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Making history

Modernity Lecture Series celebrates intellectual milestones


07/15/2009

English Professor David Langston's interest in 19th century intellectual history led to this year's commemoration of the 150th anniversary of landmark events in the modernization of global society.  MCLA's Modernity Lecture Series focuses on the intellectual trends and shifts that happened in 1859.

 "In many ways, you can't be an English professor if you're not an intellectual historian," Langston explained. "And the middle of the 19th century was a time in which modern society was defined in many different dimensions."

Groundbreaking events from 1859 include the publication of Darwin's Origin of the Species, the drilling of the first commercial oil well, John Brown's raid at Harper's Ferry, the publication of Karl Marx's opening volume in his study of capitalism, the start of digging on the Suez Canal, and George Rawlinson's use of archaeological research to explain biblical events.

Attended by students, faculty and members of the campus and greater community, the free lectures began in January with a talk on oil and its future use as a source of fuel.

"The lectures bring to attention various issues and raise questions about our modern society, which has been plugging around for about 150 years or more now, since the development of the steam engine," Langston said.  "The application of technology to modern society has completely transformed the type of society we live in and the type of relationships that we have. How are we going to keep that going? How sustainable is modernity?"

Upcoming lectures will include a presentation on October 1 with Richard D. Wolff, professor of economics emeritus at UMASS-Amherst. Wolff, the author of Capitalization Hits the Fan, will come to MCLA to deliver a "Marxian analysis of the economic crisis."

October 29, 30 and 31 will mark a conference on national service. The conference will look at questions of national service and education, and include an examination of service learning, and will include a presentation by MCLA President Mary K. Grant. She will speak on service learning and its importance as part of a liberal arts education.

Also, on November 19, Professor Joel Baden (pictured above) of the Yale Divinity School, a specialist in the Pentateuch and Biblical Hebrew, will lecture on the authorship of the Bible.

For more information about this year's Modernity Series, go to www.mcla.edu/About_MCLA/notablespeakers/modernity .