The University Of Scranton Humanities Forum


The University of Scranton Humanities Forum is a series of speakers who come to campus each year to enrich our campus, classes, and intellectual life through engaging conversations and talks. In the first two years, we will have brought 16 different speakers to campus from a range of academic disciplines.
Any faculty member at The University of Scranton may apply to have a speaker come to campus and this is vetted by the Faculty Executive Committee of the Gail and Francis Slattery Center for Humanities at The University of Scranton. 
The Faculty Executive Committee began in 2017 as the Humanities Initiative by asking a simple question: What would the University of Scranton campus feel like if we added 20 more humanities majors each year?
The concern, that each year fewer students majored in the humanities, is not just a provincial one. All over the U.S. the number of students seeking degrees in the humanities has   declined precipitously  since 2008. Students and their families, nervous about the tenuous economy,   rising cost of higher education, and   mounting student debt, turned to “practical” degrees that promised stable employment. Even President Obama (himself a political science and English literature double major),   chastised art history majors  for anticipating a job in their field upon graduation. With so much pressure to graduate college and get a job, students turned away from “useless” degrees and classes that did not have a clearly demarcated career path.
At the University of Scranton, our Jesuit intellectual tradition encourages students and faculty to consider the human. In 1973, Pedro Arrupe, S.J., gave a famous address in which he urged Jesuit high schools and universities to educate students to become   “men and women for others.”   This clarion call, we believe, falls squarely in line with the purpose of studying the humanities.
As our world grows more interconnected, as individuals are exposed to new cultures and ideas, it’s vital that we remember our human connections that celebrate our common values.

Current Events

Bison Hide, Elephant Tusk, and Sperm Whale Oil: The Industrial Revolution and the 'Late Holocene Depletions' ca. 1800-1920

Part of the larger theme of Global Environmental History of the Industrial Revolution, this lecture concerns the ecological implications of ramping up the supply of fibers, minerals, lubricants, dyestuffs, and several other ingredients of industrialization, mainly in the 19th century.  British and American industrialization required cotton, wool, lead, copper, whale oil, palm oil, bison hide, elephant ivory, gutta percha among other items, most of which came from afar.  Cheap coal-fired transport made it feasible to harvest, hunt, gather, collect these ingredients, and ship them to industrial centers. This focuses on the impacts on three megafauna species of industrial demand for leather belting, ivory keyboards, and sperm whale oil for machine lubrication and illumination.  Bison, elephants, and sperm whales as keystone species had for millennia helped to regulate ecology on large grasslands or in the deep oceans, but in the 19th century their populations fell sharply, reducing their effectiveness. 

J.R. McNeil, Ph.D., American environmental historian, author, and professor at Georgetown University

October 12 • LSC 133 • 5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.

Author Patricia Leavy - Lecture and Book Signing 

Hollyland follows the love story between Dee Schwartz, a writer and arts researcher, and Ryder Field, a famous actor descended from Hollywood royalty. Bonded by the loss of their mothers and their passion for the arts, the two embark on a love story that explores their search for magic—or “gold dust”—in their lives. Patricia Leavy wove her 20 years of experience as an arts researcher into the novel. Hollyland is a celebration of the arts, with a strong arts narrative explicitly interwoven throughout, and it raises vital questions about the arts in our lives: art in education, distinctions between art and entertainment, whether artists must compromise to be successful, the nature of controversial art, the pleasure and connection to be found making or experiencing art, and who the real movie stars are in our lives. 

Patricia Leavy, Ph.D., best-selling, award-winning novelist, arts advocate, and internationally recognized leader in research design and arts-based research

October 19 • Brennan Hall, Rose Room, 509 • 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Explaining the Cosmos:  Can the Philosopher Help? 

Why is there anything at all, and why a cosmos even remotely like ours?  Grand questions like these never cease to generate wonder — and, sometimes, confusion.  Answers to them offered by popular science and popular religion generally prove to be a mixed bag.  Recently, scientists and popularizers of science have drawn our attention to wondrous discoveries about the shape of the cosmos, and suggestive new theories about the universe’s origins; while religious apologists have revived some ancient but still appealing arguments for the existence of God.  But these attempts to address the big questions of “life, the universe, and everything” often gloss over subtleties that turn out to be important.  Sometimes they dress up a philosophical confusion in flashy rhetoric.  Philosophers can help uncover these subtleties and confusions, even if we can do no better in providing universally satisfying answers to these questions. 

Dean Zimmerman, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers University

November 2 • Brennan Hall, Pearn Auditorium • 4 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

The Habit of Poetry: The Literary Lives of Nuns in Mid-century America

The Habit of Poetry: The Literary Lives of Nuns in Mid-century America, is a work of literary recovery, revisiting the lives of nuns whose poetry was published and acclaimed in secular venues in the twentieth century, though they’re far less well-known than the work of priests. As Ripatrazone says, “[t]he literary creations of poetic priests like Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., and Robert Southwell, S.J. have been both a blessing and a burden—creating the sense that male clergy alone have written substantial work.” The Habit of Poetry traces a “mid-20th century renaissance by nun poets,” which, as Ripatrazone argues, is “more than a literary footnote; it is a case study in how women negotiate tradition and individual creativity.”  

Nick Ripatrazone, culture editor for Image Journal, a contributing editor at The Millions, and a columnist for Literary Hub

November 10 • Brennan Hall, Rose Room 509 • 12 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Past Events
View our previous Humanities Forum events and blog posts here: