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Annual Report 2022: In the Presence of Greatness

Roz Chast speaking at a podium

In the Presence of Greatness

Visiting Scholars and Artists Bring New Ideas and Perspectives to Campus

In the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, we not only value new perspectives and ideas, we rely on them. With this in mind, we prioritize exposing our students to the insights, wisdom, and practices of the greatest writers, thinkers, artists, performers, and scholars of our time.

Laylah Ali

Public Artist Talk with Laylah Ali

To a room packed with students—many of them art history and art majors—artist Laylah Ali discussed the evolution of her work, the nature of her practice, and how she thinks about making and viewing art.

Through her paintings and drawings, Ali investigates the disconnect between the human body and freedom. She is renowned for her “Greenheads” series of gouache paintings addressing themes of interpersonal violence and human brutality. Her work relates to important contemporary debates about race, power, and violence in U.S. society.

a painting of a series of figures with rouhnd heads in varying states of distress

Laylah Ali, Untitled, 1999. Gouache and pencil on paper. Collection of Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, restricted gift of Robert and Sylvie Fitzpatrick in memory of William B. Cook. Photo courtesy of the artist.

History Writer in Residence

Brooke HauserBrooke Hauser's credentials include the Boston Globe, New York Times, Allure, Marie Claire, The New Yorker online, and the Boston Globe Magazine, and two nonfiction books: Enter Helen: The Invention of Helen Gurley Brown and the Rise of the Modern Single Woman and The New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens.

As the Department of History's 2022 Writer in Residence, Hauser gave a public talk entitled "What's the Meaning of Work?" in which she explored the ever-evolving landscape of work—and the changing mindsets of workers—through a personal lens and examples from history, literature, pop culture, and the news.


Shirley Jackson Whitaker

Ashes to Ashes Film Screening with Dr. Shirley Jackson Whitaker

Evan Lewis, assistant dean for community outreach in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, facilitated a conversation with Dr. Shirley Jackson Whitaker following a virtual screening of the 2020 documentary Ashes to Ashes. Dr. Whitaker is a resident of Amherst whose work as an artist and activist are the driving force behind the film.

Shirley Jackson Whitaker
Dr. Shirley Jackson Whitaker

Ashes to Ashes explores the pain and triumph of Winfred Rembert, the only living survivor of an attempted lynching, and chronicles his friendship with Dr. Whitaker, who is on a mission to memorialize the forgotten 4,000 African Americans lynched during the Jim Crow era. Together, their journeys of healing paint a powerful portrait.

You Didn’t Hear a Word I Said: The Critical Role of Conversations Across Difference in a Democratic Society

Presented with the Isenberg School of Management, this talk by Ronald Crutcher—esteemed cellist, author, and former president of the University of Richmond—unpacked the themes of his memoir, I Had No Idea You Were Black: Navigating Race on the Road to Leadership, which examines his life as a Black leader bridging America’s cultural divide.

“In an increasingly polarized world, it has become almost impossible to have authentic conversations across different perspectives from race and gender to politics and ideology,” said Crutcher. His talk explored the forces that have driven this divide; how to lead during times of polarization; and the role of higher education in preparing students to uphold the tenets of democracy.

Jacobs Lecture with New Yorker Cartoonist Roz Chast

Jacobs Lecture with New Yorker Cartoonist Roz Chast

Roz Chast, noted cartoonist for the New Yorker and best-selling author, delivered the 2022 Robert and Pamela Jacobs Lecture with a talk called, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Jewish?” on April 27 in the Campus Center Auditorium.

Hosted by the Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies, Chast spoke about her work, and its connection to Jewish themes and her Jewish background.

Since joining the New Yorker in 1978, Chast has established herself among the greatest artistic chroniclers of the anxieties, superstitions, furies, insecurities, and surreal imaginings of modern life. Her works are typically populated by hapless but relatively cheerful “everyfolk,” and she addresses the universal topics of guilt, aging, families, money, real estate and more. She has been called a “certifiable genius” by David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker.

Chast is the author of more than a dozen books for adults, including Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?, a work that chronicles her relationship with her aging parents as they shift from independence to dependence. The book, released in 2014, was a New York Times Best Book of the Year, National Book Award finalist, winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize and a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for the best books of 2014, the first time a graphic novel received the prize for autobiography.

In addition, Chast is the author of 11 other books for adults and numerous books for children.

The Robert and Pamela Jacobs Lecture Series in Jewish Culture provides public lectures by leading figures in contemporary Jewish thought, education, culture, or politics. Each lecture may explore a specific theme, such as American Jewish history, Jewish art, the Holocaust, or religious thought.


Dean's Distinguished Lecture

Mabel O. Wilson
Mabel O. Wilson

The second installment of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts Dean's Distinguished lecture series welcomed architect, designer, and scholar Mabel O. Wilson, who presented her talk "Studio&: A Black Study."

Wilson is Professor of Architecture, Planning and Preservation; Professor in African American and African Diasporic Studies; Director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies; and Co-Director of the Global Africa Lab at Columbia University. She founded Studio&, a firm exploring different facets of art, architecture, and cultural history.


Department of English presents Troy Lecture

Department of English presents Troy Lecture

The Troy Lecture series is presented in honor of the late Frederick S. (Barney) Troy, emeritus professor of English and former trustee. The list of past speakers is singularly distinguished, and includes Nadine Gordimer, Sherman Alexie, Margaret Atwood, Judith Butler, J.M. Coetzee, Seamus Heaney, Salman Rushdie, Wole Soyinka and Zadie Smith.

This year, public writer, photographer, and activist Anne McClintock presented “Monster: A Fugue in Fire and Ice.” McClintock’s interdisciplinary and transnational work explores the intersections between race, gender, and sexualities; imperialism and globalization, including Indigenous studies; visual culture and mass media; sexual and gender violence; militarization, climate chaos, and animal studies.

Top: Roz Chast, deliveres the 2022 Robert and Pamela Jacobs Lecture in the Campus Center Auditorium.

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