Thursday, May 3, 2018

Lecture Schedule for Later Summer

July 24, Tues (7:30 pm): Satirizing Socrates: Ancient Comedy's Take on Philosophy. We will look at the portrait of Socrates and the critical stereotype of ancient philosophers presented in Aristophanes' comic masterpiece, The Clouds.  First staged in 423 bc in Socrates' own lifetime, the play is regarded as the first extent "comedy of ideas."  It's critique of philosophers is scathing and best of all, the play remains funny today.

July 31, Tues (7:30 pm): The Overflowing Cup: Islamic Mysticism and the Poetry of Rūmī. In a follow up to our April 17 presentation on the mysticism of the Sufis, Shaheen Bagha will continue our exploration of Islamic mysticism with a focus on the works of poet, theologian, scholar and theologian Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī.

August 7, Tues (7:30 pm): Pope Joan: Real and Imagined Scandals of the Medieval Papacy. According to a popular tale, a clever woman once secretly ascended St. Peter's throne and ruled as "Pope Joan."  While this tale is a myth, the Medieval papacy devolved into even more interesting scandals which set the stage for the Gregorian Reform movement.  We will look at the low point of Europe's oldest monarchy and its amazing rebound in the later Middle Ages.

August 14, Tues (7:30 pm): Akhenaten and Egyptian Monotheism. Fourteen hundred years before Christ, the Pharaoh Amenhotep IV rejected the old gods of Egypt and introduced the worship of one God above all: Atun. Although he was able to promulgate a new henotheist (possibly even monotheist) religion during his lifetime, after his death the traditionalists won out, reversed his reforms, and deleted his name from the king lists.  We'll look at this remarkably early innovation and its echoes in later monotheistic religion.

August 21, Tues (7:30 pm): The Wall of Jericho: From Rubble to Epic. We'll look at the violent conquest of Canaan described in the Bible not as a historical account but as Ancient Israel's national epic. Combining different traditions, this story gave meaning to the difficult circumstances Israel faced from the last decades before the exile to Babylon to the resettling of the Holy Land under Persian rule. We'll compare this narrative with contradicting accounts found in the Bible and other historical, archaeological, and mythological sources.

August 28, Tues (7:30 pm): The Crusades Seen from the Muslim Perspective. We will recount the history of Medieval holy wars in the Middle East and Mediterranean using Muslim sources in order to reconstruct an alternate picture of the era.  Can we draw lessons from these past conflicts for the 21st century world?

September 4, Tues (7:30 pm): The Myth of the Mound Builders. The centuries following the renewed 1492 contact between the world's eastern and western hemispheres were devastating for the indigenous peoples of the Americas whose population was continually decimated by imported diseases for which they lacked immunity.  By the early 19th century, so few indigenous people remained that European Americans doubted they could have ever built the massive number of earthworks that covered the North American landscape. Instead they created a myth that the mounds must have been built by a lost civilized race that was ultimately exterminated by the American Indians.  The most successful telling of this myth is found in Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon.  We will look at how the myth of the moundbuilders evolved and its continuing consequences.