Upcoming Events: Humanities

Mon 12/19

Image - Socrates Café

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, December 19, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

On one Monday evening of every month the Humanities Forum sponsors Socrates Café at The Commonwealth Club. Each meeting is devoted to the discussion of a philosophical topic chosen at that meeting. The group's facilitator, John Nyquist, invites participants to suggest topics, which are then voted on. The person who proposed the most popular topic is asked to briefly explain why she or he considers that topic interesting and important. An open discussion follows, and the meeting ends with a summary of the various perspectives participants expressed. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Mon 1/23

Image - Socrates Café

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, January 23, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Discussion group

On one Monday evening of every month the Humanities Forum sponsors Socrates Café at The Commonwealth Club. Each meeting is devoted to the discussion of a philosophical topic chosen at that meeting. The group's facilitator, John Nyquist, invites participants to suggest topics, which are then voted on. The person who proposed the most popular topic is asked to briefly explain why she or he considers that topic interesting and important. An open discussion follows, and the meeting ends with a summary of the various perspectives participants expressed. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Tue 2/7

Image - Lauren Leader-Chivee

Crossing the Thinnest Line

Date: Tue, February 07, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
The new world of diversity

Lauren Leader-Chivee, Founder and CEO, All In Together; Author, Crossing the Thinnest Line

Explore the social advantages of diversity. Crossing the Thinnest Line argues passionately and persuasively for the possibility, power, purpose and payoff of embracing difference. Already 89 percent of the world’s educated population is either female or minority. In less than a generation, the United States will become minority majority. The world economy is global and interconnected, and Leader-Chivee says that embracing diversity has never been more imperative.

With compelling data and powerful, personal stories, Leader-Chivee looks at challenges and solutions to immigration, education, business, media and politics and inspires Americans to rise to the challenge.

Wed 2/15

Humanities West Book Discussion: The Age of Vikings, by Anders Winroth

Date: Wed, February 15, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Learn more about the Vikings

Join us to discuss The Age of Vikings, whose image is often distorted by myth. Though it is true that they pillaged, looted and enslaved, the Vikings also settled peacefully and traveled far from their homelands in swift and sturdy ships to explore. Anders Winroth captures the innovation and pure daring of the Vikings without glossing over their destructive heritage, revealing how Viking arts, literature and religious thought evolved in surprising ways. Discussion led by Lynn Harris.

Wed 2/22

Image - detail of book cover of The Reporter Who Knew too Much

Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen: The Reporter Who Knew too Much

Date: Wed, February 22, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
How and why did Dorothy Kilgallen die?

Mark Shaw, Former Criminal Defense Attorney; CNN Legal Analyst; Author, The Reporter Who Knew Too Much

Occurring less than two years after JFK's assassination, the mysterious death of Dorothy Kilgallen, a "What's My Line" media star and investigative reporter, remains an enigma. Despite an apparently staged death scene in her apartment, and friends who suspected she had been murdered, no police investigation followed. Relying on fresh evidence secured through discovery of never-before-seen videotaped interviews and secret government documents, Shaw unfolds a murder mystery featuring Frank Sinatra, J. Edgar Hoover and Mafia don Carlos Marcello, whose motives included being threatened by Kilgallen's 18-month investigation into JFK's death. (For more about the book, see http://www.thereporterwhoknewtoomuch.com.)

Thu 2/23

Image - Linda Rugg

The End of the Vikings

Date: Thu, February 23, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
The journey from paganism to Christianity to secularism

Linda Rugg, Professor of Swedish Studies, Department of Scandinavian Studies, University of California Berkeley

In the year 1000 AD, at the annual Althing (national assembly) in Iceland, a decision was made to make Christianity the official religion of the island. The road from paganism to Christianity was not, however, completely smooth, nor did the conversion process happen as abruptly as the political decision implied. A key text describing the declaration at the Althing appears in Njal’s Saga, and it will form the basis for this lecture, along with two medieval Icelandic short stories that illustrate how Christianization began to take shape in the North. The continued presence of the pagan past in modern Scandinavia can be traced in literature, artifacts and enduring cultural practices, indicating that while the Scandinavians eventually embraced Christianity and then secularism, they did not leave their Viking identity behind.

Thu 3/2

Image - Elizabeth Cobbs

The Hamilton Affair

Date: Thu, March 02, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
The love story behind the controversial Revolutionary-era leader

Elizabeth Cobbs, Professor and Melbern G. Glasscock Chair in American History, Texas A&M University; Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Author, The Hamilton Affair

This program is part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Celebrate the imminent arrival of the musical Hamilton with a discussion of a new novel about this intriguing founding father. The Hamilton Affair tells the true story of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler, from passionate and tender beginnings to his fateful duel.

Hamilton was a bastard and orphan, raised in the Caribbean and desperate for legitimacy, who became one of the Revolution’s most dashing—and improbable—heroes. Admired by Washington, scorned by Jefferson, Hamilton was the most controversial leader of the new nation. Elizabeth was the wealthy, beautiful, adventurous daughter of the respectable Schuyler clan—and a pioneering advocate for women. Together, the unlikely couple braved the dangers of war, the anguish of infidelity, and the scourge of partisanship that menaced their family and the country itself.

Mon 3/13

Image - Mark Twain and George Hammond

Mark Twain's Funny Fight for Free Will

Date: Mon, March 13, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
Twain's twilight struggle

George Hammond, Author, Mark Twain's Visit to Heaven

Monday Night Philosophy finds the fun in Mark Twain's almighty fight for free will. Taking issue with analysts who believe that Mark Twain became a pessimist in old age due to his many personal tragedies, and finding the cracks of freedom in Mark Twain's own deterministic conclusions about the "damned human race" in "What is Man?", George will focus on the consistent, and consistently humorous, though sometimes painful and angry, philosophical fight Mark Twain waged from his youth to his dying breath against the stultifying fears and clearly false ideas about life that keep our otherwise free wills chained to "petrified opinion," preventing us from dreaming "other dreams, and better." 

Wed 3/15

Image - detail from The Prose Edda book cover

Humanities West Book Discussion: The Prose Edda, by Jesse Byock

Date: Wed, March 15, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Gods and giants and dwarves and elves — what's not to like?

Join us to discuss The Prose Edda, the most renowned work of Scandinavian literature and our most extensive source for Norse mythology. The Edda was written in Iceland a century after the close of the Viking Age, and tells in clear prose, interspersed with powerful verse, the ancient Norse creation epic and stories of the battles that follow as gods, giants, dwarves and elves struggle for survival. Discussion led by Lynn Harris.

Tue 3/21

Beethoven in China

Date: Tue, March 21, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
How Beethoven became a cultural icon in China

Jindong Cai, Associate Professor of Music (performance), Stanford University; Orchestra Conductor; and Co-Author, Beethoven in China: How the Great Composer Became an Icon in the People's Republic

Sheila Melvin, Co-Author, Beethoven in China: How the Great Composer Became an Icon in the People's Republic

Beethoven in China demonstrates that there is no parallel to the depth and breadth of Beethoven's integration into the culture, politics and private passions of China. Schoolchildren routinely read Beethoven, My Great Model and busts of Beethoven are a common sight. Cai's and Melvin's research reveals that the process by which Beethoven became a Chinese icon was tumultuous, starting with a 1906 article by Li Shutong, who referred to him as The Sage of Music, and held him up as a moral exemplar for a struggling nation trying to prevent a slide into chaos. His stoicism in the face of paternal mistreatment and increasing deafness resonated with a culture focused on working hard, on "eating bitterness," in order to achieve greatness. That stoicism proved crucial when Mao had musicians arrested and executed during the Cultural Revolution. But at Tiananmen Square students accompanied their protests with his "Ode to Joy" anyway.

Tue 3/28

Image - Marty Brounstein

The Courage and Compassion to Do the Right Thing

Date: Tue, March 28, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM

Marty Brounstein, Author, Two Among the Righteous Few: A Story of Courage in the Holocaust

This program is part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Come hear a true interfaith story of courage, compassion and rescue during the Holocaust. A Catholic couple in the Netherlands, despite great risk and danger, helped save the lives of at least two dozen Jews from certain death during World War II. Brounstein will also explain the meaningful personal connection that inspires him to tell and retell the story of their heroic actions.

Wed 4/19

Image - detail of book cover of Cleopatra

Humanities West Book Discussion: Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff

Date: Wed, April 19, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
The story of one of the most intriguing women in history

Join us to discuss Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer who brings to life one of the most intriguing women in human history. Though the palace of the last queen of Egypt actually did shimmer with onyx, garnets and gold, it was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Cleopatra died young, at 39, but first married two brothers, dispatching one in a brutal civil war while they were still teenagers, and poisoning the other, before eliminating a sister as well. She had a son with Julius Caesar and three children with Marc Antony, complicating but probably prolonging wealthy Egypt's fatal embrace by the relatively uncivilized Romans. In a masterly return to classical sources, Schiff boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose dramatic death ushered in a new world order. Discussion led by Lynn Harris.