interest in art has also shown in his fiction. One of his later novels, Seek My Face, 2002, follows the lines of the life of an aging painter who often lived in the shadows of her more famous husband, also a painter. In The Witches of Eastwick, 1984, the novel’s hero, the devil, in the form of one Darryl Van Horne, is an ecstatic collector of Pop art. “I suppose,” Updike has said, “since I was an aspiring cartoonist once, I could ‘relate’ . . . to the Pop art imagery. Witches takes place in a post-Pop art time, so in a sense dust has gathered on the movement, which was fairly short-lived.” Harold Bloom has called The Witches of Eastwick one of Updike’s most remarkable books, as all of his “themes and images coalesce in a rich, resonant swirl.” Of Witches Updike himself remarked that “the touch of magical realism gave it a kind of spriteliness for me.”
  About his fiction in general he has said, “My only duty was to describe reality as it had come to me—to give the mundane its beautiful due.” When considering the entire scope of his work, readers of American fiction are most often put in mind of Harry Angstrom, the character from the Rabbit saga with whom Updike seemed for many years to be on closest, if often contentious, terms. American novelist Joyce Carol Oates has written that Updike is “a master, like Flaubert, of mesmerizing us with his narrative voice even as he might repel us with the vanities of human desire his scalpel exposes.” British novelist Martin Amis has seen the hand of a master in Rabbit at Rest, 1990, marveling, “This novel is enduringly eloquent about weariness, age and disgust, in a prose that is always fresh, nubile, and unwitherable.”
  Avid readers and admirers also point to many other works in his eclectic oeuvre as masterpieces, including The Centaur, 1963, set, as are the Rabbit novels, in Pennsylvania and winner of France’s prize for best foreign book; Couples, 1968, set in the fictional Tarbox, modeled after Ipswich, Massachusetts, where Updike and his first wife and family moved from Manhattan in 1957; and Roger’s Version, 1986, which magisterially sets a middle-aged divinity professor and a computer whiz kid bent on proving the existence of God on a metaphysical collision course.
  He is known to many first as an author of short stories, with dozens having graced the pages of the New Yorker before being published in collections. Many other readers know his shorter fiction either through the O. Henry Prize Stories or anthologies of American literature, where they would have entered into the at times sad, at times triumphant thoughts of, say, a certain check-out clerk at the local grocery store; “A & P” serving as a model of dramatic irony for at least two generations of English literature teachers.
  Updike is, of course, also an accomplished literary critic, whose reviews and essays are as much distinguished by their breadth of understanding as by their charitable disposition. Examples of his critical acumen frequently appear in The New York Review of Books, and he received his second National Book Critics Circle Award in 1983 for Hugging the Shore, including such gems as the micro-essay “A Mild ‘Complaint,’” which skewers the misuses and ‘misusers’ of ‘scare quotes.’
  He has also applied his habile wit to poetry, composing early on a collection called The Carpentered Hen in 1954. Three more tomes of verse followed. Collected Poems, 1953-1993, comprises what he calls his “beloved waifs.”
  After having met Katharine White, fiction editor at the New Yorker during his year of study at the Ruskin School, he began submitting stories regularly to the magazine and then settled in an apartment in Manhattan for his two-year stint there.
  Migrating from Gotham to Ipswich, he thrived amid salubrious sea breezes and continued to publish at the rate he set for himself early in his career, about a book a year. It was during this time, roughly 1957 to 1970 that he published The Poorhouse Fair, Rabbit Run, Pigeon Feathers, The Centaur, and Bech: A Book, introducing readers to his irreverent alter ego, Henry Bech.
  If minute attention to craftsmanship has always been a hallmark of Updike’s work, so have inventiveness and creative unpredictability. After moving to Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, with his second wife, Martha, in 1982, he brought forth work that differed widely in subject matter and setting: In the Beauty of the Lilies, 1996, a multigenerational, twentieth century-spanning family saga summing up increasingly secular, movie-mad America; Toward the End of Time, 1997, set in a near-future, post-nuclear war New England with menacing undercurrents; Gertrude and Claudius, 2000, concerned with the earlier life of Hamlet’s mother, Claudius, and Old Hamlet; and Terrorist, 2006, featuring the radicalized Islamist teenage son of an absent Arab father and an Irish-American mother.
  In the half century he has been writing he has garnered many literary prizes, awards, and honors, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award, twice each; the Pen Faulkner Award for Fiction, the Rea Award for the Short Story; and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is among a select few to have received both the National Humanities Medal and the National Medal of Arts. Albright College in Reading (the fictional Brewer readers first encountered in Rabbit Run) bestowed upon him an honorary Litt.D. degree in 1982.
  Along with his finely tuned regard for painting, which has often provided the visual element for his fiction, there has been a deep and abiding appreciation of the reading life in general and a love of the book in particular. He has alluded to an imagined reader of his, ideal or otherwise, as being a teenage boy who happens upon one of his books on the dusty shelves of some library one afternoon looking for literary adventure. In a speech two years ago at the American Booksellers Association convention, he encouraged beleaguered booksellers to “defend [their] lonely forts. . . . For some of us, books are intrinsic to our human identity.”
  In fall 2007 Updike came out with a collection of essays, Due Considerations. A new novel, The Widows of Eastwick, is due out in fall 2008. After so many words, is America’s leading man of letters even marginally at rest? No, he is still looking and still writing.
  —Steve Moyer

38.   2009 Jefferson Lecturer Leon Kass
  Leon Kass was born in 1939, on the twelfth of February, when we celebrate the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. A mere coincidence, of course, but an interesting one. In celebrating Lincoln, which we do this year for the sixteenth president’s bicentennial, we pay homage to human dignity; in celebrating Darwin, which we also do this year for it is also his bicentennial, we pay homage to the progress of scientific knowledge. In celebrating Leon Kass, the 2009 Jefferson Lecturer, we honor a philosopher who has sought to understand and defend human dignity while remaining a man of science. From genotypes to the Book of Genesis, Kass has searched for truth in human nature, while heeding both the verities of moral philosophy and the facts of our biology.
  The household into which Kass was born was Yiddish-speaking and charged with a fervor for social justice. Home was the South Side of Chicago, where Kass’s father owned and ran a clothing store. High school was a program for advanced students run by the University of Chicago, where he then enrolled as an undergraduate at the age of fifteen and subsequently pursued his medical degree. There he also met his wife and intellectual partner, Amy, to whom he’s been married for forty-eight years and with whom he’s raised two daughters. To this day, Chicago is where the heart is.
  After a medical internship at Beth Israel hospital in Boston, Kass returned to academic study, this time at Harvard, where he received a PhD in biochemistry. The young research scientist then moved on to the National Institutes of Health, where he studied problems in molecular biology in a highly collegial atmosphere and seemed primed to pursue a rewarding career in medical research.
  Meanwhile his avocational interests were giving shape to another type of career. In medical school Kass had shown an interest in medical ethics, and in studying biochemistry he found a host of moral questions that wanted answering. An urge to think philosophically about science was turning into a full-blown yearning for the examined life. As an anniversary gift in 1966, his friend Harvey Flaumenhaft gave Kass a copy of Rousseau’s Discourse on the Arts and Sciences. Kass credits Flaumenhaft, a longtime faculty member and former dean at St. John’s College in Annapolis, with instigating a number of his life-altering encounters with great books.
  But prior to reading Rousseau’s famous argument that progress in the arts and sciences is inversely related to progress in morals, Kass had another kind of life-altering encounter. In the summer of ‘65, he and Amy joined the civil rights movement and traveled south to register voters. Working and living in Holmes County, Mississippi, Kass says he found more honor and dignity in the county’s uneducated, churchgoing black community than he’d noticed among his fellow students at Harvard, who professed all the right opinions but whose greatest cause, it seemed to him, was their own personal advancement. If this was true, then perhaps Rousseau’s argument was correct.
  While Kass continued working at NIH, his reading became considerably more specific to the direction he was taking, as when he made his way through The Phenomenon of Life by Hans Jonas, the German-born philosopher who taught for many years at the New School for Social Research. As Kass recently told Humanities magazine: “Here was a man who philosophized profoundly about the phenomena of life but in full acceptance of modern scientific findings, and who showed me how to begin to address a disquiet that I had . . . about the insufficiency of the reductionism of molecular biology.”
  Soon, Kass addressed this disquiet publicly by entering the fray of early scientific debate over cloning and other hot science topics in the pages of the Washington Post. Amidst news that it was becoming possible for man to assert control over his own biological destiny, Kass began making the argument that the merely possible was not necessarily preferable. In 1970, he took a leave of absence from NIH to become, for two years, executive director of the Committee on the Life Sciences and Social Policy at the National Research Council. In 1973, he won a humanities fellowship from NEH to investigate the concept of organism in philosophical thought. Kass never returned to NIH, but during this period began a series of penetrating essays on important issues such as the Hippocratic Oath and the proper ends of medicine.
  Having married well and befriended well, Kass made another fruitful decision by becoming a teacher. In 1972, he began teaching at St. John’s College, home to a well-known Great Books program. Along with Amy, he joined, in 1976, the faculty at the University of Chicago. The texts of the classroom became the next set of life-altering books, above all Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and the Book of Genesis, though the syllabi he taught (often with Amy as his teaching partner) would include classics as far afield as Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
  The first of his own three books, published in 1985, Toward a More Natural Science, marshaled Kass’s essays on “Making Babies” and other questions of bioethics to call on science to study life as experienced beyond the laboratory, in everyday circumstances. Such a science, he hoped, could offer better guidance for ethical decisions in medicine. The distinguishing feature of Kass’s investigations was its philosophical spirit to discover what was true and right and then ask how it might be pursued.
  The subtitle of his second book, The Hungry Soul, published in 1994, was especially telling: “Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature.” The book’s discussion begins with the biology of consumption and continues on to the meaning of those customs that attend humans when dining. The breadth of his education allows Kass the freedom to go from what is known in science to what is thought, felt, and expressed about our noblest inclinations in history and literature.
  In 2001, Kass was appointed chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics. Famously, he asked all the members of the commission to begin their work by reading “The Birth-Mark,” a short story about scientific hubris by Nathaniel Hawthorne. In 2002 and 2003, the council issued two major reports: Human Cloning and Human Dignity and Beyond Therapy. In 2003, Kass also published The Beginning of Wisdom, his meditation on reading the Book of Genesis, a text that he has taught many times.
  Over the years, Kass has received many honors and awards and has been affiliated with many well-known institutions. He is a founding fellow of The Hastings Center, a think tank devoted to issues of bioethics. At the American Enterprise Institute, he is currently the Hertog Fellow in Social Thought. And from 1984 to 1991, he served as a member of the National Council on the Humanities, the advisory board of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
  —David Skinner

39.   2010 Jefferson Lecturer Jonathan Spence
  For over fifty years, Jonathan Spence has been studying and writing about China. His books and articles form a body of work notable for groundbreaking research, fine literary quality, and extraordinary public value. If the West understands the culture and history of China better now than it did a half century ago, Jonathan Spence is one of the people to be thanked.
  He was born in Surrey, England, in 1936. His father worked in publishing and edited one of Joseph Conrad’s books. His mother was a lover of French literature. He followed his brothers—one of whom became a classicist, the other a chemical engineer—to Winchester College, where he won the History Prize. At Clare College, Cambridge, he became a coeditor of the storied undergraduate magazine Granta, editor of the student paper, and a writer of parodies. When he graduated in 1959, an academic career seemed certain, though he had not yet settled on a field of study.
  A fellowship established by Paul Mellon brought Spence to Yale University, where he encountered the China scholar Mary Wright. She and her husband, Arthur Wright, also a China scholar, had just accepted professorships at Yale. While talking to the Wrights, Spence recently recalled in Humanities magazine, “I suddenly thought this would be fun to explore. So I plunged into the equivalent of Chinese History One and Basic Chinese Language One.”
  Mary Wright became his mentor and sent the young scholar off to Australia to study with Fang Chao-ying, an important Chinese historian. Spence then became the first Western scholar to use secret Qing dynasty documents collected at the Palace Museum in Taiwan. His prizewinning dissertation was published as Ts’ao Yin and the K’ang-hsi Emperor: Bondservant and Master. As recalled by his late colleague and longtime friend Frederic E. Wakeman Jr., the China scholar Joseph R. Levenson remarked of this work, “Qing historical studies will never be the same. Besides, the man writes like an angel.”
  Spence’s next book was a compelling review of Western attempts “To Change China,” as the title put it, from the Italian Jesuits who came in the late sixteenth century to American military experts in World War II. A historian of great breadth, Spence also showed he was capable of important research and elegant writing on discrete figures and events. Emperor of China: Self-Portrait of K’ang-Hsi used the seventeenth-century Qing emperor’s own words from public and private documents to create a kind of autobiography in translation, a marked example of Spence’s light and yet generous hand with quoted material. Nor was his writing to be limited to a cast of the great and the famous. In The Death of Woman Wang, published in 1978, Spence wrote the annals of the Chinese county of T’an-ch’eng in the seventeenth century, as it suffered through a terrible string of famines, floods, plagues, and bandit attacks.
  Even as he has ventured further into both large and subtle aspects of Chinese history, Spence has shown a remarkable talent for addressing the larger public. “His greatest achievement,” notes Professor David Mungello of Baylor University, “has been to blend careful scholarship with beautifully crafted books on China. In the process, he has attracted the greatest reading audience of any China historian in the United States. Perhaps in part because of his origins in Britain, he is a historian in the nineteenth-century grand style of British historians, which is to say that he seeks to make history meaningful and fascinating to the broadest range of readers.”
  Spence’s writings over the years have ranged from the life and missionary career of Matteo Ricci (1552–1610) to works on the Taiping Rebellion, the Chinese Revolution, and Mao Zedong. If China is his first subject, then perhaps Western understanding of China is his second, and to it he returned in his 1998 work The Chan’s Great Continent. Spence’s magnum opus, however, remains a book that took shape in the lecture hall at Yale, where his survey lectures on Chinese history drew hundreds of students, some not even enrolled in the course. The Search for Modern China, a New York Times bestseller published in 1990, begins with the last days of the Ming dynasty and ends, almost four centuries later, in the 1980s amidst the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping and student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.
  Spence, who became an American citizen in 2000, has received numerous accolades in his long career. He won a Guggenheim fellowship in 1979, received the Harold D. Vursell Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1983, and a MacArthur fellowship in 1988, the same year he was appointed to the Council of Scholars for the Library of Congress. In 1993, Yale named him a Sterling Professor of History. He has received honorary degrees, from, among others, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Oxford University. Spence was made a corresponding member of the British Academy in 1997, and Queen Elizabeth II named him, in 2001, a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George. In 2003, he received the Sidney Hook Award from the Phi Beta Kappa Society. In 2004 and 2005, he served as president of the American Historical Association.
  --David Skinner

40.   2011 Jefferson Lecturer Drew Gilpin Faust
  “I felt very much that I lived in history,” said Drew Gilpin Faust as she recently described her childhood in an interview for Humanities magazine. A well-known scholar of the antebellum South and the Civil War era and, since 2007, president of Harvard University, Faust had two histories in mind. First was the history of the Civil War.
  In and around Boyce, where she grew up in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, roads were marked by Confederate-gray signs for the many Civil War historic sites nearby, such as Cedar Creek, a few miles to the south and Winchester a few miles north. The cemetery, where Faust’s grandfather was laid to rest, bore numerous headstones that said only, “Unidentified Confederate.”
  The other history was Faust’s own era, the second half of the twentieth century, as it was beginning to unfold around her. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against racial segregation of the schools. In reaction, Faust’s neighbor, U.S. Senator Harry Byrd issued a call to “massive resistance,” including the passage of state laws to prevent desegregation. In 1957, nine-year-old Faust, of her own initiative, wrote to President Eisenhower to let him know her feelings on the matter: “Please Mr. Eisenhower, please try and have schools and other things accept colored people.”
  From prep school onward, Faust was educated in the North, but she found her academic interest gravitate to the South. A dissertation on a circle of antebellum Southern intellectuals led to her doctorate and a book, A Sacred Circle. It also yielded an idea for another book, a biography of James Henry Hammond, who was a governor of South Carolina in the 1840s, and later a U.S. Senator who resigned his seat shortly before South Carolina seceded.
  Diaries, letters, and business records furnished a superb record of Hammond’s rise from near poverty to social success as a politician and the master of a large plantation. While most academic historians avoid biography, Faust found in Hammond a combination of monstrous appetite and singular expressiveness, a first-rate character and a lesser human being. This abundantly documented life also yielded an exceptional view into Southern society: its codes of honor, the rigors of political advancement, and glimpses of the private lives of slaves.
  Faust’s research into how the South viewed and justified slavery led her to other stories of the era, including those of Confederate women, generally thought of as being among the staunchest supporters of the Confederate cause. “Existing studies of Confederate politics and public life,” she wrote in the introduction to Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War, “have paid almost no attention to the place of women.”
  This lack of interest in the role of women led scholars to the growing disenchantment with the war on the home front as a factor in causing the South’s surrender, when the war might have been waged even longer. During the punishing years of the Civil War, Faust chronicled how women of the South went from self-denying to self-preserving, with their allegiances shifting from the aims of Confederate army to the safety of their families. As one Southern woman wrote in 1864 (she was one of the 500 Confederate women whose lives Faust examined), “Am I willing to give my husband to gain Atlanta for the Confederacy? No, No, No, a thousand times No!”
  The life and work of Faust can seem paradoxical in certain lights. Brought up in an age of fast-changing values and an interventionist war in Southeast Asia, she wrapped herself in painstaking interpretations of the nineteenth-century American South, from its feudal society and slave economy to the almost forgotten inner workings of Southern womanhood. A civil rights activist—she marched in Selma in 1965 in support of Martin Luther King Jr.—and a progressive historian who labored to discern voices history has rendered silent, she has also been a close student of people and times many scholars would prefer to avoid. As she told former NEH chairman Sheldon Hackney in an interview with Humanities magazine in 1997, “I guess I’ve been studying unpleasant people or politically incorrect people for my whole academic career.”
  In her 2008 book, This Republic of Suffering, Faust yet again provoked the history profession with a close examination of a major and yet strangely overlooked aspect of the much-studied and written-about Civil War: a death toll so large it altered human perception and foreshadowed the vast carnage of twentieth-century warfare.
  Military deaths alone were staggering: “The number of soldiers who died between 1861 and 1865, an estimated 620,000, is approximately equal to the total American fatalities in the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War combined.” To bury and to memorialize, and to go on living, even after the passing of more than two percent of American society, all this required, Faust shows, a new set of norms, a sobered worldview, a familiarity with death that seems unthinkable today.
  A productive and original scholar, Faust has also proven to be an able administrator. Appointed in the wake of widely aired disagreements between the president’s office and the faculty, she has brought calm and competence to the job of heading America’s most emblematic university, while also becoming a forthright spokesperson for the goals of educational access and inclusion. A surprising expression of this point of view came in March, when, after a forty-year absence, ROTC was welcomed back onto campus.
  In This Republic of Suffering, Faust locates an authentic American voice in the poetry of Walt Whitman, who said on another occasion that he contained multitudes—a robust aim for the poet and a neat summation of the historian’s task.

41.   2012 Jefferson Lecturer Wendell E. Berry
  By David Skinner
  For many of us, daily life is not an exercise in conviction. Our actions part ways from our ideals. In moments of weakness, we yield, like tall grass in a strong wind, to forces beyond our control. What others say, we accept. What happens to be on sale, we buy. What we actually think and believe is less a factor in how we live.
  At seventy-seven years old, Wendell Berry continues as a great contrary example to the compromises others take in stride. Instead of being at odds with his conscience, he is at odds with his times. Cheerful in dissent, he writes to document and defend what is being lost to the forces of modernization, and to explain how he lives and what he thinks.
  He is the sum of his beliefs. And those beliefs arise from a longstanding tradition most fully expressed in the American family farm, a self-sustaining economic enterprise that reinforced familial bonds and human obligations to the natural environment. The word husbandry, in his usage, combines the commitments of a spouse with the responsibilities of the farmer to his land and his animals. And what care the farmer bestows on the land and his livestock may even be reciprocated in due time.
  Berry is more than a naturalist. He personifies an American school of thought that was notable, but also contested, in the founding generation. In the debate that set Thomas Jefferson against Alexander Hamilton—and rural farms against cities, and agriculture against banking interests—Berry stands with Jefferson. He stands for local culture and the small family farmer, for yeoman virtues and an economic and political order that is modest enough for its actions and rationales to be discernible. Government, he believes, should take its sense of reality from the ground beneath our feet and from our connections with our fellow human beings. And it should have a better sense of proportion: Its solutions should be equal to its problems and should not beget other problems.
  Born in 1934 amid the Great Depression, Wendell was the first of four children born to Virginia Erdman and John Marshall Berry. His parents came from farming families. His mother had been to college and was a great reader. While working on the congressional staff of Virgil Chapman, later a U.S. senator, his father attended law school. But instead of becoming a big-city lawyer, he returned to Kentucky to farm while also continuing to work for the New Deal. In the 1930s, John Marshall Berry helped set up a thirteen-state marketing cooperative for tobacco farmers—a cooperative that lasted for many years, and for which both Wendell’s father and, later on, his brother John Marshall Berry Jr., served as president.
  Wendell grew up in Newcastle, Kentucky, working on his father’s farm and neighboring farms. He attended the Millersburg Military Institute and then the University of Kentucky, where he earned his Master’s and met Tanya Amyx. The first time he saw Tanya, Berry recently told Jim Leach in an interview in HUMANITIES magazine, she was standing in Miller Hall by a wooden post. Years later, after the university decided to renovate the hall, the wooden newel post ended up in the Berry family home, on the first floor, this symbol of their long union the first thing a visitor sees when entering their home. In addition to a literary career resulting in more than fifty books, in which Tanya has always played an important editorial role, their partnership has yielded two children, five grandchildren, and one great grandchild.
  After studying at Kentucky, Berry became a creative writing fellow in the Wallace Stegner writing program at Stanford University where he worked alongside Ernest J. Gaines, Ken Kesey, and several other writers who went on to achieve renown. Stegner supported Berry’s career in numerous ways, not least by his example as a writer of significant literary and moral ambition who devoted much of his life’s work to a place: its natural environment, its people, and its history. After Stanford, Berry started on what promised to be an itinerant existence as a professor of writing and literature, visiting Tuscany for a year as a Guggenheim fellow and then teaching at New York University for two years. An invitation to teach at the University of Kentucky, however, carried him back home. He bought a farm near Port Royal, on land adjacent to a farm that had been in his mother’s family, and pursued his vocation as a writer.
  Another important example for Berry’s work was fellow Kentuckian Harry Caudill, whose elegies for the people and culture along the Cumberland Plateau are layered with a grave sense of injustice at the industrial exploitation of the region. Berry feels an affinity with artists whose work was dedicated to their home landscapes, like Thoreau in Concord or Cézanne in Provence or William Carlos Williams in New Jersey. He moves easily between poetry, fiction, and essays. But among his disparate efforts, continuity can be found. Whether in a verse concerning a yellow-throated warbler perched on a sycamore branch, or in his fictional stories of the people and times of small-town Port William, or in his essays discussing the dangers of erosion and pollution, there are several constants: admiration for nature’s ingenuity, respect for locals and local knowledge, and a deeply Christian appreciation for our obligations to each other.
  Berry is especially well known for his skeptical take on technology. He has argued in favor of horse-drawn farming practices and against the use of computers. He owns no television and says he is increasingly wary of screens. Except for the four large pads of solar panels at his farm, Lanes Landing, the most advanced gadgets in his life are a push-button phone and a compact-disc player. In one essay, he talks fondly of the days when neighbors, for lack of anything else to do after sunset, would go visiting and tell and retell the stories of their people and their place. In his gentlest moments, Berry persuades and reminds us of the wisdom to be found on a well-visited front porch.
  Lately it seems as if the world is catching up with the old-fashioned views of Wendell Berry, or at least some of them. His writings on good farming practices and our relationship to food have found admirers among the most influential commentators in this newly prominent area of American culture. Quoting Berry’s aphorism that “eating is an agricultural act,” Michael Pollan, in 2009, noted traces of Berry’s ideas in the policy thinking of President Obama and said there was little in his own commentary that couldn’t be found decades earlier in Berry’s writings. And there is an even broader audience, politically and culturally mixed, that knows and looks up to Wendell Berry, a community of readers who recognize the moral significance in his writing and see in his life’s work a kind of integrity that is not merely iconoclastic but deeply American.

42.   2013 Jefferson Lecturer Martin Scorsese
  By David Skinner
  In a number of interviews, on stage, in print, and on television, Martin Scorsese has already told his life story. The beginning sounds like a script in development, like a Scorsese project that hasn’t yet gone into production.
  The family rented a two-story house in Corona, Queens, and lived there happily until Martin’s father, Charles, got into a dispute with the landlord. It involved various people and assorted grievances: brothers and money, and the way certain people act like they’re some kind of big deal. As he told the story to Richard Schickel in Conversations with Scorsese:
  The landlord may have felt that my father was involved with underworld figures, which he wasn’t really, but he behaved maybe a little bit like that; my father always liked to dress, you know. And this guy was a man of the earth…. And I think also his wife liked my father. So all this resentment was building up. And then there was a confrontation.
  Personal connections had helped the Scorseses move to Queens in the first place, and now they played a part in returning the family to live, as they had once before, with Martin’s grandparents on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. There, in a crowded apartment in the tiny neighborhood of Little Italy, the seven-year-old found himself with less space and less freedom. An asthmatic, he slept in a special tent. On the street he did not fit in. There was, he told Schickel, “an atmosphere of fear.” The local authorities did not wear badges, but they had the power to tell you what to do. And there were rules. The first one was to say nothing.
  But it was possible to escape. From a young age, Scorsese was taken to the movies, where he developed a great fondness for studio pictures: westerns, war pics, historical dramas, and some of the greatest movies of the ‘40s and ‘50s, including Singin’ in the Rain, Sunset Boulevard, Citizen Kane, On the Waterfront, and East of Eden. Just as important was the family television and a program called Million-Dollar Movie, which showed British, French, and Italian films, and replayed them twice a night for a week, enabling the future movie director to watch and rematch great films from abroad.
  At New York University—only a few blocks, but a world away from Little Italy—Scorsese began his formal training under Haig Manoogian, to whom he dedicated Raging Bull. There he began I Call First, with future collaborators Harvey Keitel in the lead and Thelma Schoonmaker editing. Finished and reworked after some prodding from Manoogian, it was later renamed Who’s That Knocking at My Door and released as Scorsese’s first feature film. After being rejected by a number of festivals, it was accepted into the Chicago Film Festival and seen by Roger Ebert, who called it “a marvelous evocation of American city life, announcing the arrival of an important new director.”
  Ebert has noted that Scorsese received conflicting advice from his mentors. Manoogian told him, “No more films about Italians.” John Cassavetes, whose chatty, improvisational style did much to influence Scorsese’s scripts and production work, told him to “make films about what you know.” Scorsese’s own ambition was to make all kinds of films, like an old-school studio director zipping from one project to the next.
  In 1971 Scorsese moved to Hollywood, where he hung out with some of the most promising young directors around: Brian De Palma, Steven Spielberg, and Francis Ford Coppola. He directed Boxcar Bertha, a cut-rate Depression-era film for Roger Corman, the so-called “king of cult film.” Also in Hollywood, Scorsese made Mean Streets, a film about low-level wise guys starring Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro, whom he had met some years back in New York.
  Keitel’s character is guilt-ridden, striving, and in love; De Niro’s Johnny Boy is a violent goofball who seems to have learned how to behave from watching gangster films. One can see here the male camaraderie and tough-guy cross-talk that becomes so important in Scorsese’s later work. In 1976 he made the first of his most enduring films, Taxi Driver, a disturbing character study of Robert De Niro’s antiheroic Travis Bickle, a war veteran and loner whose reaction to the moral malaise of New York City turns increasingly psychotic.
  In this period he also directed movies that, despite numerous qualities, seem less like his signature projects, including Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (for which Ellen Burstyn won an Oscar); New York, New York, an expensive homage to old Hollywood that failed commercially and critically; and The Last Waltz, a documentary of the final performance of The Band.
  Personal and professional difficulties made this an especially hard period for Scorsese, who was still in his thirties and struggling with his own demons. As things went from bad to worse for the director, Robert De Niro pressed him to make the film that became Scorsese’s masterpiece: Raging Bull, a gorgeous, classic black-and-white film about the savage life and career of boxer Jake LaMotta. It won De Niro an Oscar and confirmed Scorsese’s standing as a great director.
  In this hour of triumph, as Raging Bull was showing in film festivals, Scorsese began promoting the cause of film preservation. “Everything we are doing now means nothing!” he said, raising the alarm in one lecture after another, while showing clips to illustrate the damaged quality and fading colors of vintage movie reels.
  For a long time the old-fashioned studio director who moved fluidly between genres, like Howard Hawks in the ‘40s and ‘50s, had been a distant memory. But Scorsese continued to develop a great variety of projects, always as if working out of the mental space of a film buff’s library, but with the conviction of a true artist.
  In 1983 he made the artfully dark send-up of celebrity culture, The King of Comedy, in which Robert De Niro and Sandra Bernhard stalk and kidnap a Johnny Carson-type comedian and talk show host played by Jerry Lewis. There was in the next decade a sequel and a remake: The Color of Money boldly followed The Hustler, a beloved classic, 30 years after the original; and with De Niro in 1991, Scorsese remade Cape Fear, the 1962 thriller that had starred Robert Mitchum.
  New York City, of course, remained a touchstone. In 1985 Scorsese made the offbeat cult classic After Hours, in which a computer dork played by Griffin Dunne pursues the bohemian Rosanna Arquette and ends up in a series of bizarre misadventures downtown. To the trilogy New York Stories, Scorsese contributed a tart short film starring Nick Nolte as an expressionist painter whose girlfriend realizes that, while serving as his helpmate, she has failed as an artist.
  And Scorsese continued exploring new genres, as with The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988, which proved controversial despite the film’s obviously reverent tone. Scorsese was raised Catholic, and in his youth he briefly considered joining a seminary. Father Principe, who had been a mentor to him as a young man, famously said about Taxi Driver, “I’m glad you ended it on Easter Sunday and not on Good Friday.”
  In Goodfellas, released in 1990, Scorsese returned to form, creating a gangster movie that is widely regarded as one of the best ever made. Packed with famous lines and scenes, the film is a collection of cinematic jewel pieces stretching over decades of American culture, charting the rise of Henry Hill as a likable street-level operator to his messy decline as a drug dealer and out-of-control addict.
  Also in 1990 Scorsese established the Film Foundation, which supports preservation and restoration projects at leading film archives. Several have involved films of personal significance to Scorsese, including The Red Shoes and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, which were directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and three of John Cassavetes’s films. As always, making his own films did not prevent him from championing the history of the entire medium.
  Shame and moral boundaries have always been important in his work—he’s cited James Joyce and Fyodor Dostoyevsky as influences. In 1993 he directed The Age of Innocence, based on Edith Wharton’s scathing novel of manners. Taxi Driver was flecked with ideas from Notes from Underground, and Nicholas Cage in Bringing Out the Dead had enough of a Christ complex to fill out a term paper or two. Fans often remark on Scorsese’s feel for music; there is also a literary flare to his movies. Even Gangs of New York came from a 1920s true crime volume by Herbert Asbury, and The Departed, written by William Monahan, may be one of the most literary of crime films ever. Amid its rueful mix of old loyalties, false identities, fatalism, and betrayal, Frank Costello, played by Jack Nicholson, learns that someone’s mother is not well and unfortunately, “on her way out.”
  “We all are,” says Costello, “act accordingly.”
  Scorsese’s most recent feature film, Hugo, reminded audiences, however, of his great exuberance for the old Hollywood of high comedy, speeding trains, and achingly sympathetic characters. Shot in 3-D, Hugo was based on Brian Selznick’s illustrated children’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It tells the story of a young orphan who is reduced to making a life inside the walls of a Paris train station but begins to find his way after discovering a bond with a tinkering toy seller who also happens to be a pioneer of early filmmaking. A movie for children and adults, determined to leave you feeling protective of old movies, Hugo is a love letter to the history of cinema, a history in which Scorsese has for many years now played a leading role.

43.   2014 Jefferson Lecturer Walter Isaacson
  By David Skinner
  The story of Walter Isaacson—celebrated journalist, biographer, intellectual leader, and humanist—begins on May 20, 1952, when he was born at the Touro Infirmary in New Orleans. Much later on, he described his father, Irwin, as a “kindly Jewish distracted humanist engineer with a reverence for science.” His mother, Betsy, was a real estate broker for whom Walter would name his only child.
  The Isaacsons were local boosters. They appreciated the unique racial and cultural mix of their neighborhood, Broadmoor, and joined a committee to help preserve it. The family lived on Napoleon Avenue, and Walter, the older of two brothers, was noted early on for his ambition. Student body president at the Isidore Newman School, he was also named “most likely to succeed.”
  An article in the “Terrific Teens” column of the Times-Picayune reported that he’d been working to unite students of different religions and races to develop a program for tutoring poor children. He also joined a committee that worked to reopen a public pool that had been closed to sidestep integration. It was not yet clear that he wanted to be a writer, but a keenness to understand how the world worked and to find ways to address social problems was evident. He told the Times-Picayune columnist, Millie Ball, that he thought his future might be in sociology or political economics.
  Another strain of his upbringing was literary. As Isaacson recently wrote in a personal essay in Louisiana Cultural Vistas, published by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, his parents were proudly middlebrow. They subscribed to Time magazine, the Saturday Review, and the Book-of-the- Month club, all staples of the mainstream cultural diet in those days.
  In addition, he personally knew a bona fide novelist: Walker Percy, author of The Moviegoer, The Last Gentleman, and many later works that address a mixture of existential, religious, and scientific themes. This uncle of a childhood friend entertained occasional questioning from the future journalist about the messages written into his carefully layered books.
  Throughout his life, Isaacson has shown a knack for meeting interesting and important people. In college, “he was the mayor of literary Harvard,” Kurt Andersen recently told Evan Thomas for an article in Humanities. Interviewing for his Rhodes scholarship, he nervously underwent a grilling from Willie Morris, the well-known writer and editor, and a young Arkansas lawyer named Bill Clinton.
  Returning to New Orleans after studying philosophy at Oxford, Isaacson took a job as a reporter with the New Orleans States-Item, which later merged with the Times-Picayune. He covered City Hall and while looking around for sources found an especially valuable one in Donna Brazile, then guardian of access to Mayor Moon Landrieu, and later on a well-known adviser to President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.
  How Walter Isaacson went from covering City Hall in New Orleans to the editorial staff of Time magazine concerns one of the few instances when he was mistaken for a provincial. Hedley Donovan, Henry Luce’s chosen successor, had sent forth one of his editors to discover some young journalists from the Great Beyond west of the Hudson River. As this editor arrived in New Orleans, he could not help but learn about Isaacson, who was being touted by his newspaper for correctly predicting the outcome of a 12-candidate mayoral primary. Isaacson’s glory was shortlived, however, as he failed to correctly predict the winner of the runoff. The editor from Time nevertheless offered him a job.
  Brought to New York City, Isaacson was presented to the editor in chief. As Isaacson tells the story,
  Donovan proclaimed how pleased he was that they had found someone from “out there,” because far too many of the people at the magazine had gone to Harvard and Oxford. By the way, he asked, where did I go to school? I thought he was joking, so I just laughed. He repeated the question. The editor who had found me gave me a nervous look. I mumbled Harvard in a drawl that I hoped made it sound like Auburn. Donovan looked puzzled. I was whisked away. I do not recall ever being brought to meet him again.
  The gift of knowing the right people, in Isaacson’s case, may very well be a happy side effect of wanting to know more about people, period. At a recent photo shoot, during a short break while equipment was being reset, Isaacson turned to one of the cameramen and said, very simply, “Tell me something about yourself.” On a sidewalk in D.C., he lately ran into a writer he’d worked with. The writer was coming back from lunch with some younger colleagues, and it wasn’t long before Isaacson was pumping the junior writers for information about what they were working on. Many journalists find it easy to go into interview mode, but the case of Walter Isaacson is that plus something else. In his younger days, he fancied he could be dropped into any small town and come out with a story. He even tested the theory, producing a series of articles on the lives of sharecroppers at a plantation in southeastern Louisiana.
  At Time magazine, he got to work on national and international stories—big league journalism practiced with big league resources. In 1980 he covered the presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan. A picture from the time shows him looking barely old enough to buy a drink while being offered a treat from Nancy Reagan walking the aisle of the campaign plane like a stewardess. With access came a sense of responsibility. Isaacson and Evan Thomas coauthored a book that took readers beyond the weekly news cycle to look at how a group of privileged, Ivy Leaguers from the same blue-blood milieu made Cold War history. The Wise Men directed a spotlight at such establishment figures as Averell Harriman and Dean Acheson to produce a group portrait of key supporting players who shaped American foreign policy after World War II through the Vietnam War.
  The Time magazine formula of writing history on the spot, through the lives of historymakers, was an agreeable match for the intensely social and hard-working Isaacson. And being at Time brought him into the orbit of some of the most interesting people around. When, in 1984, Steve Jobs came to Time to tout his awesome new desktop, Isaacson, the only reporter on staff who wrote on a computer, was asked to sit in.
   In the 1980s and ‘90s he got to cover two of the greatest stories going. The first concerned the decline of the Soviet Union and its ripple effects across Eastern Europe. Seeing Lech Walesa rallying shipbuilders in Poland and the dissident Vaclav Havel becoming a leading light in then Czecho-slovakia confirmed his belief that history is not simply the result of impersonal forces but that individuals play major roles—a view he happened to share with Henry Kissinger, about whom he wrote a thorough, not always friendly, but well-received biography in 1992.
  The other major story was the digital revolution. Isaacson was promoted to new media editor for all of Time Warner for two years during the era of the Pathfinder website. One of the first large-scale entrants into digital journalism, Pathfinder.com combined content from Time, People, Sports Illustrated, and several other magazines, offering it free of charge. Though notable for its ambition and for bringing advertisers online, its go-big strategy failed to set a template for online writing and reporting. The near future proved more amenable to search engines and smaller news-gatherers. Isaacson was then named managing editor of Time, the most senior editorial position within the magazine. As the tide shifted away from political news, the magazine under Isaacson still looked to occupy a great breadth of common ground. He never abandoned the classic Luce editorial formula, but he looked to update it with sharper writing and a broader cultural scope that included an energetic commitment to the story of digital technology.
  In 2001 he became the CEO of CNN, overseeing its operations during 9/11 and afterwards, a job he held until 2003. While at CNN, he began working on a biography of Benjamin Franklin. It was a good period for popular books about the American Founders, but Isaacson’s fondness for his subject is evident throughout. He seemed to identify with the lighthearted Franklin, a fellow lover of science and technology who, like Isaacson, made friends easily.
  The life of the mind has become Walter Isaacson’s major subject, and it goes well with his day job as president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, which might be described as the Ben Franklin of think tanks: well connected, intellectually broad, and consistently practical-minded. Founded by Walter Paepcke as a bipartisan forum where leaders could escape the rough and tumble of daily politics to reflect on enduring values, the institute has become an important venue for education reformers, technologists, and global leadership.
  One of the more commonly asked questions about Walter Isaacson is, How does he get so much work done? When asked by Humanities magazine, he replied, “I don’t watch TV. If you give up TV, it’s amazing how many hours there are between 7:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. in which you can do writing.”
  The reason it’s a popular question is that while running the Aspen Institute, Isaacson has completed two generously sized biographies. The first, about Albert Einstein, forced him to confront a whole battery of research and writing challenges. Readers wondering whether he might have skipped some of the hard parts are greeted by several pages of acknowledgments, stating Isaacson’s various debts to numerous physics professors and Einstein scholars. But it was more than math homework that made the book a huge best-seller: In its descriptions of Einstein’s breakthroughs, Isaacson showed off a pictorial gift that helped him to describe some of what Einstein was visualizing when the physicist discovered the general theory of relativity and other breakthroughs.
  Writing the biography of Steve Jobs required a spectacular commitment to journalistic principles, re-reporting oft-told stories, getting close to the mesmerizing and mercurial founder of Apple without falling under his spell, and tracing the sometimes technical steps of several major innovations. To make things more difficult, Isaacson was writing from within the whirlwind of the present moment, with its constant reminders that the person he was writing about was considered by many to be no mere mortal. That the biography doubles as an ethical portrait of Jobs is, of course, a credit to Isaacson’s careful study of his subject.
  Still practicing the Henry Luce philosophy, Isaacson used the story of Steve Jobs to tell a major story of our times. And just as Jobs humanized the personal computer and portable devices to appeal to a large variety of consumers, Isaacson has humanized the complicated interior lives of a series of historical figures, helping us to better understand several people who have changed the world.

44.   2015 Jefferson Lecturer Anna Deavere Smith
  Even in an era when anyone with a computer connection can broadcast their own life story for everyone or no one to consider, Anna Deavere Smith continues to shock and dazzle audiences with her stage portraits of the humble and the great. A hybrid artist if ever there was one, she collects stories through recorded interviews and then personally portrays the tellers on stage, in curated displays of American character organized around pressing questions of our time.
  Smith was born on September 18, 1950, in Baltimore, Maryland, the first of five children to Anna, an elementary school educator, and Deaver, a coffee merchant.
  In middle school, she discovered a gift for mimicry; in college, an interest in social justice. As one of only a few African-American students at Beaver College in the 1960s, she recently told NEH Chairman William Adams, she helped form a black student group, which led to changes to the curriculum and to the hiring of the school’s first black professor.
  After graduation, she drove west with four friends. Their goal, as she put it in her memoir, Talk to Me, was “to see America and to make sense, each in our own way, of what to do with all the breakage and promise that had been released through the antiwar movement, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the beginning of the environmental movement, and the bra-burning, brief as it was, of the women’s movement.” Casting about for a line of work that would suit her, Smith called up the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and asked if they were looking to hire a stage manager. The answer was an emphatic no, but she stayed on the phone and asked about classes for actors, which led to an audition and enrollment.
  A transformative moment came early in her training, when Smith encountered Shakespeare. Like countless actors, she was afraid of the Bard, afraid of giving voice to “that thick, antiquated language that seemed totally irrelevant to the world around me.” Her teacher instructed the class to “take fourteen lines of Shakespeare and say it over and over again to see what happened.” Smith picked a speech from Richard II in which Queen Margaret bitterly laments the devastation wrought by Richard, “That foul defacer of God’s handiwork, / That excellent grand tyrant of the earth.”
  Smith, who had once thought of becoming a linguist, was affected by the exercise, especially its simple, repetitive focus on saying the words. As she told The Drama Review, “I had some kind of transcendental experience. . . . For the next three years, as I trained seriously, I never had an experience like that again.”
  One result was that Smith did not become a method actor, that is, an actor who uses their own personal experience and the context of the play to understand a character’s motivation. Instead, she came to view language itself as the great window onto character. And repeating the language became central to her process. On this point, she often quotes her grandfather, who told her as a little girl that “if you say a word often enough, it becomes you.”
  Smith had gone out west in search of America and found herself on stage, so it is not really surprising that her next big idea for the stage came from outside of the theater. As she told the story in Talk to Me, Smith worked several odd jobs in offices and restaurants after she left the conservatory. At KLM Airlines, she worked in the complaint department, handling correspondence from dissatisfied customers.
  “There was the man who was outraged about a flight with a drunken soccer team that ended with lost luggage—luggage that had his glaucoma medicine in it. Then there was the woman whose eighty-five-year-old mother had flown in from Egypt to Dulles Airport. KLM was to have provided an escort, as the mother knew nothing about Washington, had never been to the United States, and spoke no English. They failed to send the escort, and so the mother, somehow, ended up in a cab in Washington, D.C., driving around all night, with no idea of where she was and no ability to tell anyone where she needed to be.”
  The stories made Smith wonder: “If I were to go around and listen listen listen to Americans, would I end up with some kind of a composite that would tell me more about America than is evidently there?”
  The first of her shows to portray real-life people used twenty actors to represent twenty real New Yorkers, whom she recruited by approaching on the sidewalk and saying, “I know an actor who looks like you. If you’ll give me an hour of your time, I’ll invite you to see yourself performed.” A year later, she developed a similar project in Berkeley, California.
  The basic idea might have seemed whimsical, but it had parallels in other fields. Like the new historians who were combing archives for previously neglected voices, or the Hollywood directors in search of a more personal style of filmmaking (to draw examples from the careers of Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust and filmmaker Martin Scorsese, two other recent Jefferson Lecturers), Smith was looking to portray a greater diversity of personal experience. The next twist was for Smith herself to portray her characters in one-woman shows.
  More than a political gesture or a dramatic conceit, her plan had surprising artistic implications. As she told NEH Chairman William Adams, Smith learned to approach the language of her interviewees the way she would a Shakespearean monolog, assuming that the story as told—these sentences, in this order, with these words, complete with false starts, coughs, laughter, and so on—was the truest and best way to present a character. “If they said ‘um’ . . . I don’t take the ‘um’ out.”
  The title she gave to her project recalled her own journey, even as it spelled out her vaulting ambition: “On the Road: A Search for American Character.” It was the work of a lifetime, a theatrical equivalent to the Great American Novel driven by a Whitmanian urge to “contain multitudes.”
  The first years have not left a long paper trail, but there were several productions. A performance based on an interview with Charlayne Hunter-Gault, a former foreign correspondent and journalist who was the first African-American student to integrate the University of Georgia, played in 1984 at the Ward Nasse Gallery in Soho.
  In 1988, Smith appeared at the West Coast Woman and Theater Conference, which brought a good deal of scholarly attention. In this production, On the Road: Voices of Bay Area Women in Theater, Smith represented twenty-three living women. Writing in Theater Journal, Esther Beth Sullivan, then at the University of Washington, noted that Smith “managed to isolate gestural and vocal idiosyncrasies that characterized the speakers and personalized the significance of their statements.” The show, continued Sullivan, “progressed almost as dialog among the ‘characters.’ Various statements were juxtaposed with others that refuted them, or had an entirely different perspective.”
  Although a professor herself, Smith was no apple-polisher for campus tradition. Gender Bending: On the Road, a work commissioned by various departments at Princeton University, dealt with the men-only policies of two of the school’s eating clubs. Smith’s individual portraits still delivered individual stories, but they also functioned as panels in a larger mosaic of communities in conflict.
  In 1991, a seven-year-old African-American boy named Gavin Cato was killed in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, by an out-of-control car that was part of a motorcade for a prominent Hasidic rabbi. Following the accident, Yankel Rosenbaum, a Hasidic Jew from Australia who had been studying with the local Lubavitch community, was killed nearby in an act of revenge and several days of rioting ensued. Smith was invited to develop a show based on these incidents for the New Voices of Color festival, organized by George Wolfe at the Joseph Papp Public Theater.
  From eight days of interviewing, Smith developed two dozen portraits to perform in Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and Other Identities, illuminating longstanding tensions between the black and Jewish communities and trotting out one extraordinary individual after another. Here was Al Sharpton, man of the hour, on full display; here was Rosenbaum’s brother, putting match to the fumes one moment and, in another turn on the stage, quietly recalling the moment he received the terrible news that his brother was dead.
  Among the many people won over by the show was Frank Rich, chief theater critic of the New York Times, who called it “the most compelling and sophisticated view of urban racial and class conflict . . . that one could hope to encounter in a swift ninety minutes.”
  Triumph followed triumph as Smith moved onto her next major project, Twilight: Los Angeles, another commissioned piece, this time on the riots that followed the acquittal of four police officers caught on videotape beating Rodney King. The cast of characters was larger than in Fires in the Mirror, as Smith stretched to portray rioters, a juror, police commissioner Daryl Gates, Reginald Denny, who was pulled from the cab of his truck and assaulted on national television, and dozens of others. Smith’s halting, bilingual portrayal of a Korean-American grocer whose business had been burned down reminded one of the line from Terence that “nothing human is alien to me.”
  In 1996, Smith was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, the so-called genius grant. An artist of the modern city, Smith turned her attention to Washington, D.C., drawn by the mounting antagonism between the White House and the press. Finagling a ten-minute interview with Bill Clinton, she asked him if he thought the media was treating him like a common criminal; the president spoke in reply for more than a half hour. The question became even more pointed as, months later, the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, and Smith interviewed hundreds of Washington figures, resulting in her multi-actor play House Arrest and her memoir Talk to Me.
  Having appeared in The American President, the 1995 film written by Aaron Sorkin, Smith went on to play National Security Advisor Nancy McNally on Sorkin’s television series The West Wing for six seasons. In 2006, Smith published her second book, Letters to a Young Artist, in which she comments on her own work and dispenses advice to a fictional painter. In 2009, Smith began appearing in a regular role on Nurse Jackie, an acclaimed Showtime series starring Edie Falco. This year she shot several scenes for an upcoming episode of the hit show, Blackish.
  Smith’s last major one-woman show took her interest in politics in a new direction, as she plunged into timely questions of physical health and medical care in Let Me Down Easy. She portrayed doctors, media figures, and well-known athletes in a well-paced and thoughtful stage piece that relocated the dramatic focus of our current debates back onto what Shakespeare called “the thousand natural shocks / that flesh is heir to.”
  Smith is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a 2012 National Humanities Medal, which she received from President Obama. In her latest project, Smith is visiting communities across America to interview people concerned with the school-to-prison pipeline, a phrase referring to the systematic education failures that push disadvantaged children, males especially, from trouble in school to a life behind bars. The work has taken her back to Baltimore and is creating conversations around some of the identity issues that marked her pioneering stage work.

45.   2016 Jefferson Lecturer Ken Burns
  Jefferson Lecturer Ken Burns, the acclaimed filmmaker, has conveyed more history to more Americans than perhaps anyone. Working with primary materials such as diaries, letters, official records, and historical sound and imagery, he has elevated a distinct style of filmmaking and culled a vast ensemble of authentic voices to fill out a broad and compelling narrative of the American experience.  David Zurawik of The Baltimore Sun said in March 2009, “Burns is not only the greatest documentarian of the day, but also the most influential filmmaker period.”
  Burns’s documentaries have spanned the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, starting with a one-hour film about the Brooklyn Bridge, which aired in 1982. His films have recounted the lives of Thomas Jefferson, Huey Long, Jack Johnson, Thomas Hart Benton, Frank Lloyd Wright, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. They have explored the familial triangle of two presidents and one first lady named Roosevelt. They have combed the wreckage of the Civil War and World War II, finding sacrifice, purpose, and redemption. Burns has explored the singular and the mainstream in American culture, making films about the Statue of Liberty, the Shakers, Prohibition, the Dust Bowl, early radio, jazz, national parks, the West, and baseball. In all, he has made 27 documentaries, 15 supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Currently finishing an 18-hour documentary about the Vietnam War, he and his co-producers and co-directors are also working on a film devoted to country music and a biography about Ernest Hemingway, and have recently completed a film on Jackie Robinson that aired in April on PBS.
  In 1990, after more than thirty-nine million people watched the first broadcast of The Civil War, Burns received an NEH Charles Frankel Prize. On three occasions he has received the coveted Erik Barnouw award from the Organization of American Historians and has received 30 honorary degrees. Burns’s films have won 14 Emmys and three Peabody Awards. In 2008 Burns received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
  Kenneth Lauren Burns was born on July 29, 1953, in Brooklyn, New York. His father, Robert, was a graduate student in anthropology at Columbia University with an interest in photography. His mother, Lyla, was a biologist by training. When Ken was still a baby, the family moved to the French Alps for ten months, where Ken’s father conducted research on a traditional culture in a remote mountain village. Afterwards, Robert published a gorgeous nineteen-page feature story about this family adventure, accompanied by his own photos, in National Geographic.
  When the family returned to the United States, Ken’s younger brother by 18 months, Eric (known as Ric), was born and Burns’s father took a job teaching at the University of Delaware. During these years, their mother Lyla Burns grew ill, and, in 1963, the family moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, as Professor Burns joined the faculty at the University of Michigan. Not long after, Lyla died. “Her cancer was the great forming force in my life,” Ken has said of his mother’s death when he was 11, “permanently influencing all that I would become.” A family member once remarked to Burns that his filmmaking was an attempt to “wake the dead.”
  Through television, Burns was introduced to Hollywood films. He was especially fond of Howard Hawks’s Rio Bravo and John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln and My Darling Clementine.  Growing up in the sixties, he was equally influenced by the events of the time. “I remember I used to stay up and get terrific stomachaches worrying about dogs and firehoses in Selma, Alabama,” he said, referring to the civil rights movement. He received a super-8 camera from his father and began making movies.
  Burns graduated from high school early in 1971 and worked at a record store in Ann Arbor to earn money to pay for his tuition at Hampshire College, an experimental liberal arts school in western Massachusetts that had opened its doors one year earlier.  At college, a job in a bookstore helped underwrite his tuition and expenses.
  At Hampshire, Burns came under the influence of Jerome Liebling, a still photographer in the tradition of Depression-era photographer Walker Evans, and Elaine Mayes, a photographer known for her pictures of Haight Ashbury and rock ‘n’ roll legends.  They emphasized what a filmmaker looks for in an image and what is the artist’s responsibility to the image being appropriated.   At Hampshire, he made a film about a living-history museum, Old Sturbridge Village, called Working in Rural New England.
  “I began to realize that I had a completely latent and untutored interest in American history,” Burns recalled. Watching When This You See, Remember Me, a film about Gertrude Stein by the public television veteran Perry Miller Adato, Burns noticed through the actors’ performances the power of quoted text to bring the past alive.
  Burns and his Hampshire College friends Roger Sherman and Buddy Squires formed an independent production company, Florentine Films, named after the village of Florence in Northampton, Massachusetts, where Elaine Mayes lived. As he considered a topic for his first film, in 1977, Burns read David McCullough’s book on the making of the Brooklyn Bridge and the subject inspired him to make his first major venture as a filmmaker.
  A few obstacles stood in his way: He was an unknown filmmaker, who looked even younger than his twenty-four years. According to scholar Gary Edgerton’s book, Ken Burns’s America, he approached hundreds of people for financial backing and got turned down. David McCullough had some early doubts, saying, “If somebody was going to make a film based on my book, I wanted it to be someone with more standing and experience.”
  But McCullough was won over and funding came initially from the New York Humanities Council, awarding Burns a matching grant of $50,000, the largest grant made by the council that year. The urban historian Lewis Mumford, whom Burns interviewed for the film, suggested approaching the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent federal agency a little over ten years old at the time. NEH awarded Burns a $25,000 grant, the first of many grants funding 15 films and the start of what would become a long partnership between Burns and NEH.
  In Brooklyn Bridge, so much of what might be called the Ken Burns style was already in place: a preference for iconic subjects; a serious commitment to research; the dramatic presentation of historic documents and photos; voiceover narration; the use of actors off camera to speak the actual words of historical figures; interviews with  humanities scholars, and interested parties with a strong perspective; the prominence of biography; and a deep interest in the great drama of American culture and history. Brooklyn Bridge received outstanding reviews and was nominated for an Academy Award.
  What followed in quick succession were several films that were striking in their breadth. The Shakers (1984), which Burns codirected with Amy Stechler, distilled the history of this vanishing but influential religious sect, casting an admiring eye on its legacy of inspired simplicity in architecture and design. Huey Long (1985), meanwhile, was a masterful biographical documentary of one of the most colorful and polarizing characters to cross the stage of American politics.
  Before Statue of Liberty or Huey Long (1985) were even finished, Burns read the great Civil War novel The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, reaching the end on Christmas Day, 1984, while on a visit to his father’s house in Michigan. As described by Peter Tonguette in Humanities magazine, Burns mentioned to his dad that he’d just decided his next film would be about the Civil War. His father asked which aspect he had in mind. Ken replied, “All of it.”
  If the early films of Ken Burns displayed quick mastery of a certain aesthetic, The Civil War (1990) signaled a coming of age for Burns.  At a preview celebrating the 25th anniversary of NEH and the release of this important NEH-supported 11.5-hour series, NEH Chairman Lynne Cheney said, “What the Iliad was for the Greeks, the Civil War is for Americans.” When it aired in the fall of 1990, almost forty million saw some or all of it in the first week. George F. Will applied the ancient Greek comparison directly to Burns: “Our Iliad has found its Homer.” And the New York Times noted that Ken Burns “takes his place as the most accomplished documentary filmmaker of his generation.”
  The series drew more viewers than any other in PBS history. It garnered more than 40 awards. Shelby Foote, the silver-haired novelist and author of a spectacular narrative history of the Civil War, became a recognized celebrity after his on-screen appearances in The Civil War. The “Ashokan Farewell,” composed by Jay Ungar in 1982, became a favorite melody for weddings, funerals, and memorials. Burns’s influential method of reshooting old photographs became an instantly recognizable stylistic device, today known as the Ken Burns effect. The series boldly enlarged the market for history programming on television.
  The Civil War remains a critical moment for Burns, all the more so as Americans reexamine racial equality. In a commencement address in 2015 at Washington University in St. Louis, Burns evoked Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain as he noted that “the same stultifying sentiments that brought on our civil war are still on display.”  Not surprising, race is a theme that runs through nearly all of Burns’s films, and it is the subject of his 2016 Jefferson Lecture.
  In a conversation with NEH chairman William D. Adams for Humanities magazine, Burns discussed his desire to go on making films and telling more stories for as long as possible. He told Adams, that at the age of 62, he has no plans to stop.

46.   2017 Jefferson Lecturer Martha Nussbaum
   Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, with appointments in the law school and the philosophy department. The author of more than twenty books and numerous essays and articles, she is the editor of another twenty-one books and the recipient of many prestigious awards. A fellow of the British Academy, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the American Philosophical Society, she has received honorary degrees from fifty-six colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad. 
  Breadth is a signature feature of her work. Her scholarship ranges from the study of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy and literature all the way to modern political theory and policy. Along the way, she has found time to examine such weighty matters as gender equality, gay rights, the nation of India, international development, and the case for an education in the humanities. Yet the variety of subject matter can sometimes disguise the underlying unity of purpose. 
  “My whole career,” she recently told NEH Chairman William D. Adams for an interview in Humanities magazine, “is about the search for the conditions of human flourishing, and asking, What are the catastrophes that can get in the way? What are the ways in which we’re vulnerable? Of course, as human beings, we ought to be vulnerable. We shouldn’t try to say that we can be self-sufficient or do everything that’s necessary for a good life on our own, because we need other people.”
  Born on May 6, 1947, in New York City to George and Betty Warren Craven, Martha has an older half-brother, Robert, from her father’s first marriage, and a younger sister, Gail. When Martha was six months old, the family moved when George, a tax and estates attorney, became a partner in a prominent Philadelphia law firm.
  Martha’s father was a major influence on her. In a recent interview with philosopher Andrea Scarantino, published in the Emotion Researcher, Nussbaum recalled that from her father she learned that discipline, hard work, and pleasure all ran together.
  “He loved effort and will, and would recite William Ernest Henley’s ‘Invictus’ often —also Nelson Mandela’s favorite poem. But my father recited it with a twinkle in his eye, so it was not about grim fortitude, but about the joy of a life fully lived.” 
  George Craven also taught his daughter the pleasure of being well dressed but never stuffy, while her mother, also influential on Martha’s life and outlook, taught her the value of emotions and to respect all people, regardless of class. 
  Martha Nussbaum has, on various occasions, spoken candidly about her parents, including her father’s bigotry (born and raised in Macon, Georgia, before the Civil rights era, he would not attend her wedding to Alan Nussbaum, a Jew) and her mother’s drinking (she later entered AA and helped others embrace sobriety). These factors shaped her life and her thinking, just as her father’s encouragement and her mother’s unconditional love did. 
  As a girl, Martha attended the Baldwin School, a private school where she learned French, Latin, and Greek, and studied drama, and was one of the tallest and most outspoken of girls. There she also wrote, staged, and played the lead in a production based on the life of Robespierre, whom she saw as a conflicted figure, divided between ideals of political perfection and personal ties to people with a different view of where the revolution should go. 
  After graduation, Martha headed to Wellesley College, which she found “emotionally and socially stifling.” In the middle of her second year she left to join a repertory theater that specialized in Greek drama, then transferred to New York University to study theater but discovered something unexpected along the way. 
  “The experience of acting in Greek tragedies and thinking about these plays made me change my mind,” she told NEH Chairman Adams. “Oh, I thought, I actually want to write about this.”
  At NYU, Martha dropped theater after three semesters and transferred to Washington Square College, where she resumed her studies in Greek and Roman classics. She also met Alan Nussbaum, a fellow student in classics and now a professor in Indo-European linguistics at Cornell University. They married, and Martha converted to Judaism, in which she found an expressiveness and a passion for this world that were wanting in her experience of Christianity.
  The young couple went on to Harvard for their graduate studies. Harvard in the early 1970s was not, however, especially welcoming to them. It was, Nussbaum told the Emotion Researcher, “a shocking and repugnant place: anti-Semitic, sexist, anti-gay. My change of name from Craven to Nussbaum was much commented on, and my husband was given the cold shoulder.” 
  In a story she related in Singing in the Fire, edited by Linda Martin Alcoff, Nussbaum was elected to the prestigious Society of Fellows, which came with a three-year salary to explore interdisciplinary work. She then received a note of congratulations from an eminent classicist who wondered how she might be referred to, since “fellowess” was such an awkward term. Perhaps, the man added, the Greek term for fellow (hetairos) would be of assistance. They might refer to her by its female form (hetaira), which, however, also meant courtesan or prostitute.
Despite the malice she encountered, an exceptional career began to take shape in Cambridge as Nussbaum pursued a PhD in classics while exploring texts not simply as a literary scholar and a linguist but philosophically, as a reader in search of answers about life’s most pressing questions. For her special author in Latin, she read Roman historian Tacitus, in order to study with Glen Bowersock, whom she admires to this day. In Greek she read Aristotle, and went on to write a dissertation on Aristotle’s De Motu Animalium, exploring the interpretive powers and physical vulnerability of human and non-human animals that move. A dedicated runner, even when she was pregnant with her daughter, Nussbaum has, by all accounts, a truly philosophical curiosity about the most physical aspects of living. At Harvard, she also encountered John Rawls, the quintessential philosopher of contemporary liberalism, who encouraged Nussbaum to consider it a moral duty to write for a broad nonacademic public. 
  An even more important influence on Nussbaum was Bernard Williams, the British philosopher who sought to recover a broad humanistic conception of philosophy, including work on the emotions and respect for the ideas of the ancient tragic poets and Plato. These interests in ancient Greek and Roman literature and the role of the emotions suggested much about the future of Nussbaum’s philosophical work: technically assured yet humanistic—that is, rich in history, literature, and culture. 
  Nussbaum left Harvard in 1983 after being denied tenure in a contentious decision. A lot happened in the next few years. She took a position at Brown University, and, in 1987, by mutual consent, she and Alan Nussbaum divorced. She also began a seven-year, one-month-a-year gig as a research adviser to the World Institute for Development Economics Research in Helsinki. And in 1986 she published the book that announced her as a rising star in philosophy with a strong point of view.
  The Fragility of Goodness was the first of her books to take philosophy out of its rationalistic comfort zone to consider the impact of forces beyond the individual’s control. Instead of defining goodness in isolation, Nussbaum asked, What threatens and undermines our pursuit of a flourishing life? For answers she turned to the literature and philosophy of the ancient Greeks, in particular their views on moral luck. Nussbaum’s argument embraces the idea that our own goodness may be subject to slings and arrows that are not of our own making or own fault.
  As Nussbaum said to Bill Moyers on his PBS show in 1988, “To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control, that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances for which you were not to blame.”
  Another example of Nussbaum looking beyond rationalist categories is her scholarship on emotions “as intelligent responses to the perception of value,” as she phrased the matter in her 2001 book Upheavals of Thought, which takes its title from Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. Her previous emphasis on the philosophical usefulness of literature and narrative—not just ancient plays and poetry but modern novels as well—opened an important new vein in her work on such emotions as anger, forgiveness, and shame.
  As a young scholar, Martha Nussbaum did not focus on political philosophy. As she wrote more for the public, however, she warmed toward applying her philosophical and rhetorical skills to matters of public debate. In Cultivating Humanity, her 1997 “classical defense of reform in liberal education,” she defended African-American studies and women’s studies along with the American academy’s new emphasis on non-Western traditions. In Sex and Social Justice (1999), she tackled the ways in which gender difference and sexual preference are used internationally to justify marked inequalities that are written into law and produce very different outcomes in quality of life. 
  With her newfound prominence came an offer from the University of Chicago to become a professor with appointments in the law school and the philosophy department. In her conversation with Chairman Adams, Nussbaum drew a lively picture of her work. In no specific order, she mentioned co-teaching with colleagues of various disciplinary backgrounds, engaging students—including religious conservatives—in wide-ranging debates over issues of sex and morality, and hosting literature-heavy law school conferences that make time for theatrical presentations. Not long ago, at such a conference, Nussbaum played Mrs. Peachum in The Threepenny Opera.
  “Philosophy should not be written in detachment from real life,” Nussbaum wrote in Cultivating Humanity. In her work on what is called the capabilities approach, she opened her portfolio to the broadest political, economic, and legal questions concerning human well-being. The goal was to develop an alternative standard to gross domestic product for measuring the human welfare of nations. 
  GDP, she argues, though easy to tabulate and use in comparisons, is simply an average and leaves out many things that must be considered essential to well-being: life; health; bodily integrity (freedom of movement and from assault); senses, imagination, and thought (education and creativity); emotions (freedom to love and form attachments); practical reason (freedom of thought); affiliation; other species (to live in relation to animals and nature); play; and control over one’s environment (rights of political participation and property). 
  Working with Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, Nussbaum helped found the Human Development and Capability Association, a nonprofit whose mission is to advocate on behalf of this multifaceted standard for human flourishing.
  The capabilities approach, Nussbaum told Chairman Adams, “is a way to get leaders and others to see that people in the international development arena think you should be working on all ten of these measures.”
  Nussbaum, who turns seventy this year, will soon publish a book about aging, co-written with her University of Chicago law school colleague Saul Levmore. It may seem like yet another surprising topic for a philosopher to write about, but Nussbaum has long been able to see deep questions in everyday life. She is also following in the steps of Cicero (whose thinking on aging she praises) and Simone de Beauvoir (whose thinking on aging she criticizes). As she noted in Cultivating Humanity, “Philosophy breaks out wherever people are encouraged to think for themselves.”
  —David Skinner

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