2014-15 Theme: "A Century of War: 1914 and Beyond"

These events will explore the social, political, and cultural transformations brought about by the First World War and the ways in which these have been debated, represented, and recorded in different humanist disciplines and fields of study. Our goal is to mark the centenary of the Great War, but also to discuss how the phenomenon of war continues to shape a culture of violence. We also wish to examine its consequences for global relations and the military-capitalist nexus that undergirds states and nations and for those domestic policies and attitudes towards weapons, which affect our understanding of the concept of 'freedom.'

August 28 – December 7

War and Peace Project

Artists: Lucy Arrington, Laura “Lola” Baltzell ’83, Christiane Carney Johnson ’83, Otto Mayr ’82, Lucy Zahner Montgomery ’83, Emma Rhodes, Elizabeth Jorganson Sherman ’83, Lynn Waskelis ’83, And Adrienne Wetmore

The War and Peace Project is a collaborative fusion of art and literature, created on all 747 pages of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Laura “Lola” Baltzell ’83 began the project in 2008 by making a collage from each page of a 1970s Soviet edition of the novel she’d picked up when she was a Russian studies student in Leningrad. She gradually expanded the project to include a small group of friends, dubbed “Team Tolstoy” (at least six Grinnell alumni are part of Team Tolstoy). The presentation of the War and Peace Project at Grinnell is a homecoming for many of the alumni artists, and the exhibition is a part of “A Century of War,” the topic of focus this year for the Humanities Center.

September 16

Chris Hedges: “War is the Force that Gives us Meaning”

Chris Hedges, American Journalist specializing in American politics and society

Tuesday, September 16, 7:30 pm, JRC 101

“War is the Force that Gives us Meaning”

Pulitizer-prize winning journalist and author Chris Hedges, who spent two decades as a war correspondent, most of them with The New York Times, will address the pathology of modern warfare.  He will examine the rise of industrial and total war in World War I and how it has shaped the modern battlefield, distorting civil society, turning civilians into the primary victims and transforming nations into perpetual war machines.  Industrial warfare has also brought with it the psychosis of permanent war, used to shut down all radical and popular dissent, silence anti-war movements and disempower a citizenry in the name of national security.  Hedges will draw on historical examples of modern warfare, as well as his experience covering conflicts in Central America, Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Humanities and the Rosenfield Program.

September 21–23

A Muslim Saint in Iowa: Interreligious Dialogue and the Legacy of the Emir Abd el-Kader

Contact: Jan Gross

A Muslim Saint in Iowa: Interreligious Dialogue and the Legacy of the Emir Abd el-Kader commemorates the United Nations International Day of Peace on September 21, 2014 as reflected in the life of the Emir Abd el-Kader (1808-1883).  An exemplary Muslim, a celebrated military hero of Algeria in opposing French colonization, and an international peacemaker (savior of 12,000 Christians in Damascus), the Emir Abd el-Kader was hailed as "one of the few great men of the century" (NY Times). 

Three events will highlight the influential role of religion and Islam as a font of humanist thought, dialogue, and humanitarian action, as well as the Emir's ongoing legacy in the Iowa town of Elkader.

  • Sunday, September 21 at 2:00 p.m., Strand theatre

    The feature film Of Gods and Men (2010 Grand Prize at Cannes, French/Arabic, English subtitles) will be shown at the Strand theatre, with an introduction by John Kiser, author of The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria (book used as source for the film), followed by a Q&A. 

  • Monday, September 22 at 7:30 p.m., JRC 101

    John Kiser, author of the definitive biography Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader, and Jan Gross (French/Arabic) will discuss the past and present significance of the Emir Abdelkader in "From Abdelkader to Elkader: Stories of Connection to Iowa, Islam, and Algeria." 

  • Tuesday, September 23 at 10:00 a.m., Drake Library

    Designed to involve town and campus participation, "Creating Educational Outreach: the Abdelkader Education Project, Elkader, Iowa" will offer an off-campus presentation by John Kiser and Kathy Garms (Executive Director of the Abdelkader Education Project - AEP) 

  • Tuesday, September 23 at 4:15 p.m., JRC 101

    A panel featuring Harold Kasimow, Gisela Webb, Rashed Chowdhury '03, Katie Chowdhury '05, and John Kiser will discuss examples of enduring voices of "Interreligious Dialogue in Action: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives.

  • (TBA) Alumni Scholars Rashed Chowdhury ('03) and Katie Chowdhury ('05) will share their work on campus. 


  • John Kiser, author of Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader and The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria, International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, Center for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia (adjunct fellow), and the Abdelkader Education Project

  • Harold Kasimow, George A. Drake Professor emeritus of religious studies, Grinnell College;

  • Gisela Webb,  Professor of religious studies, Seton Hall University, Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations (faculty fellow)

  • Jan Gross, Seth Richards Professor in Modern Languages, department of French and Arabic, Grinnell College;

  • Rashed Chowdhury '03,  Sessional instructor, department of history, University of Manitoba;

  • Katie Kiskaddon Chowdhury '05, writer, interfaith ministry.

  • Kathy Garms (Executive Director, Abdelkader Education Project - AEP), Elkader, Iowa  

Program begins with a showing of the film Of Gods and Men in the presence of John Kiser, author of The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria, primary source of the film.

Outreach events scheduled in town include exchanges with Kathy Garms (Executive Director of the Abdelkader Education Project - AEP) and AEP co-founder John Kiser.

Co-sponsored by the French & Arabic Department, Center for the Humanities, Center for International Studies, Rosenfield Program, Center for Prairie Studies, Center for Religion, Spirituality, and Social Justice, Alumni Scholar, Religious Studies Department, Peace Studies Program, and the Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement.

October 6

Richard Fogarty: “Visions of Race and Empire in France during the Great War”

Richard Fogarty, Associate Professor of History, University at Albany, SUNY

Monday, October 6, 7:30 pm, JRC 101

“Visions of Race and Empire in France during the Great War”

Professor Fogarty will speak about visual culture and French history related to the First World War. Please refer to his personal website for further information.

November 20

Conversation in the Humanities

11:30 A.M. – 1:30 P.M.

Thursday, November 20, Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101

Translation as Liberal Arts Pedagogy

Presentations by:

Aron Aji, Director of MFA in Literary Translation at University of Iowa - “Translation for Global Literacy: Integrating Translation Across the Curriculum”

Tim Arner, Associate Professor of English - “Translating Backwards”

Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies - “Translation as Inevitable Failure: Encounter, Adventure and Inadequacy in Moving Between Voices, Words and Worlds”

Hai-Dang Phan, Assistant Professor of English - “The Difference Translation Makes”

December 2

Priya Satia

Priya Satia, Associate Professor of Modern British History, Stanford University

7:30 PM

Tuesday, December 2, ARH 302

“The Great War in the Middle East”

The Middle East was a critical arena in the global conflict known as World War One. British tactics on that front were also uniquely innovative. In this talk, Prof. Satia will examine the origins of those creative tactics and their enormous cultural and political impact in Europe, South Asia, and the Middle East itself.

Priya Satia is Associate Professor of modern British history at Stanford University. Her first book Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain's Covert Empire in the Middle East (OUP, 2008) won the 2009 AHA-Herbert Baxter Adams Book Prize, the 2009 AHA-Pacific Coast Branch Book Award, and the 2010 Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies Book Prize. Her work has also appeared in the American Historical Review, Past and Present, Technology and Culture, Humanity, as well as several edited volumes and popular media such as the Financial Times, Nation, and the TLS. With support from the NEH and the ACLS, she is currently finishing her second book, Empire of Guns: The British State, the Industrial Revolution, and the Conscience of a Quaker Gun-Manufacturer.

December 12

Grinnell Lecture: A Celebration Of Faculty Scholarship

(By invitation only)

The Dean’s Office and the Center for the Humanities are delighted to announce the first annual Grinnell Lecture, which recognizes outstanding scholarship by a faculty member. This year’s recipient, Tyler Roberts will present “Critical Thinking After Critique in Religious Studies and the Humanities.

January 28

Concert: Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin: A Memorial to Friends Killed in the Great War

Eugene Gaub, Associate Professor of Music

Wednesday, January 28, 4:15 p.m.

Faulconer Gallery

20th-century composer Maurice Ravel drove an ambulance for France during the Great War and saw action at Verdun. Inevitably, the horrors and carnage he witnessed found expression in his music, notably in the suite of six pieces for piano called Le Tombeau de Couperin (composed between 1914 and 1917). This work began in homage to French music of the past (composer François Couperin, 1668-1733), but became a dual tribute as Ravel dedicated each movement to friends killed in action. Eugene Gaub, associate professor of music, will perform the suite, introduce the men whose memory it honors, and say a few words about the contexts—musical and political—from which it emerged. Co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities, Faulconer Gallery, and the Music Department.


February 9-12

Humanities Center Film Festival

All films will be shown at the Strand Theatre, 921 Main Street at 7:00 p.m.

These showings are free and open to the public. Complimentary refreshments will be provided.

Monday, February 9 – Afghanistan: The Surge

Robert HodierneQ&A following the film with Robert Hodierne '68, Director/Producer

“Afghanistan: The Surge” tells the story of one Marine platoon sent to Afghanistan in the summer of 2010 as part of President Obama’s surge. The platoon, filled with skilled and highly trained Marines with the best of intentions, was sent to a remote outpost to eliminate the Taliban. It didn’t always work out that way. The film reveals why the war in Afghanistan was so frustrating and ultimately unsuccessful.  The documentary was screened at the Washington West Film Festival and took top honors for large market television from Military Reporters and Editors.  116 minutes.

Robert Hodierne began his 40-year journalism career as a freelance photographer covering the Vietnam War in 1966. Since then Hodierne has worked as a reporter and editor for newspapers, wire services, magazines, television, radio and the Internet. In 1981 he was part of a team that won most American journalism awards including the Pulitzer Prize. He is currently chairman of the journalism department at the University of Richmond, where his teaching emphasis on documentary film. He is a 1968 graduate of Grinnell College.

Tuesday, February 10 – The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

In 1920, one brilliant movie jolted the postwar masses and catapulted the movement known as German Expressionism into film history. That movie was The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a plunge into the mind of insanity that severs all ties with the rational world. Director Robert Wiene and a visionary team of designers crafted a nightmare realm in which light, shadow and substance are abstracted, a world in which a demented doctor and a carnival sleepwalker perpetrate a series of ghastly murders in a small community.  75 minutes.

Wednesday, February 11 – Nosferatu

A cornerstone of the horror film, F.W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU: A SYMPHONY OF HORROR is resurrected in an HD edition mastered from the acclaimed 35mm restoration by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung. Backed by an orchestral performance of Hans Erdmann’s 1922 score, this edition offers unprecedented visual clarity and historical faithfulness to the original release version. An unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, NOSFERATU remains to many viewers the most unsettling vampire film ever made, and its bald, spidery vampire, personified by the diabolical Max Schreck, continues to spawn imitations in the realm of contemporary cinema. 95 minutes.

Thursday, February 12 – All Quiet on the Western Front

One of the most powerful anti-war statements ever put on film, this gut-wrenching story concerns a group of friends who join the Army during World War I and are assigned to the Western Front, where their fiery patriotism is quickly turned to horror and misery by the harsh realities of combat. Director Lewis Milestone pioneered the use of the sweeping crane shot to capture a ghastly battlefield panorama of death and mud, and the cast, led by Lew Ayres, is terrific. 140 minutes.

February 18

Anton Kaes: “The Trauma of War in Weimar Cinema”

Anton Kaes, Professor of German and Film & Media

University of California, Berkeley Anton Kaes

“The Trauma of War in Weimar Cinema”

Wednesday, February 18

7:30 p.m., Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101

This lecture addresses the invisible, long-term effects of the First World War on German society. Although the lecture will focus on the iconic silent film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), it will make the larger claim that many films today are haunted by the memory of war.

Professor Kaes is the author of several books in English and German that deal with multidisciplinary and comparative aspects of film theory and German film history. His publications include From ‘Hitler’ to ‘Heimat’: The Return of History as Film (Harvard University Press, 1989); M (British Film Institute, 2001), and  Shell Shock Cinema: Weimar Culture and the Wounds of War (Princeton University Press, 2009), and the forthcoming co-edited sourcebook, The Promise of Cinema: German Film Theory, 1907-1933 (University of California Press). Teaching at Berkeley since 1981, he served as Director of Film Studies at UC Berkeley from 1991-1996 and Co-director (with Kaja Silverman) 1996-1999; from 2001 to 2006 he was Chair of the German Department. In 1985 he co-founded the bi-annual German Film Institute; he has given lectures and workshops in Amsterdam, Berlin, Canberra, Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing, Vienna, and Tel Aviv. Since 1990 he is the co-editor of the book series “Weimar and Now: German Cultural History.” 


March 5

Vincent Sherry: “Bare Death: The Failing Sacrifice of the Great War”

Vincent SherryVincent Sherry, Professor in the Humanities and English

Washington University, St. Louis

“Bare Death: The Failing Sacrifice of the Great War”

Thursday, March 5

7:30 p.m., Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101

In his talk Prof. Sherry will consider the fate of “sacrifice” as a category of value in the political, military, and personal experience of the Great War of 1914-1918. He will engage, in particular, Giorgio Agamben’s much discussed work Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, which provides the basis for his title.

Vincent Sherry is Howard Nemerov Professor in the Humanities and Professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis. He teaches and writes about modernist literatures in English. His books include The Uncommon Tongue: The Poetry and Criticism of Geoffrey Hill (1987), The Radical Modernism of Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis (1993), James Joyce: ULYSSES (1995, 2nd ed. 2004), The Great War and the Language of Modernism (2003), and Modernism and the Reinvention of Decadence (2015). He has edited the Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the First World War and is editor of the forthcoming Cambridge History of Modernism. He is currently working on A Literary History of the European War of 1914-1918.

April 7

Grinnell College Student Research Symposium, 2014-2015

The Dean's Office and the Center for the Humanities are pleased to announce the Student Research Symposium, April 6–9, 2015. Selected students across all divisions will present a selection of their disciplinary or inter-disciplinary research papers, creative performances, and art projects.

Joe PalcaJoe Palca, National Public Radio Science Correspondent, will present the keynote address, “A Good Idea is a Good Idea: Advanced Degree Not Required” on Tuesday, April 7.

Full event schedule:

Monday, April 6

12:00 p.m.    BCA 152 –  “Art in the Public Sphere”

Meredith Kalkbrenner, Eden Marek, Sara Ramey, Anthony Wenndt

JRC 101 –  “Policy and Progress”

Lilianna Bagnoli, James Dowell, Margaret Schmitt

7:30 p.m.        Roberts Theatre – PERFORMANCE, “The Liberal Arts in Performance”

Cristal Coleman, Erica Kwiatkowski, Sophiyaa Nayar

Tuesday, April 7

12:00 p.m.    JRC 101 – “Quantitative Approaches to Self and Society”

Elizabeth Eason, Gwendolyn Ihrie, Isaiah Tyree

ARH 102 – “Self, Subject, and Community”

Briona Butler, Amulya Gyawali, Strahinja Matejic

7:30 p.m.    Sebring Lewis - KEYNOTE SPEAKER – Joe Palca, “A Good Idea is a Good Idea: Advanced Degree Not Required”

Wednesday, April 8

4:15 p.m.        JRC 101 – “Visualizing Bodies in Film and Art”

Xena Fitzgerald, Eliza Harrison, Michelle Risacher

4:15 p.m.       ARH 102 – “Theory and Social Praxis”

Chris Hellmann, Violeta Ruiz Espigares, Kenneth Wee

Thursday, April 9

12:00 p.m.    JRC 101 –  “Sexual Politics at Home and Abroad”

Hannah Kelley, Krit Petrachaianan, Scott Olson

April 8

Zoe Sherinian, Associate Professor and Chair of Ethnomusicology, University of Oklahoma

Film poster: This is A Music: Reclaiming an Untouchable DrumFilm Showing:

Wednesday, April 8

7:30 p.m., ARH 302

This is A Music: Reclaiming an Untouchable Drum

This documentary is about the psychological and economic processes of transformation for a group of outcaste/untouchable drummers from rural India. As they professionalize, reconstructing their performance as "music" and their identity as "worldly," they participate in the Chennai Sangamam folk festival where their reception by urban audiences further transforms their self-understanding. Directed and narrated by Zoe Sherinian. 2011. 74 minutes.


Thursday, April 9

4:15 p.m., ARH 302

Meaning and performance of the Dalit Drum: a lecture demonstration

The Dalit (formerly outcastes or untouchables)  of South India use a frame drum called the parai (root word of the English term Pariah) as an instrument to announce auspicious and inauspicious occasions in Hindu and Christian rituals. This lecture will include discussion of the musical meaning derived from various genre based semiotic codes, polemic assertions by drummers under the Indian hierarchy of musical value  that this folk practice "is music," and how ethnomusicologists conduct fieldwork to understand local musical systems that are orally based.

Dr. Zoe Sherinian is an Associate Professor and Chair of Ethnomusicology at the University of Oklahoma. Her research focus has been Christian indigenization and the production of liberation theology in India through Tamil folk music with secondary emphases in gender studies, and world percussion. Her publications include a recent book, Tamil Folk Music as Dalit Liberation Theology (Indiana Univ Press, 2013), articles in the Journals Ethnomusicology (Summer 2007), Worlds of Music (2005), Women and Music (2005), and the on-line journal Religion Compass (2009). She also has articles in the anthologies Popular Christianity in India: Riting Between the Lines, edited by Selva J. Raj and Corinne Dempsey and Performing Pasts: Reinventing the Arts in South India, edited by Indira Viswanathan Peterson and Davesh Soneji.

Her latest project draws on her background as a percussionist. In 2008-9 Sherinian spent nine months in India as a Fulbright Senior Research Fellow conducting ethnography on the changing status of the parai drum of the Dalits (untouchables) of Tamil Nadu, India. Living in a village for four months, she learned how to perform the parai (and to dance with it) and she shot over fifty hours of professional videotape to produce an ethnographic documentary on parai drummers, which is presently in post-production. She has extensively studied the mrdangam, the classical drum of South Indian Karnatak music and performs on the jazz drumset. She has also performed with the Balinese Gamelan, Sekar Jaya, and several university based steel drum and African drumming ensembles. In 2009, Sherinian began the first parai (Indian folk) drumming ensemble in the U.S. at the University of Oklahoma.

These events are co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities, Center for International Studies, English Department, Music Department, and the Religious Studies Department.

April 21

Joanna Bourke: “Designed to Kill: The Science and Art of Killing, 1914-1945”

Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London

Tuesday, April 21

7:30 p.m., JRC 101

Joanna Bourke is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is the prize-winning author of eleven books, including histories on modern warfare, military medicine, psychology and psychiatry, the emotions, and rape. Among others, she is the author of Dismembering the Male: Men’s Bodies, Britain, and the Great War (1996), An Intimate History of Killing (1999), Fear: A Cultural History (2005) and Rape: A History from the 1860s to the Present (2007). Her book, What it Means to be Human: Reflections from 1791 to the Present was published by Virago in 2011.  In 2014, she was the author of The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers (OUP) and Wounding the World: How Military Violence and War-Play are Invading our Lives (Virago). Her books have been translated into Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Portuguese, Czech, Turkish, and Greek.  An Intimate History of Killing won the Wolfson Prize and the Fraenkel Prize. Her 40-CD audio history of Britain, entitled “Eyewitness” won the Gold for the Best Audio Production for Volume 1910-1919, Gold for the Best Audio Production for Volume 1940-1949, and the Gold for the Most Original Audio for all 10 volumes. She is a frequent contributor to TV and radio shows, and a regular correspondent for newspapers.

April 29

“Technology and the Arts”

Conversations in the Humanities

Wednesday, April 29

4:15 p.m., BCA 152

Presentations by:

Abby Aresty, Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow and Lecturer in Music

Mark Laver, Assistant Professor of Music

Justin Thomas, Associate Professor of Theatre and Dance

Open to all faculty. RSVP not required. Note change in event time.