University of Chicago First Friday Lecture Series

Friday, February 7, March 6, April 3, May 1, June 5 • 12:15pm

Chicago Cultural Center, Claudia Cassidy Theater, 2nd Floor North

Free Admission

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Claudia Cassidy Theater

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Hosted by the Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults, the University of Chicago. Lectures are offered at 12:15pm on the first Friday of every month except July, in the Claudia Cassidy Theater of the Chicago Cultural Center.


Dawn Herrera, Feasts and Beasts: Metaphors of the Multitude in Aristotle and Plato

February 7, 12:15pm

In Book III of the Politics, Aristotle diverges from his systematic approach to offer his reader a series of unwieldy but suggestive metaphors of "the many" as a political collective. Looking beyond their poetic insufficiencies, in this talk I read Aristotle's metaphors of the multitude against those found in Plato's Republic, and consider the conceptual resources they have to offer our thinking about political authority. I argue that the form of Aristotle's argument, its development in metaphor, is not insignificant: might our ability to "carry over" the meaning of democracy as a political possibility help us constitute it as such?


Katia Mitova, Modern Retellings of the Odyssey

March 6, 12:15pm

Why retell a good story, especially if it is already written down? To internalize it? To question it? To give it a new life in a new context? The answer seems easy: all of the above. Once we look into the specific retellings of a story as famous and loved as Homer’s Odyssey, however, we realize that each retelling is above all a rethinking of the ambiguities that surround Odysseus’ cunningness and troubled journey home and Penelope’s patience and faithfulness. The lecture takes into account recent novels such as Audrie Niffeneger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003), Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad (2005), and Zachary Mason’s The Lost Books of the Odyssey (2010).

Claudia Traudt, The Glory and Pain of Unknowing, Withholding, Delivery: Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom!

April 3, 12:15pm

William Faulkner's 1929 The Sound and the Fury and 1936 Absalom, Absalom! are likely his two greatest and most impactful novels, bedrock to the great decades-arching Yoknapatwapha County saga he created. The knitting and knotting within the Compson and Sutpen families, and, in Absalom, Absalom!, in important measure shared between them, is mesmerizing, harrowing, fraught, often painful, understanding of it often elusive. It is also exquisite. Unknowing, withholding, wanting drive these stories. Fascinatingly and beautifully, this is true for both the characters in the stories, and for us readers who give our imaginations, emotions and intellects over to them. This talk will explore two elements: something of the works' painful and glorious perfections of plot - and some painful, thrilling and satisfying experiences the books deliver to the reader.

Richard Hoskins, Hamilton and Madison: Friends and Enemies

May 1, 12:15pm

Alexander Hamilton and James Madison wrote arguably the most important document of political theory ever penned by Americans, the “Federalist Papers.” Published as the nation debated the new Constitution adopted in Philadelphia and now going before special state conventions for ratification or rejection, they made the case for a strong national government balanced by the power of states which retained sovereignty over all undelegated matters; for separation of powers among the President, Congress, and the Judiciary; for checks and balances to limit power and guard against tyranny. They argued that the United States, though destined to be a continental power, was not too large for republican government, contrary to Montesquieu; and that political “factions” could be managed to allow for robust debate without capture of the government by special interests. Yet, shortly after the adoption of the Constitution, during the Administration of George Washington, they became bitter political enemies. Their antipathy formed the basis of the earliest political parties, Federalists and Democratic-Republicans -- precisely the “factions” of which both had warned.

What prompted this change and how did their differences affect subsequent U.S. history? These will be the questions we explore.

Joseph Alulis, “The Third Wave”: The Family’s Place in Political Life in Plato and Aristotle

June 5, 12:15pm

In the Republic Socrates compares his proposal of a philosopher king to the third wave in a series, proverbially the biggest. It must be big, indeed, if it is greater than the second, the abolition of the family. The second proposal is offered as the means to curb factional strife in politics. But this might be a case of a cure worse than the disease. Its institution is explicitly connected by Socrates with the third wave. Aristotle places his discussion of the family at the start of his Politics and not only regards it as an institution to be preserved but accords to it a role Socrates seems to associate with its destruction. This lecture will explore the family’s place in politics as developed in the thought of Plato and Aristotle.

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