Lowell Lecture Series Boasts Promising Lineup
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Among the many perks of attending one of the nation’s most renowned universities is the firsthand opportunity to experience the powerful words of famed scholars. Many who have attended a Lowell Humanities Series lecture would argue that the program epitomizes this collegiate advantage. Now in its 55th year, the Lowell Series stands as a valuable and inspiring tradition here at Boston College. The Lowell Institute, BC’s institute for the liberal arts and primary sponsor of the Lowell Humanities Series, seeks to periodically bring in a range of distinguished speakers in many fields that will have appeal for both the BC community and the general public alike.
All lectures are 100 percent free and open to the public, and often consist of novelists, poets, journalists, and scholars who have contributed significantly to their respective fields. It has been through the Lowell Series itself that Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, Maya Angelou, and countless other world-renowned literary celebrities have come to speak at BC. In the past, the Lowell Humanities Series has brought in audiences of 500 or more, and has produced some of the most powerful lectures ever given at BC.
Already this fall, the Lowell Humanities Series has been a huge hit on campus. In fact, the most recent lecture had to relocate rooms when the attending audience was unable to squeeze into the confines of Devlin 101. On Oct. 3, New York Times bestselling author and journalist Katherine Boo shared her inspiring experiences living amongst individual families in the slums of Mumbai. Boo’s unique approach to journalism made for a fascinating lecture, offering an intimate view on the concept of reporting in third-world countries. Boo’s bestseller, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, includes this personal, narrative journalism about which Boo spoke. The book intimately follows several individual families in the slums, capturing not only their customs and lives, but also their unique personalities and personal stories.
Following Boo’s captivating lecture, on October 17, the Lowell Humanities Series featured a lecture by Paul Muldoon, poetry editor of The New Yorker, former Princeton University professor, and winner of both the Pulitzer and T.S. Eliot prizes. A distinguished poet, Muldoon shared a collection of both lighthearted and profound poems while speaking to his audience regarding the inspiration behind his work. Muldoon emphasized the idea that poetry ought to be approached as “more than just a collection of memories,” and proceeded to give a compelling argument for the importance of passion in the literary world.
The remaining lineup for this fall’s series promises to be equally captivating, featuring several more famed novelists, historians, and journalists. The names and bios for the upcoming speakers can be found on the BC website at www.bc.edu/lowellhs.
Carlo Rotella, director of American Studies and a professor in the English department, is now in his third year directing the Lowell Humanities Series. In regard to this year’s specific lineup of Lowell speakers, Rotella said, “Each year’s mix is a little different. This year, for instance, we happen to be particularly strong in journalists in the fall, with both Katherine Boo and Jane Mayer coming, and particularly strong in fiction writers in the spring, with Karen Russell, Teju Cole, and Michael Chabon.” Rotella further informed us that another objective that the Lowell Humanities Series considers in selecting speakers is to “make sure that the visiting speakers’ work is on syllabi,” meaning that, in almost all cases, students here at BC have read the published work of the visiting speaker for their classes. This aspect of the Lowell Humanities Series is particularly valuable, as there is no denying the fact that any book takes on infinitely more value when a reader has personally experienced its author. As founder of the series, Francis Sweeney once said, “There is nothing like an author reading from his or her own works.”
It is not without reason that the Lowell Humanities Series has remained a strong presence on campus for 55 years now. Regardless of the specific subject or literary field, the lectures that make up the series have and will continue to bring visionary literary insight to the world of humanities here at BC. In Rotella’s words, the Lowell Humanities Series here at BC is none other than a “centerpiece of the life and mind on campus.”