Talking Books

The Talking Books series features events hosted by JHI faculty fellows based around a literary anniversary or best-selling author, with a focus on public appeal.

The Worlds of Sappho

image of Sappho

The archaic Greek poet Sappho (ca. 600 BCE) continues to engage and inspire. Famous in antiquity for the high quality of her works - some even called Sappho ‘the 10th Muse’ - her poetry has prompted admiration, vitriolic comic ridicule and, most of all, a long and varied history of imitation and creative adaptation. A model of the educated, confident, articulate and sensual ‘strong woman,’ Sappho has been variously co-opted as a role model for diverse types of political and sexual equity. A fragmentary poet preserved only in quotations by ancient authors and partially resurrected from papyrus scraps among the garbage dumps of ancient Egypt, Sappho remains a somewhat elusive figure whose broken voice forcefully appeals to our imagination to generate some sense of completion.

Taking place in the splendid, brand-new Collaborative Research Space on the UTM campus, this outreach event combines a talk (by the Sappho expert Prof. Ellen Greene) with an open panel discussion and student-led group activities: experience Sappho poems performed in various contexts or playfully immerse yourself in Sappho’s peculiar local dialect of ancient Greek. Last but not least, compose and submit your own Sappho-inspired poem online prior to the event - poetic fame (and a material prize) may be in store for you!

Monday, December 2, 2019 | 3pm to 5pm
UTM Collaborative Research Room (MN 3230)
1535 Outer Circle
Mississauga, ON

What the Migrant Knows: A Long View of Climate Change

Amitav Ghosh
Photo Credit: Ivo von Bent

In October 2019, our Distinguished Visiting Fellow Amitav Ghosh gave a public lecture titled What the Migrant Knows: A Long View of Climate Change. Ghosh also gave a public reading of his recently released book Gun Island, a public discussion titled Crafting Climate Stories and attended a reading circle with our fellows.

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta and grew up in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. His two books of non-fiction, a collection of essays and eight novels. His most recent book is The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016). Gun Island, forthcoming in the fall of 2019, is his ninth novel (read an excerpt here).  

His books have won many prizes and he holds four honorary doctorates. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages and he has served on the Jury of the Locarno and Venice film festivals. He is married to the writer Deborah Baker and divides his time between Brooklyn, Goa and Kolkata.

In 2018 the Jnanpith Award, India’s highest literary honor, was conferred on Amitav Ghosh. He was the first English-language writer to receive the award. In 2019 Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the most important global thinkers of the preceding decade.

Reading Frankenstein: Then, Now, Next

A Celebration of the 200th Anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818-2018)

Frankenstein Symposium Ad“In Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein’s creature embraces evil after his creator rejects him and denies him human status because of his repulsive appearance. This brings into focus how recent scientific and technological developments—artificial life, artificial intelligence, androids—increasingly challenge our concept of humanity. Will our technological progeny turn into monsters? Will we repeat the mistakes of Victor Frankenstein? Will artificial brains and deep learning software piece together what it means to be human, or shall humanists collaborate with scientists to instill, rather than design, “humanness” in our creatures? Can we imagine a future when humans read to machines, instead of letting them read us?” Excerpt from Reading Frankenstein: Then, Now, Next

Literary scholars, historians, ethicists, computer scientists, science fiction writers, futurologists and students participated in a three part symposium to discuss the ethical dimensions of technology. The symposium also included two film screenings – the 2014 science fiction hit Ex Machina and the 1974 classic horror spoof Young Frankenstein. After the symposium, there were a number of off-campus events, including a multimedia exhibit of Frankenstein editions at the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy (Lillian H. Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library), and a full public reading of Frankenstein, hosted at the Toronto Reference Library.