THCAS  Wordmark

twitter Youtube facebook

Past Lectures 2011-2012


The Lawrence F. Brewster Lecture in History

Dr. David T. Courtwright
Sky as Frontier:
America's Air and Space Century

David Courtwright is John A. Delaney Presidential Professor in the Department of History at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida. He received his B.A. in English from the University of Kansas and his Ph.D. in History from Rice University. Much of Courtwright's scholarship has focused on the special problems of frontier environments in history. In an early work, Violent Land: Single Men and Social Disorder from the Frontier to the Inner City (Harvard University Press, 1996), Courtwright explored the roots of violence in two contrasting social environments. His later work, Sky as Frontier: Adventure, Aviation, and Empire, published in 2004 as part of the Texas A&M University's "Centennial of Flight Series," casts the history of aviation in American history as a frontier epic of sorts, one reaching beyond the two dimensional world that strongly defined humanity’s earlier horizons.

Courtwright has also written books about drug use and drug policy, including Dark Paradise: A History of Opiate Addiction in America (Harvard University Press, 2001), and Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World (Harvard University Press, 2002). No Right Turn: Conservative Politics in Liberal America (Harvard University Press, 2010) is his first essay on general political history. Courtwright is currently working on a book about pleasure and capitalism in the modern world.


The Premier Lecture

Sir Salman Rushdie
Public Events, Private Lives:
Literature and Politics in the Modern World

Sir Salman Rushdie, a fervent champion of freedom of expression, will deliver the 2011-2012 Voyages of Discovery Lecture Series’ Premier Lecture, "Public Events, Private Lives: Literature and Politics in the Modern World." Rushdie has written award-winning novels, including Midnight's Children (which received the Booker Prize in 1981, and the "Booker of Bookers" Prize in 1993) and The Satanic Verses (1988). This last work so incensed the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini (1902-1989) that he issued a fatwā calling for Rushdie’s death. As a result, Rushdie spent the next decade in hiding. Since the fatwa was lifted, Rushdie has emerged as one of the world's most engaged and outspoken intellectuals. In addition to myriad literary awards, Rushdie has received eight honorary doctorates.


A University Lecture

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
African-American Lives:
Genetics, Genealogy, and Black History

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W. E. B. DuBois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University. Gates earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge, and his B.A. summa cum laude in history from Yale University, where he was a Scholar of the House, in 1973. He became a member of Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year at Yale. Before joining the faculty of Harvard in 1991, he taught at Yale, Cornell, and Duke.

Gates' honors and grants include a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" (1981), the George Polk Award for Social Commentary (1993), Time magazine's "25 Most Influential Americans" list (1997), a National Humanities Medal (1998), election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1999), the Jefferson Lecture (2002), a Visiting Fellowship at the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton (2003-2004), and the Jay B. Hubbell Award for Lifetime Achievement in American Literary Studies from the Modern Language Association (2006). He has received 44 honorary degrees from institutions including the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, New York University, the University of Massachusetts-Boston, Williams College, Emory University, the University of Toronto, the University of Benin, Howard University, the University of Vermont, and Berea College. In 2006, he was inducted into the Sons of the American Revolution, after he traced his lineage back to John Redman, a free Negro who fought in the Revolutionary War.

Gates served as Chair of the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard from 1991 to 2006. He serves on the boards of the New York Public Library, the Whitney Museum, Lincoln Center Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Aspen Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Studio Museum of Harlem, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

He is the author of several works of literary criticism, including Figures in Black: Words, Signs and the "Racial" Self (Oxford University Press, 1987) and The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (Oxford, 1988) winner of the 1989 American Book Award. He authenticated and facilitated the publication, in 1983, of Our Nig, or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black (1859), by Harriet Wilson, the first novel published by an African American woman. Two decades later, in 2002, Professor Gates authenticated and published The Bondwoman's Narrative by Hannah Crafts, dating from the early 1850s and now considered one of the first novels written by an African American woman. In the holograph copy acquired by Gates, the author describes herself as “a fugitive slave recently escaped from North Carolina.” Gates is also the co-author, with Cornel West, of The Future of the Race (Knopf, 1996), and the author of a memoir, Colored People (Knopf, 1994), that traces his childhood experiences in a small West Virginia town in the 1950s and 1960s.


The Thomas Harriot Lecture

Bland Simpson
“Temperate Air, Requisite Care”
—from Thomas Harriot’s “Conclusion”
in A Briefe & True Report on the New Found Land of Virginia (1588)

Bland Simpson is Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of many books including Heart of the Country, A Novel of Southern Music (University of Georgia Press, 1996); The Great Dismal, A Carolinian's Swamp Memoir (UNC Press, 1998); The Mystery of Beautiful Nell Cropsey, A Nonfiction Novel (UNC Press, 1993); Into the Sound Country: A Carolinian's Coastal Plain (UNC Press, 1997), with photography by Ann Cary Simpson; Ghost Ship of Diamond Shoals: The Mystery of the Carroll A. Deering (UNC Press, 2005); The Inner Islands: A Carolinian's Sound Country Chronicle (UNC Press, 2010); and The Coasts of Carolina: Seaside to Sound Country (UNC Press, 2010).

Since 1986, Simpson has been a member of the Tony Award-winning, internationally acclaimed string band The Red Clay Ramblers. Simpson has toured extensively in North America, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and collaborated on or contributed to the following musicals: King Mackerel and The Blues Are Running: Songs and Stories of the Carolina Coast; Diamond Studs; Hot Grog; Life on the Mississippi; Lone Star Love, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Texas; Tony-nominee Pump Boys and Dinettes; Cool Spring; Tar Heel Voices; Kudzu, A Southern Musical; and three-time Broadway hit and Special Tony Award-winning production Fool Moon.

In 1999, Simpson received the Governor's Award, "Conservation Communicator of the Year," presented by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, as well as the North Carolina Folklore Society’s Brown-Hudson Award for writing and music concerning state and regional heritage. He served as Chair of the North Carolina Writers Conference for 2001-2002 and received the University of North Carolina’s Tanner Faculty Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2004. In November 2005, Simpson received the North Carolina Award for Fine Arts, the state's highest civilian honor in the arts.


The Jarvis Lecture on Christianity and Culture

Professor J. Kameron Carter
Religion and the Post-Racial Condition

Professor J. Kameron Carter teaches courses in theology and black church studies at Duke University. Working as a theologian, he addresses the basic areas of Christian thought, especially Christology (the person and work of Jesus Christ) and theological anthropology (the human being in the Christian perspective). In engaging such matters, he does so with a view not just to the church or to Christian believers, but also to the broader humanities, particularly, such fields as cultural studies, gender studies, philosophy, and literature. His most recent book is entitled, Race: A Theological Account (Oxford University Press, 2008).

Carter is working on a new book on the ideological uses of Jesus in the modern invention of the human, and thus in the making and sustaining of the present. Addressing this in its religious, secular, and now arguably post-secular forms, Professor Carter calls this the problem of “the cultural Jesus.” The cultural Jesus project provides a kind of theological archaeology which is, at the same time, a cultural archaeology uncovering and discussing layers of meaning in how contemporary culture has both shaped and been shaped by this pivotal religious figure. Professor Carter re-imagines the identity of Jesus and the politics of Jesus of Nazareth’s identity in light of shifting global realities of the twenty-first century.

Wright Auditorium


Jeffrey S. Johnson,
Ph.D., Director
Harriot Voyages of
Discovery Lecture Series
2147 Bate Building
East Carolina University