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Distinguished Faculty Lectures

The Gallatin Distinguished Lecture Series is a forum that honors the School's commitment to interdisciplinary study and excellence in intellectual, civic, and aesthetic endeavors. The Gallatin DFL Series features speakers whose work or practice has made an outstanding contribution in one or more of these areas.

Past Lectures


Distinguished Faculty Lecture with Alison Bechdel & Hillary Chute

Nov 21, 2013, Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts

Alison Bechdel & Hillary Chute

Alison Bechdel, internationally acclaimed, award winning cartoonist, author of graphic memoirs Fun Home and Are You My Mother, in a freewheeling, multimedia conversation/confab with distinguished scholar Hillary Chute, author of Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics (Columbia Univ. Press: 2010).

For twenty-five years, Alison Bechdel created the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. Her graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic was named Best Book of 2006 by Time Magazine. In 2008, she began devoting herself full-time to autobiographical work. A second graphic memoir, Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama, was published in 2012. She’s the recipient of a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship, and is a Marsh Professor-at Large at the University of Vermont.

Hillary Chute is the author of Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics (Columbia UP, 2010) and Associate Editor of Art Spiegelman’s MetaMaus (Pantheon, 2011). In 2006, she co-edited the “Graphic Narrative” special issue of Mfs: Modern Fiction Studies—the first issue of an academic journal in literature devoted to exploring comics. In 2009, she founded the Modern Language Association’s Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives. Her essays have appeared in American Periodicals, Mfs: Modern Fiction Studies, PMLA, Twentieth-Century Literature, and WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, among others. Her current book project is titled Disaster is My Muse: Visual Witnessing, Comics, and Documentary Form. She is Neubauer Family Assistant Professor in English at the University of Chicago. Chute is currently co-editing a special issue of Critical Inquiry on “Comics and Media.” She has written for publications including: The Village Voice, The Believer and Poetry.

Distinguished Faculty Lecture featuring David Kaiser

"Calculating Times: Testing Einstein's Relativity in the Cold War"

Apr 29, 2013, Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts

David Kaiser

David Kaiser is Germeshausen Professor and Department Head of MIT's Program in Science, Technology, and Society, and also a member of MIT's Department of Physics. His books include Drawing Theories Apart: The Dispersion of Feynman Diagrams in Postwar Physics (2005), and How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival (2011). A Fellow of the American Physical Society and recipient of the Pfizer Prize from the History of Science Society for best book in the field, Kaiser has also received MIT's highest awards for excellence in teaching. His work has been featured in Science, Nature, Scientific American, the London Review of Books, and the Huffington Post, as well as on NOVA television programs, NPR, and the BBC. He is currently writing two books about gravity: a textbook, with his colleague Alan Guth, on gravitation and cosmology, and a history of research on general relativity over the twentieth century.

Distinguished Faculty Lecture with Judith Butler & Anne Carson

February 22, 2013, Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts


Anne Carson’s ANTIGONICK

A staged reading with
Anne Carson, Judith Butler (as Kreon), Anne Waldman (as Tiresias), Beth Pollack (as Antigone), Denis Butkus (as Haemon), Emily Young (as Ismene), Paul Coffey (as Guard) and Laura Slatkin (as Eurydice)

Directed by Kristin Horton
followed by

A conversation: “Antigone Now” with

Judith Butler, Anne Carson, Robert Currie, A.B. Huber, Emanuela Bianchi and Jacques Lezra
Moderated by Laura Slatkin

Co-sponsored by Gallatin’s Classics and the Contemporary Series; NYU Department of Comparative Literature; NYU Humanities Initiative

Distinguished Faculty Lecture featuring William Julius Wilson

November 13, 2013, Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts

Julius Wilson

Gallatin's Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series, cosponsored by Gallatin's Human Rights Initiative, NYU Department of Sociology and the Institute for Public Knowledge presents: William Julius Wilison

"Race and Affirming Opportunity in the Barack Obama Era"

William Julius Wilson is the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Education and the Institute of Medicine. He is also past President of the American Sociological Association, and is a MacArthur Prize Fellow. In 1998 he was awarded the National Medal of Science. His books include Power, Racism and Privilege (1973), The Declining Significance of Race (1978), The Truly Disadvantaged (1987), When Work Disappears (1996), The Bridge over the Racial Divide (1999), There Goes the Neighborhood (2006, co-author), Good Kids from Bad Neighborhoods (2006, co-author), and, most recently, More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City (2009).

Professor Wilson's extended bio


Political Scientist Cathy Cohen Discusses New Media, Politics and Youth

Mar 14, 2012 , Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts

Cathy Cohen

“There have been times when new kinds of media have transformed the nature of political communication,” said Cathy Cohen, the David and Mary Winton Green Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago.

She cited Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside radio chats and the role of television in the Nixon-Kennedy debates as examples.

“Does today represent another transformative moment?” Cohen asked. The research she is conducting through the MacArthur Foundation suggests that it does.

Cohen, a prominent queer activist and the founder of the Black Youth Project, gave Gallatin’s Distinguished Faculty Lecture on March 6. She engaged the audience in the Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts in a discussion on the role of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in global politics.

Cohen referred to an article in the New Yorker magazine by Malcolm Gladwell, in which he contrasted the deep ties of the Civil Rights movement with the weak ties of contemporary social movements that are forged by new media.

She countered that digital media have, in fact, played an important role in recent group actions such as the Arab Spring and the Occupy movements.

“The use of new media in the Occupy movement to raise money, recruit members and archive their history points to the important and longstanding role that new media may play in reorganizing young people’s lives and politics,” she said.

The role of new media in politics and social movements has expanded across the board, said Cohen, who pointed out that the readership of the top 10 political blogs is equal to that of The New York Times.

“More and more people receive their information about politics and candidates from the Web,” she added.

Young people have a digital skill set and live in a participatory culture, which plays to the strengths of social media.

“Young people expect frequent contact and the sharing of information across networks,” she said. With new media, young people can customize the information they share,  influencing what their friends read and framing how they consume the news.

“The ease with which people can blog without the oversight of gatekeepers has widened participatory politics,” she added.

“In the past, our networks were bounded by physical constraints—our church, our class or our block. Today, participants have the opportunity to engage with a much larger group of people who may or may not agree with them on all issues.”

The digital access that young people of color have can be leveraged into power, she concluded. Noting that young people of color went to the polls in record numbers in 2008, she said they can use their digital social capital to move their own political agenda forward.

“An exciting possibility of the new media framework,” she said, “is the possibility of what might be.”

Painter Rackstraw Downes Discusses Transition from Abstraction to Representation

Apr 26, 2012, Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts

Rackstraw Downes

The plein-air painter Rackstraw Downes, who is known for his rural and man-made landscapes of scenes ranging from farmland in Maine to the sidewalks of Coney Island, noted during a recent talk at Gallatin, “My idea is to paint the real state of the world.”

The politics in his work, he added, are in the process of creation rather than in the finished image. “Spending so many hours of prolonged attention to real things in the real world is a critique of our sound-bite society, which is so enamored of technologically mediated experiences,” he said.

Known as an “artist’s artist,” Downes gave the Distinguished Faculty Lecture on April 12 in the Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre of Performing Arts, where he showed slides of his paintings and discussed his transformation from an abstract artist to a representational painter.

The British-born Downes earned his undergraduate degree from Cambridge, then came to the United States and earned his M.F.A. from Yale. He was influenced by the abstract expressionist painter Al Held, who taught at Yale, but eventually Downes decided to move his easel from the studio to the landscape.

For years, he spent winters in New York and summers in Maine, but at one point, he recalled, “My arm said, ‘You know this too well. You’ve done it too often.’” So he began spending winters in Texas and summers in New York, where he moved from his uptown residence to a new location downtown.“The scale and light in my work changed drastically because of these changes,” he said.

Downes explained how his paintings came about and the process behind each of them. After the lecture, an audience member asked how he made the transition from abstraction to representation. It was, he recalled, “terribly difficult.” Nevertheless, he went to his studio every day and tried not to care if his work was rough.

“Also, it felt good,” he added. “It felt like I was breaking some ice for myself.”

When asked what it means for him to be an artist, Downes replied, “It means I’ll go every morning to the studio and work and hope for the best. And everything else forms a circumference around that fact. It’s nice to have that clarity in your life.”

Distinguished Faculty Lecture: Gregg Mitman

Dec 8, 2011, Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts

Gregg Mitman

"A Journey without Maps: Film, Expeditionary Science, and the Growth of Development"

Gregg Mitman is Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History of Science, Medical History, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he also serves as Interim Director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. His research explores the history of ecology, nature, and health in American culture. Among his prize-winning books are Reel Nature: America's Romance with Wildlife on Film, and Breathing Space: How Allergies Shape Our Lives and Landscapes.

Distinguished Faculty Lecture: Janet Halley

10/2011, Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts

The Distributive Family: How and Why to Deconstruct the Market/Family Distinction

Janet Halley is Royall Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. She is the author of After Sex?: New Writing since Queer Theory (with Andrew Parker) and Split Decisions: How and Why to Take a Break from Feminism?, and is the editor of the new special issue of the American Journal of Comparative Law on Critical Family Law.

Joan Scott Headlines Gallatin's Distinguished Faculty Lecture

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Joan Scott

"SEXULARISM: On Secularism and Gender Equality"

Joan W. Scott is Harold F. Linder Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science. Professor Scott's pioneering work in the areas of gender and intellectual history for over 30 years has helped to configure and reconfigure the study of feminism, politics, memory and language. She is the author of the seminal essay "Gender: A Useful Category of Analysis" (AHR, December 1986) and the book Gender and the Politics of History (Columbia 1988), as well as several dozen articles and edited collections, including the influential Feminists Theorize the Political, with Judith Butler (Routledge 1992). More recently, she is the author of The Politics of the Veil (Princeton 2007), a provocative assessment of the interplay of religion, feminism and democracy in modern France.

Gallatin Distinguished Faculty Lecture by Michael Hardt

Thursday, February 10, 2011


"Falsify the Currency! Foucault and Crisis"

Michael Hardt is an American literary theorist and political philosopher. Hardt is perhaps best known for his book Empire, which was co-written with Antonio Negri. It has been praised by some as the "Communist Manifesto of the 21st Century."

Gallatin Distinguished Faculty Lectures: A Lecture with Susan Silton

October 22, 2010

Rey Chow

The LA-based artist presents, She Had a Laugh Like a Beefsteak, a performative lecture which contextualizes her multidisciplinary practice through the framework of voice. The piece has also been presented at Goldsmiths College and University of Manchester, UK; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; and Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles. "Though wildly diverse, Susan Silton's works of the past decade nonetheless share elements of formal experimentation and aesthetic choice, and employ coded imagery and iconography to deliver socially and politically charged messages."--Christopher Miles, Artforum

Gallatin Distinguished Faculty Lectures: A Lecture with Rey Chow

Wednesday, Mar 24, 2010

Rey Chow

Professor Rey Chow is a cultural theorist and scholar of film, modern Chinese fiction, critical theory and postcolonial fiction. Currently Anne Firor Scott Professor of Literature of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, Duke University, her recent books publications include: The Age of the World Target: Self-Referentiality in War, Theory, and Comparative Work, Duke, 2006 and Sentimental Fabulations, Contemporary Chinese Films: Attachment in the Age of Global Visibility, Columbia, 2007. Forthcoming journal articles include: "The Elusive Material, What the Dog Doesn't Understand," New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics, and "Reading Derrida on Being Monolingual," Enduring Resistance: Cultural Theory after Derrida. She is the coeditor of Duke's Asia Pacific book series, and an editorial or advisory board member of over 30 academic journals including camera obscura, Postcolonial Studies, and differences. Among her many awards and honors is her recent Fulbright Distinguished Lectureship, in 2008-2009.

Distinguished Faculty Lecture featuring Lorraine Daston, presented "Observation as a Way of Life: Time, Attention, Allegory"

November 12, 2009, Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts

On November 12, 2009, Lorraine Daston, Director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin presented "Observation as a Way of Life: Time, Attention, Allegory" as part of Gallatin's Distinguished Faculty Lecture series.

Lorraine Daston has published on a wide range of topics in the history of science, including the history of probability and statistics, wonders in early modern science, the emergence of the scientific fact, scientific models, objects of scientific inquiry, the moral authority of nature, and the history of scientific objectivity. She is currently completing a book on "Moral and Natural Orders" and co-editing a volume on "Histories of Scientific Observation." Professor Daston has taught at Harvard, Princeton, Brandeis, and Göttingen Universities, and at University of Chicago, where she is Visiting Professor in the Committee on Social Thought. She has also held visiting positions in Paris and Vienna and gave the Isaiah Berlin Lectures at Oxford University (1999), the West Lectures at Stanford University (2005, and the Tanner Lectures at Harvard University (2002). Among her recent publications are "Objectivity" (co-authored Peter Galison) and "Thinking with Animals" (co-authored with Gregg Mitmann); she has also co-edited "Things that Talk, The Moral Authority of Nature", and the early modern volume of "The Cambridge History of Science". Two of her books, "Classical Probability in the Enlightenment", and "Wonders of Nature" (co-authored with Katharine Park), were awarded the History of Science Society's Pfizer Prize.

Distinguished Faculty Lecture featuring Saidiya Hartman


Saidiya Hartman

Saidiya Hartman is a professor of English and comparative literature and women's and gender studies at Columbia University. She received her Ph.D. from Yale in 1992 and taught for many years at the University of California at Berkeley.

Professor Hartman's major fields of interest are African-American and American literature and cultural history, slavery, law and literature, and performance studies. She is on the editorial board of "Callaloo." She has been a Fulbright, Rockefeller, Whitney Oates and University of California President's Fellow.

She is the author of "Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-making in Nineteenth Century America" (Oxford University Press, 1997) and "Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007). She has also published essays on photography, film and feminism.

Distinguished Faculty Lecture featuring Harry Berger, Jr. “Dying Angry: The Wrath of Socrates in Plato’s Phaedo,”Attention, Allegory"

Oct. , 2010


New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study will host “Dying Angry: The Wrath of Socrates in Plato’s Phaedo,” a lecture by Harry Berger, Jr., on Thurs., Oct. 4, 5 p.m. at NYU’s Bronfman Center (7 East 10th St., 2nd Fl., Main Room).

Berger, a professor emeritus of literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz and author of Second World and Green World: Studies in Renaissance Fiction Making; is currently working on a book on Plato. The Phaedo details the final days of Socrates, in which he discusses the nature of the afterlife.

A Lecture with Danielle Allen and Glenn Loury - "Obama: 100 Days Later"

April 14 2009


Distinguished Faculty Lecture featuring Hazel Carby, "BELONGING TO BRITAIN"

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Hazel Carby

Prof. Paul Cartledge:

"Is the East-West Divide the Fault of the Greeks?"

Monday, September 22, 2008

Paul Cartledge

“The Book of Job: Tragedy and Politics”

A lecture by Professor Peter Euben

Monday, March 24, 2009

Peter Euben

J. Peter Euben is Research Professor of Political Science and Kenan Distinguished Faculty Fellow in Ethics at Duke University. His scholarship focuses especially on tragedy, politics, and political theory. His published books include The Tragedy of Political Theory, Corrupting Youth, and Platonic Noise. He is now completing a book that uses Thomas More’s Utopia to explore the relationship of utopia and tragedy.

Kaja Silverman, a professor of Rhetoric and Film at the University of California, Berkeley, delivers  lecture, “Orpheus Rex.”

Dec. 4, 2008, Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performnig Arts

Kaja Silverman

In the period between 1882 and 1939, Western writers and artists began asking questions about gender: What is a woman? What is a man? How do they - and how should they - relate to each other? Surprising and profoundly enabling answers were given by Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Romain Rolland, Wilhelm Jensen, Lou-Andreas Salomé, Paula Modersohn-Becker, and Rainer Maria Rilke. They found these answers by returning to Ovid’s version of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth.

The Orpheus and Eurydice myth was ubiquitous in Western culture until the psychoanalytic legitimization of the Oedipus complex, and although we have forgotten how the story goes, we have continued to live it; as Silverman argues, it-rather than the Oedipus myth-is the master myth of Western subjectivity. The turn away from Eurydice is a turn away from relationality, many argue, and the basis of history as we know it. Ovid’s coda opens the door to a different kind of history, one that was partially realized in the period between 1882 and 1939.

Silverman is the author of several books: James Coleman; World Spectators; Speaking About Godard; The Threshold of the Visual World; Male Subjectivity at the Margins; The Acoustic Mirror; The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema; and The Subject of Semiotics. She has just completed a new book, Flesh of My Flesh, which will appear in 2009.

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