Special Lecture Previews

Institution archives assistant to present on local women in suffrage movement

Emalee Krulish

Emálee Krulish has always been interested in studying the little guy — or the little gal. 

As the archives assistant at the Chautauqua Institution Oliver Archives Center, Krulish has worked to shed a light on how regular folks helped shape history, not just the leaders, celebrities, and elected officials that fill history textbooks. 

Since the centennial of women’s suffrage in New York in 2017, this meant studying how the women of Chautauqua County maintained the suffrage movement after major figures like Carrie Chapman Catt and Susan B. Anthony planted this philosophical seed during their visits. 

Krulish poured this research into the Chautauqua Magazine article “Chautauqua: ‘The Loving Friend’ to the Women’s Rights Movement.” And at 3:30 p.m. EDT Friday, July 31, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, Krulish will present on this research further in a Heritage Lecture Series presentation titled “Women Who Do Things.”

One of the goals in this research was to “name drop” as many local women as possible, and to give credit where it was due. Krulish noted that it wasn’t entirely the Institution leadership, or the nationally recognized suffragists, that kept the movement afloat in the region. 

“I’m hoping what everyone takes away from this is that … the women’s political equality movement was bigger than its leaders. It was the little people who made it happen,” Krulish said. 

In her article, Krulish addresses the many female-driven organizations founded in the era, like the Suffrage Club, Suffrage Association, Equal Rights Association, and the Chautauqua Women’s Club — which still operates in 2020. This passion from locals inspired the Institution’s first Women’s Day in 1891, which welcomed nationally recognized suffragists and discussions about women’s rights. Institution officials saw success and dubbed this celebration the “best and biggest day” in its 17-year history.

Krulish will also do some “myth-busting” in her lecture in regards to many widely held misconceptions about women and the Institution. In particular, Krulish wants to dispel the myth that temperance advocate Frances Willard was the first woman to speak at the Institution, and that no women were permitted on the platform beforehand. 

“The big thing is myth-busting. That’s how I open up (the presentation)  — there’s all sorts of myths about Chautauqua,” Krulish said. “I’ve heard and I’ve read in publications that Chautauqua did not allow women on the platform, and especially did not allow women’s politics on the platform — which is not true. The takeaway is that women were always on the platform.”

The misconception that women were barred from the platform before Willard may have come from the knowledge that Institution co-founder John Heyl Vincent opposed women’s suffrage; however, that is just Krulish’s theory. In her research, Krulish found several women who spoke in the years leading up to Willard’s presentation. 

While it is hard to track down the origin of this story, Krulish said she understands why it was easily spread. 

“That’s the reason myths are proliferated over the years, because people (think) there is no reason not to believe it. It seems practical, it seems like it could’ve happened,” Krulish said. “Especially (the story of) Frances Willard — that sounds great that she was the first woman. But if you look at (just) that weekend, she shared the platform with a number of other women.”

Another major misconception is that suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton visited the Institution to speak on suffrage. While it is likely that Stanton visited the county, Krulish found no documentation that she had ever held the stage. Krulish credits misinformation like this to the discrepancies between planning and execution.

Krulish pointed to one tidbit she came across in her research, while reviewing Vincent’s journals. Every entry included his personal account and a newspaper clipping from the day. One clipping was the announcement of a reception welcoming several nationally recognized suffragettes, but Vincent had crossed out the name of one. 

With no context in existing articles or the diary, Krulish had to ask herself — did this suffragist attend? What happened between the announcement and the banquet that did not get reported on or recorded elsewhere?

“It’s important for us as readers and learners to think for ourselves and not just accept what’s handed to us,” Krulish said. “So, (we should) always have a questioning mind and look into the most enticing bits of information. We (should) question it for ourselves (and) look into it further — no matter who it is.”

Krulish said she hopes to inspire the audience to dig deeper when studying a topic, and to take into account all sources — from first-hand accounts to newspaper reports. 

“I find historical inaccuracy to be frustrating. I find myself watching documentaries and I’m like, ‘That’s wrong,’” Krulish said. “It’s very frustrating to be somebody who cares, … because now this information is being widespread to people and they digest it, and that’s how history gets written.”

This series is made possible with a gift from Jeff Lutz and Cathy Nowosielski.

Fantasy melds with nonfiction in Joseph Earl Thomas’ Janus Prize-winning ‘Reality Marble’

Joseph Earl Thomas

For 10 years, Joseph Earl Thomas has been working on his memoir.


Though yet unpublished, Reality Marble begins with a scene from Thomas’ early childhood — in it, he’s scribbling drawings of sea monsters, shipwrecks and deserted islands onto a black notebook that he hides under an Easy Bake Oven.

In Reality Marble, the young Thomas is named “Joey,” and eventually his sketches of maritime mishaps morph into stories, which are themselves refracted through a lens of beautiful, lyrical prose.

Thomas writes: “A survivor might stand there in a yellow raincoat, weeping under acidic droplets falling from a dark sky, shaded by Joey’s god-like thumbs and the side of a sharp pencil. Starving, the survivor would watch sea creatures gorge themselves on the ocean’s bounty. A sea monster would drag an orca from the water, sometimes a baby, and slam its body, brain first on the rocky shore over and over again.”

“The book has a lot to do with the relationship between fantasy and nonfiction, or some people would say, fantasy and subjectivity,” said Thomas, an author, Fulbright Fellow, Ph.D. student and the 2020 winner of the Chautauqua Janus Prize. “I had to write through that problem or conundrum. And wrapped in that is the narrative that has a lot of these other things that we deal with — violence, sex and race.”

Thomas said he’s very interested in “how we might think about, and then work through thinking about, those ideas as a kind of relationship between fantasy and nonfiction.”

At 3:30 p.m. Friday, July 31, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, Thomas and Reality Marble will be featured with a virtual celebration and presentation, in recognition of being awarded the third-ever Janus Prize — an award that honors an emerging writer’s single work of short fiction or nonfiction for “daring formal and aesthetic innovations that upset and reorder literary conventions, historical narratives and readers’ imaginations.” The prize is funded by a donation from Barbara and Twig Branch. Thomas’ work was selected from 16 finalists by guest judge Hilary Plum. 

“The book takes very seriously my own kind of subjectivity as a child, but observes it from a third-person perspective,” he said. “So I’m writing about myself as another person in order to make clear this shift that has happened — a shift that one can’t return to, really.”

When writing Reality Marble, Thomas said one of the most important techniques he used was making sure to “get out of (his) own way.”

“I needed to back away from the hyperintellectual standpoint that I might use to approach things  now, as a graduate student with a college degree,” he said. “Instead, I had to think back to what these experiences were when they happened and how they happened, and to kind of value them in and of themselves before using my adult self to intervene.”

Thomas said he was “surprised and overjoyed” to learn that he won the Janus Prize.

“I try not to get too ahead of myself,” he said. “Like a lot of writers, all of the work that you do when everybody is like, ‘whatever,’ about it, will eventually start to become part of a broader conversation.”

Johns Hopkins University professor of history Martha Jones to talk on Black women’s fight for suffrage


“Once upon a time, African-American history and American history were studied in two seperate stories,” said Martha Jones, the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University.


But Jones has learned in her time as a scholar that African-American history is American history. 

As an author and educator, Jones has approached the major questions and moments of American history in the shoes of Black people living in that time. In much of her research and writing, this history was looking at voting rights, constitutional amendments, and what it meant to be a citizen of the United States. 

Jones’ lecture, “Vanguard: 200 Years of Black Women at the Front of Voting Rights,” Week Five’s presentation in the African American Heritage House lecture series, will premiere on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform at 4 p.m. EDT Thursday, July 30, without a live Q-and-A. A severe thunderstorm and power outage postponed this premiere from July 29. 

This lecture is in the spirit of her book, Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All, which is set for release on Sept. 8, 2020. The book, and the presentation, explores Black women’s efforts toward suffrage as they fought both racism and sexism. Jones began this research as an academic curiosity — but the more she reflected, the personal this story became. 

“When I began to be curious about voting rights in African-American women, I realized that I didn’t know the stories of the women in my own family. So, partly I headed to do the research wanting to fill in some blanks (in my family’s history) because I didn’t know where my grandmother, or my great-grandmother had been (in society) in 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified,” Jones said. “So, in some ways, my work has oftentimes been inspired by questions that I have in my own family. Unfortunately, because they are no longer there to tell those stories, I had to use my historian tools in order to try and recover them.”

The history spans generations, as the books cover two centuries of Black women’s political activism as it relates to suffrage. Jones said she hopes that her lecture can help the audience trace how historical events impact current political representation. 

“The African-American women in the 21st century politics who we easily can identify or recognize — whether it’s in Congress, Kamala Harris, Val Demings, or Ayanna Pressley (or) leaders of political culture (like) Michelle Obama or Stacey Abrams — I really hope that my lecture helps us appreciate the history from which these women have emerged,” Jones said. “These are not women who are direct descendents of the politics of the Women’s Suffrage Association, or the activism of Alice Paul or Carrie Chapman Catt. Instead, they are inheritors of a distinct political tradition forged by Black women over two centuries.”

While the country has gone from withholding women’s right to vote to having Black women in high-ranking electected positions, other things are still in dire need of reform. Jones pointed to voter suppression as a prime example. 

“It’s to say that, as was true in the early 19th century, when Black Americans are kept away from the polls by law in many states, state laws appear to conflict even with the spirit of the U.S. Constitution,” Jones said. “We find ourselves in 2020 asking: What is the obligation of the state to fulfill the spirit of the Constitution that was intended to clear the way, make a way, open the pool — to women, to Black Americans, to put racism and sexism to the side in American politics?”

Earlier this summer, Shannon Rozner, Chautauqua Institution chief of staff and vice president of strategic initiatives, described the 2020 season as an informal voting guide for the upcoming election. Each week pertains to issues that many Americans are concerned with: climate change, ethics of technology, and public education to name a few. 

Jones said that the history of Black women and the fight for suffrage is a cautionary tale that parallels many current issues in the United States, including voter suppression. 

“We know that voter suppression disproportionately affects communities of color, working people, and women,” she said. “The urgency of that is not new, but it is profoundly urgent and I hope that some talks and discussion and reflections in these weeks will help us press lawmakers, policymakers, local officials, to ensure that every American who is entitled to vote, has the opportunity to cast their ballot in November.”

The presentation will also touch on a Chautauquan connection that Jones found in her research. Many of the women she studied were trained elocutionists who used their education for public speaking, including the daughter Chautauquas that spread across the country in the late 19th and early 20th century. Jones focuses in particular on Hallie Quinn Brown, a student turned speaker who went on to become an educator, organizer, and suffragist that headed the largest Black women’s political organization in the country: the National Association of Colored Women.

Women’s rights, equality topic of NY Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s talk


In his concluding remarks to the CHQ Assembly on Friday morning, July 24, Harvard University political philosophy professor Michael J. Sandel spoke about “the need to find our way to the politics of the common good.”


At 3:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, July 28, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul — a recipient of the 2020 Harriet Tubman Freedom Award — will address essential components of the common good: women’s equality and genuine equality.

Her talk is titled “Equal Rights Now: The Fight for Equality 100 Years Later.” As part of the Contemporary Issues Forum lecture series, it is sponsored by the Chautauqua Women’s Club.

Hochul serves as the highest-ranking female elected official in the state, and among many other responsibilities, the chair of New York’s Women’s Suffrage 100th Anniversary Commemoration Commission. For more than three years, she has been overseeing the programs and events celebrating ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — by New York in November 1917, and the United States in 1920.

This hard-earned, 28-word Constitutional amendment asserts as follows: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

For Hochul, her CIF talk is an “opportunity to draw a connection between the early Suffragette Movement that we’re celebrating this year, in particular because it’s the 100th anniversary of women securing the right to vote nationwide, and to talk about those challenges, the people, the barriers they had to overcome. And to bring that up to the present, 2020, and the societal movements that are being undertaken and fought in real time.”

“Before this year, I would not have been able to write the same speech,” she continued.

In August 2017, when she delivered her speech, “Women’s Suffrage: 100 Years in New York State,” as part of Chautauqua Institution’s Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series, Hochul said she focused on “the early Suffragettes and what they overcame, and how society … rebelled against the idea that women should have the right to vote. It took 70 years of fighting after the seminal 1848 women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls. So I had a different perspective just three short years ago.”

This summer, however, as she thought about what she wanted to share with Chautauquans, she said she “realized that (she) would be absolutely remiss to not talk about current events, and how what is occurring now is not unlike the women’s rights movement, but is still unfinished business. And it’s still a recognition that a conference of certain rights — such as the right to vote 100 years ago for women and guaranteed by the Voting Rights Act of 1968 for African Americans — those do not confer true equalities.”

Hochul said she will discuss the Black Lives Matter movement and the state of women in general, including economic and employment effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, political influence, and representation in Albany and Washington, D.C.

A Buffalo native and resident, Hochul earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Syracuse University and her law degree at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Upon graduation, she worked in a D.C. law firm, and then as legal counsel–legislative assistant for Congressman John LaFalce (Buffalo) and U.S. Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan (NY).

An elected member of the Hamburg (NY) Town Board from 1994 to 2007, Hochul was appointed Erie County (NY) Deputy Town Clerk in 2003. She was appointed, and soon elected, Erie County Clerk in 2007.

Four years later, she won the special election for New York’s 26th Congressional District. As a member of Congress, Hochul served on both the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, and traveled with a bipartisan, all-women delegation to war-torn Afghanistan.

In 2014 and again in 2018, N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo named Hochul as his choice for lieutenant governor. After she won her Democratic primary elections and Cuomo won his, together as a ticket they won both general elections.

According to Hochul, while serving as lieutenant governor she has “championed the ‘Enough is Enough’ law to prevent sexual assault on college campuses, spearheaded the state’s Paid Family Leave program, and is continuing to work to eliminate the gender wage gap, expand access to affordable child care, and combat sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace and beyond.”

In addition, she has led the Cuomo administration’s state-wide economic development and job creation initiatives, advocating daily “for policies that help all New Yorkers make ends meet.”

Reflecting on her CIF talk, Hochul said, “(women) represent 52 percent of the population. Would the early Suffragettes be satisfied with where we are 100 years later?”

In other words, with respect to women’s rights and true equality, have Americans found their way to the politics of the common good?

Carnegie Mellon University professor David Danks to speak on predictive policing, cultural algorithmic biases


Algorithms are everywhere — from finances, to the workplace, to policing. And where there is an algorithm, David Danks said there is likely to be an unintended cultural bias.


“In my experience, almost nobody who’s building or using technology wants to be unethical. Nobody thinks, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna build something that’s racist.’ What people think is, ‘I’m gonna build this thing that’s going to help people,’” said Danks, L.L. Thurstone Professor of Philosophy and Psychology and head of the Department of Philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University. “The biggest ethical challenge we have is that many people who develop and deploy these systems have very narrow understandings of what it is to help other people.”

At 3:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 22, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, Danks will present Week Four’s African American Heritage House lecture, “Fixing the Cultural Biases in Algorithms.” In this presentation, Danks will explain what algorithmic bias is and where it comes from. 

Algorithms in many ways reflect the data that they are provided. So, if the data are from historically systematically biased communities and practices, the algorithm will learn to reflect that,” Danks said.

Danks pointed to predictive policing as one example. This is a system where AI compiles recorded data to point out crime hotspots and potential criminals in an effort to allocate police force to prevent crime in the first place. However, when historical data is based on racist and biased practices, law enforcement disproportionately polices communities populated by people of color

Many have compared predictive policing programming to the practice of “broken window” policing. This is a practice, often used in the 1980s, where law enforcement heavily policed neighborhoods that appeared to have more crime by cracking down on lower-level offenses to deter more serious crime. As a result, people of color were excessively targeted and the practice has since been seen as a failure. 

“Algorithms in many ways reflect the data that they are provided. So, if the data are from historically systematically biased communities and practices, the algorithm will learn to reflect that,” Danks said.

Danks began noticing these issues about a decade ago. While people flocked to the development of cutting-edge AI, Danks started to notice ethical dilemmas. 

“There were a lot of people who wanted to talk about the technology. They wanted to talk about the ones and zeros,” Danks said. “It seemed to me that we were losing sight of what really should be at the heart of these discussions — which is people. How are people helped? How are people harmed? How do we ensure that technology serves us rather than the other way around?”

At Carnegie Mellon, Danks’ work falls at the intersection of philosophy, cognitive science, and machine learning. This research is always conducted with the people affected by tech in mind. 

“The big-picture goal is (to have) people produce and be able to use technology to advance the values that are important to them. By that, I mean all people — not just the privileged technological ‘haves,’” Danks said. “The more immediate goal is to have people who produce technology be aware and deliberate about the choices they make in terms of the ethical and societal impacts that they have.”

Before his 3:30 p.m. EDT presentation, Danks will participate in a panel on ethics and technology with two other Carnegie Mellon University-affiliated academics, Illah Nourbakhsh and Jennifer Keating, at 10:45 a.m. EDT the same day on CHQ Assembly.

The beauty in nature, the beauty in music: Friesen to present musical Interfaith lecture using his cello


There’s the rosewood scroll, the strings, the bridge, the tailpiece and the bow. It all comes together to form a cello, a vehicle through which a person can create music and harmony.


But for renowned cellist Eugene Friesen, the instrument is also a vehicle for expressing love — in his case, love for nature.

“The music that I make is really inspired by the time I spend alone, outside, especially in the woods here in New England and in the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River,” said Friesen, a composer, conductor, teacher and four-time Grammy Award-winner. “I’ve been with the whales in Baja, California, I’ve been to Siberia and Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world. These experiences are inspirational and transformational.”

Friesen’s experiences outdoors are “a kind of nature mysticism” that directly informs his music-writing process. 

“At its best, the music really comes from those experiences,” he said. “It’s not stuff that I make or workshop, it’s stuff that just appears, pretty much fully formed.”

At 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 15, Friesen will present his lecture, “The Beauty We Love,” on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform as part of Week Three’s theme for the Interfaith Lecture Series: “Art: A Glimpse into the Divine.”  

The importance of nature in creating art is something Friesen champions as being essential for young musicians today.

“It’s become more difficult — I’m not even talking about the pandemic. I’m talking about being able to get out of the city and into nature that’s really pristine,” he said. “When we think about some of the greatest works of art that we revere the most, many of them are either describing nature, or making metaphors from nature.”

According to Friesen, a whole generation of inner-city kids will not understand the “musical language” that nature provides.

And equally important, Friesen said, is the need for orchestral musicians who are classically trained to nourish their creativity.

“And nourish not only our performance abilities, but also our improving abilities,” he said. “I like to say that it’s not what we play, it’s why we play. Those experiences in nature and the values we have from our spiritual lives as well as our families — these are the things that should shape the sounds we make.”

Friesen said his lecture will consist of a musical program made up of his original compositions.

And though the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted Friesen’s busy schedule of touring and performances with the Paul Winter Consort, he said it’s been “incredible” to be stuck at home for these last months.

“I’ve been able to really go deep into my studies, as well as into my own music,” he said. “I wake up every day really enthused about working on the music, because I never really know what’s going to come out.”

This program is made possible by the Lois Raynow Department of Religion Fund.

Annual Buffalo Day Panel to welcome Pulitzer-Prize winning cartoonist, more

Buffalo Day
Swan-Kilpatrick, Crockatt, Lin-Hill, Murphy, Zyglis

Eleven years ago, Dennis Galucki was struck by the idea of a city where the aesthetic values of Chautauqua Institution existed not just nine weeks a year, but all 52. Galucki attached this idea to his Western New York hometown, which he felt uniquely embodied these values when he established the Institution’s annual Buffalo Day. But as years have passed, Galucki has come to believe that Buffalo Day shouldn’t stop at Buffalo.

“I hope others do explore that connection (of bringing Institution values elsewhere). Why not have an Atlanta Day at Chautauqua? In a digital age, why not think that way?” Galucki said. “It’s not about everybody from Atlanta or San Francisco going to Chautauqua that day — it’s about highlighting a connection (of values), and nurturing it back in your hometown.”

Galucki hopes to inspire Chautauquans to consider these ideas at 12:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 14, on the Virtual Porch in a Buffalo Day panel discussion titled “The Sacred Nature of Art & Democracy: Exploring Life’s Aesthetic Values – Beauty, Truth, Goodness, & Justice.” The panel will be moderated by Galucki and Emily Morris, Institution vice president of marketing and communications.

The panel will feature Stephanie Crockatt, executive director of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy; Joe Lin-Hill, deputy director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery; Michael G. Murphy, the president of Shea’s Performing Art Center; and Adam Zyglis, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist at The Buffalo News.

The week’s theme of “Art and Democracy” spoke to Galucki. He first started to recognize the similarities of Buffalo and Chautauqua through art and architecture in Buffalo. When looking at historical landmarks, Galucki found that they spoke of pillars and values that defined Buffalo at the time of their construction: art, architecture, history and nature

These four values reminded Galucki of the Institution’s four pillars: arts, education, religion, and recreation. Just like Chautauqua, he saw Buffalo’s potential to foster life-long learning, and this sparked what he called the Buffalo-Chautauqua idea. This idea is further exemplified with the Institution’s theme for Week Three. 

“I can connect Buffalo really legitimately with this theme: ‘Art and Democracy,’” Galucki said. “After 11 years it was, in my mind, the best theme that came along to go ahead and do this.”

Galucki believes that this discussion on “Art and Democracy” also comes at an interesting time in history, because current social justice movements have inspired powerful works of public art. 

“Perhaps the most significant art this year is the three words ‘Black Lives Matter,’” Galucki said. “I could argue that the painting of that (phrase) in front of municipal buildings, including the White House, may be the most profound work of art in a long time.”

Galucki said that the panel’s message of justice — along with truth, goodness and beauty — can be relatable across the country. He hopes that the audience can connect to this panel’s message and inspire similar work in their own regions.

“Hopefully people are entertained and find the experience worth wanting to know more about Chautauqua if they are first-timers, or reinforcing their support of Chautauqua if they are folks that have been around,” Galucki said. “That should be why anybody speaks. Yeah, educational, informative, fine. But I would argue that it better be entertaining.”

This program is made possible by the Buffalo-Chautauqua Idea and Connection: Galucki Family Endowment Fund.

Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus to cover Brett Kavanaugh, conservative takeover in Robert H. Jackson Lecture


An American’s daily life is driven by forces unseen, but perhaps the strongest force is that of nine unelected individuals constantly shaping United States law.

“The things that keep public order, the things that protect individual property, the things that protect individual mobility, liberty, health, etc. — those are all systems that are in law. That’s all in the Supreme Court’s bucket. The Supreme Court is one of those grand forces, seen and unseen,” said John Barrett, professor of law at St. John’s University.

Barrett will return to Chautauqua for the 16th Annual Robert H. Jackson Lecture on the Supreme Court of the United States at 3:30 p.m. EDT Monday, July 6, on CHQ Assembly. Barrett is welcoming Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor at The Washington Post. Much of the discussion will spark from the research Marcus did for her 2019 book Supreme Ambition: Brett Kavanaugh and the Conservative Takeover.

Marcus has written about Supreme Court appointments since 1987, with President Ronald Reagan’s rejected attempt to appoint Robert Bork. In 1991, she covered the appointment of Justice Clarence Thomas, and the preceding hearings in which former employee Anita Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment. Her experience covering Thomas and Hill informed her decision to investigate Kavanaugh in her new book.

“After Bork, I covered the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings. And so when Kavanaugh was nominated, and when Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations arose, it seemed like the combination of the ideological stakes of the Bork battle and the issues of the Clarence Thomas hearings all rolled into one high-stakes nomination battle,” Marcus said. “So, it kind of felt like it was almost destiny for me to write the book.”

Marcus began her decades-long writing career at The Washington Post as an intern while attending Harvard Law School. She attended Harvard with the intention of returning to journalism after graduation, not to practice law. Marcus said it was her way of expanding her horizons and sharpening her way of thought.

While Marcus’ writing experience extends far beyond politics, Barrett invited her to deliver this year’s Jackson Lecture because of her expertise on the Supreme Court. Barrett said that the Robert H. Jackson Lecture has always sought to bring the nation’s top experts to the Institution, which aids the series’ recurring popularity. 

“Every year, there’s stuff that’s on the front burner that’s just happened, or is happening, at the Supreme Court,” Barrett said. “In a more enduring way, the Supreme Court has a big way of shaping all of our lives. For Chautauquans to have this opportunity to hear from, think and engage with a top Supreme Court expert is what the lecture is about.”

In the 2020 season, the lecture falls at the end of a Court term that brought rulings protecting scholarship access for students at religious schools, abortion rights, and codifying protections against workplace discriminations for LGBT people. This Court term, according to Marcus, would have interested Jackson himself. 

Jackson began his law education as an apprentice at a Jamestown law office outside of Chautauqua. Despite having never attended college, Jackson became a lawyer in 1913 and practiced law for two decades in the area. He moved to Washington D.C. and took on a series of government positions, including Attorney General for the United States during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. 

On July 11, 1941, Roosevelt nominated Jackson to the Supreme Court, and he was confirmed by the Senate the same day. During his time on the Supreme Court, he served as Chief United States Prosecutor in the Nuremberg Trials. After 13 years as a Supreme Court Justice, Jackson died in 1954 at 62 years old.

“When he died, the eight surviving justices came for the funeral (in Jamestown). They all said, ‘We want to see Chautauqua, we’ve been hearing about it for years.’ Seeing Chautauqua is what the Jackson Lecture has actually accomplished in some very high-level places,” Barrett said.

Much like the surviving justices, Barrett said that many notable figures flock to the Institution because of Jackson, only now it is in the form of a lecture established in his name.

In week of Chautauqua sermons, the Rev. Traci DeVon Blackmon to focus attention on importance of story

Traci DeVon Blackmon
Traci DeVon Blackmon

A West African proverb sits at the top of the Rev. Traci DeVon Blackmon’s biographical profile on the United Church of Christ Website: “Until the lion tells the story, the hunter will always be the hero.”

“During my week (of sermons), I will attempt to call attention to the importance of story,” said Blackmon, who is serving as the Week Two chaplain-in-residence on CHQ Assembly. “So much of Jesus’ recorded teachings were done through the reframing of narrative. Currently we are living in a time of social, political, and theological distortion of story. This distortion is amplified through various forms of media.”

Blackmon will preach Sunday, July 5, through Friday, July 10, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. On Sunday, July 5, her sermon will be broadcast during the 10:45 a.m. EDT Service of Worship and Sermon. The title for her sermon is “We, Too, Sing Of Freedom.” From Monday, July 6, through Friday, July 10, her sermons will be recorded and broadcast as part of a live 9:15 a.m. EDT morning devotional service. Her sermon titles include “Where Are The Dreamers,” on Monday, July 6; “Story Matters,” on Tuesday, July 7; “Faithful Without Fanfare,” on Wednesday, July 8; “In Defense Of The Ravens,” on Thursday, July 9; and “You Might As Well Throw The Rock” to close the week on Friday, July 10.

“I believe one of the marks of faithful discipleship is as keepers of the story,” she said. “At its core, this is the Bible as we know it, a compilation of sacred story. As people of faith, we are called to preserve a faithful narrative for our generation and generations to come.”

Blackmon is the Associate General Minister of Justice and Local Church Ministries for The United Church of Christ and Senior Pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Missouri. At first ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Blackmon later became ordained in the United Church of Christ and was installed as the first woman pastor in the 162-year history of Christ The King. 

A registered nurse for over 25 years, Blackmon earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Birmingham – Southern College, and a Master of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary. Throughout her ministry, her work has focused on communal resistance to systemic injustice. Her response in Ferguson to the killing of Michael Brown resulted in national and international recognition; her work is now featured in several Ferguson Uprising documentaries.

Appointed to the Ferguson Commission by then-Governor Jay Nixon and to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships for the White House by President Barack Obama, Blackmon is a recipient of the NAACP Rosa Parks Award; The Urban League of St. Louis Woman in Leadership Award; and the National Planned Parenthood Faith Leader Award, among others.

Blackmon co-authored “White Privilege – Let’s Talk,” an adult education curriculum designed to invite members to engage in safe, meaningful, substantive and bold conversations on race for the United Church of Christ. She has toured the nation proclaiming the need for a moral revival in America with the likes of the Rev. William Barber of Moral Mondays and Repairer of the Breach and Sister Simone Campbell of Nuns on the Bus.

Blackmon is listed as one of Ebony Magazine’s 2015 Power 100. She is a graduate of Leadership St. Louis and currently serves on the boards of The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Chicago Theological Seminary, and WomanPreach! She was named 2017 Citizen of the Year by The St. Louis American and as one of St. Louis’ 100 most influential voices.

This program is made possible by the Mr. and Mrs. William Uhler Follansbee Memorial Chaplaincy and the Robert D. Campbell Memorial Chaplaincy Fund.

Braden Allenby to Discuss Representative Democracy in Lincoln Ethics Series


In relation to the Week Eight theme, “Shifting Global Power,” Braden Allenby will dive into the past and present of fulcrum points in the geopolitical world.

His lecture, “1788, 1938, and Today: Fulcrum Points in Geopolitical Evolution,” will be held at 12:30 p.m. Monday, August 12 in the Hall of Philosophy, as part of the Lincoln Applied Ethics Series. Allenby is the President’s Professor of Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering and Law, and the Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics, at Arizona State University.

Allenby will be discussing the changes that representative democracy is undergoing.

“We all know that representative democracy has been under attack,” Allenby said. “The latest testimony on (Robert) Mueller went back to the fact that the Russians in particular have been very effective in attacking representative democracy.”

Allenby said that more people should be questioning whether representative democracy is still effective; he said he will discuss the ways in which technological trends have altered the effectiveness of representative democracy.

“The underlying question of whether representative (democracy) remains the most effective form of government has not been asked,” Allenby said. “What I’m going to talk about is the probability that, in fact, the underlying technological trend, particularly in AI and information technology, significantly shifts the balance of effectiveness from representative democracy to soft authoritarianism.”

Allenby said he hopes Chautauquans will leave his lecture with a better understanding of the “deep challenges” of modern-day governance. He said such understanding also involves considering the roots of national challenges and that “by trying to work on some of those issues before they become crises, we may be able to save important parts of the American experiment.”

Allenby will also lead master classes this week in the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall; the classes are fully enrolled.

“(The classes) look in more detail at some of the sources of the challenges applied to case study and what AI, combined with other technologies, might be able to do as soon as 2020, and gives an idea of the kinds of challenges that are posed for fundamental democratic institutions like freedom of speech, checks and balances and others,” Allenby said.

Donald B. Verrilli, Former Solicitor General, to Deliver Annual Jackson Lecture

Donald B. Verrilli

Donald B. Verrilli will deliver the 15th Annual Robert H. Jackson Lecture at 4 p.m. Monday, July 1 in the Hall of Philosophy. Verrilli is an acclaimed American lawyer and courtroom advocate who has argued 50 cases in the Supreme Court of the United States. He served in the Obama Administration as associate deputy attorney general, then as deputy White House Counsel and solicitor general.

Chautauqua Institution’s Robert H. Jackson Lecture Series is named in honor of Robert H. Jackson, former associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

“Robert Jackson was from Chautauqua County and was a lawyer in Jamestown, and then went to Washington and was part of the New Deal and rose up through the justice department,” said John Barrett, a professor at St. John’s University School of Law.

Barrett said this lecture is a way for Chautauquans who are interested in the U.S. Supreme Court and the legal system to learn more about the topic and to hear from an expert.

“The notion (is to have) an annual, high-profile lecture at Chautauqua in the name of Robert Jackson, focusing on the U.S. Supreme Court in the summer season which is sort of the sweet spot when the court will have just finished its term,” Barrett said. “The people of Chautauqua, who are of course very knowledgeable and interested in the news, will have  the Supreme Court on the brain, and will be interested in a high-profile expert speaker who can bring Supreme Court expertise to Chautauqua — the Jackson Lecture would be that kind of occasion.”

Verrilli’s experience makes him a great choice as a speaker for the annual Jackson Lecture, Barrett said.

“I think Donald Verrilli is one of the really superb lawyers, former public servants, public advocates in the legal profession today,” Barrett said. “So for the audience to get to meet him and hear him is going to be fantastic.”

Barrett said Verrilli may touch on topics such as recent court decisions and other issues that are of the public’s interest right now.

What I expect he’ll be talking about is the Roberts Court and the recent decisions,” Barrett said. “The particulars that he gets into, perhaps the census case or perhaps gerrymandering, are really important public citizenship topics of the moment, and for a lecturer to engage with Chautauquans about those kinds of topics is superb. He will be a fantastic speaker.

Sharon Brous to be First Rabbi to Preach at Chautauqua’s Sunday Worship

Rabbi Sharon Brous

As a young woman, Rabbi Sharon Brous spent a weekend walking around the Old City of Jerusalem searching for the answers to life’s questions. When she found out that the answers were “facile and unconvincing,” she decided to devote her life to wrestling with the questions.

Brous, the first-ever rabbi to serve as chaplain-in-residence at Chautauqua, will preach at the 10:45 a.m. Ecumenical Service of Worship Sunday in the Amphitheater and will speak about her faith journey at the 5 p.m. Vespers Sunday in the Hall of Philosophy. She will preach Monday through Friday at the 9:15 a.m. Ecumencial Worship service in the Amphitheater.

In her 2016 TED Talk, “Reclaiming Religion,” which has been viewed 1.3 million times and translated into 20 languages, Brous noted that religions of all faiths were waning.

“Across the board, churches and synagogues and mosques are all complaining about how hard it is to maintain relevance for a generation of young people who seem completely uninterested, not only in the institutions that stand at the heart of our traditions but even in religion itself,” she said.

“And what (the institutions) need to understand is that there is today a generation of people who are as disgusted by the violence of religious extremism as they are turned off by the lifelessness of religious routine-ism.”

Brous sat down with a friend and sent out emails to about 20 people to join them on a Friday night to see what they could make of their Jewish inheritance before they “bailed on religion.” Over 135 came and the result of that wrestling is a community, IKAR, founded in 2004. IKAR means “the essence of or the heart of the matter.”

“The challenge today is to be animated by both gratitude and unrest, by humility and audacity, and to feel the exodus from Egypt — our people’s journey from slavery to freedom, from degradation to dignity — in our guts,” Brous wrote on IKAR’s website. “Our Jewish story calls us to become agents of social change whose fiercest weapons are love, faith and holy hutzpah.”

“Religious Moments that Changed the World” is the theme for the Week One Interfaith Lecture Series, and this is a moment that is changing Chautauqua’s religious life.

“I asked a variety of people why we had never invited a rabbi to serve as our chaplain and preacher of the week,” said The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson in the 2019 winter Chautauquan.

“Other than ‘we’ve never done it that way,’ there was no good answer.”

Robinson noted that Methodist Bishop John H. Vincent said that “the theory of Chautauqua is life is one, and that religion belongs everywhere.” 

That Vincent said “religion” is a key element and not “Christianity” alone is important to Robinson.

Perhaps Vincent’s statement was a “precursor to what would become Chautauqua’s interfaith work,” Robinson said. He said that as long as he and Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno are  responsible for the spiritual and religious life and programming at Chautauqua, the morning worship services will remain Christian “albeit very welcoming of people from other faith traditions.”

“Let’s remember that the only ‘Bible’ Jesus ever knew was the Hebrew Scriptures,” he said. “It seems to me, that if it was good enough for Jesus, it ought to be good enough for us, too. Who better to teach us about God’s self and God’s will in those books than a rabbi.

“I wanted to ensure that our first rabbi chaplain was a sure ‘hit’ — Rabbi Sharon Brous is as close as I am going to get to ‘a sure thing.’ ”

With the goal of reinvigorating Jewish practice and inspiring people of faith to reclaim a moral and prophetic voice, IKAR quickly became one of the fastest growing and most influential Jewish congregations in the country. Today it is credited with sparking a rethinking of religious life in a time of unprecedented disaffection and declining affiliation.

Brous is in the inaugural cohort of Auburn Seminary’s Senior Fellows program, which unites top faith leaders working on the frontlines for justice. Brous also sits on Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Interfaith Collective and on the faculty of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America and REBOOT, and serves on the International Council of the New Israel Fund and the national steering committee for the Poor People’s Campaign. In 2013, she blessed President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the Inaugural National Prayer Service, and Garcetti at his inauguration in 2017.

She spoke at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., in 2017, and at the national launch of the Poor People’s Campaign and the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in 2018. Brous was named No. 1 on the Newsweek/The Daily Beast list of the most influential Rabbis in America, and has been recognized by The Forward and the Jerusalem Post as one of the 50 most influential Jews.

Brous is a graduate of Columbia University and was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Historian Cathal Nolan to discuss war and Hollywood for Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series


Cathal J. Nolan is a scholar of war.

His sweeping history of armed conflict, The Allure of Battle: A History of How Wars Have Been Won and Lost, published by Oxford last year, has been hailed as radical re-examination of what war is all about, mainly by debunking the idea of the “decisive battle.”

“The common myth is that war is abnormal, but when you look at it, it’s pretty constant,” Nolan said. “People think that peace is the normal condition. I’m not convinced that it is.”

Cathal Nolan

Nolan has explored the nature of war in 14 scholarly books and seven novels. He is frequently cited in historical TV shows. As an associate professor of history at Boston University and the executive director of the International History Institute there, he shares his deep expertise with his students. And he often uses war movies to pique their interest.

Nolan argues that his students, and young people in general, are an “acutely visual generation” who don’t read much, but love movies. What little sense of history they have, he said, is rooted primarily in films in which Hollywood “serves up fake history.” The films, he said, provoke interest in remote events and, ideally, steer students to books and debates for a deeper understanding.

At 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21, in the Hall of Philosophy, Nolan will talk about war movies in “Fake History: War and Hollywood,” as part of the Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series.

The movies get a lot wrong about war, but they get many things right, too, Nolan said. Hollywood does not shape public opinion as much as it is shaped by public opinion, reflecting social, political and cultural trends.

The movie industry embraced tales of war early, most notably with D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” in 1915, a racist epic that posits that the United States was really born as a country with the emergence of the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction. The klansmen are portrayed as heroes.

Heroes and villains have always loomed large in war movies, Nolan said. During World War I, Hollywood stoked patriotic sentiment with such pro-war films as “The Prussian Cur” and “The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin.” The good guys were really good, and the bad guys were pure evil.

In the 1920s and ’30s, war became a passe subject, with movies reflecting the isolationist mood of the times, Nolan said. That changed as the world descended into World War II, with 1941’s “Sergeant York,” in which Gary Cooper plays the eponymous, laconic bumpkin who almost single-handedly defeats the Kaiser’s minions.


Morale-boosting pictures like “The Fighting Sullivans” and Frank Capra’s pseudo-documentary series, “Why We Fight,” followed. John Wayne, who sat out the war with a bad knee from playing football, became a big star in “Sands of Iwo Jima.” The Korean War inspired gritty portraits of men in combat like “Pork Chop Hill.”

Vietnam changed everything, Nolan said. John Wayne bombed in “The Green Berets.” American films turned from the heroic to the ironic with fare like “Catch-22,” “M.A.S.H.” and what Nolan calls “the astoundingly ahistorical” film “Kelly’s Heroes.”

“Hollywood was riding the wave of the counterculture,” he said.

“Apocalypse Now,” “The Deer Hunter” and “Coming Home” went further. They were not just anti-war but practically anti-veteran, he said. The bad guys were not so much the villainous enemy, but our own American leaders and military — if not America itself.

“In short, with its usual black-and-white moralism, but following rather than leading popular academic and cultural motifs, Hollywood flipped the script to relocate the evil in war,” Nolan said. 

By the 1980s, though, the hero was back in “Uncommon Valor” and the “Rambo” movies, with the misunderstood veteran, bloodied but unbowed, returning to Vietnam to rescue captured Americans left behind.

Then came 9/11 and a resurgence of patriotism. But, Nolan said, Hollywood again shifted its focus, depicting soldiers who fought and died for one another, instead of for some ideal or even one’s country. Private motivations superseded national goals, and the causes of war were unimportant compared with the virtues of the individual warrior, he said.

All the while, the horror and drama and glamour of war were plumbed in countless fantasy and science-fiction works, including the “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” series and “Game of Thrones.” Nolan himself has written seven novels under the name Kali Altsoba in a character-driven series about war in the future called The Orion War.

Perhaps most notable, Nolan said, is the technological advances in both filmmaking and war-making that have allowed Hollywood to capture a fundamental aspect of battle that the Hebrews called “the lust of the eye” — battle as spectacle, a visceral, primal experience like no other.

“What Hollywood gets right is that war excites, especially young men,” Nolan said. “It fascinates like fire; moving, almost alive. Emotions are more intense. Its effects last for decades, not just with individual veterans, but with society as a whole. A significant minority of men love war. It’s the dirty secret we don’t talk about.”

And war remains a central, if not the central, aspect of the human condition, he said.

“Big wars like World War I and World War II were crescendos; they were not normal,” Nolan said. “What is normal is constant, chronic warfare, wars of empire maintenance, not just over years or decades, but multiple decades.”

Nolan sees little reason to be optimistic.

“We love war,” he said. “It’s an ugly, uncomfortable truth.”

Allison Blais’ multimedia presentation to focus on 9/11 Memorial & Museum


On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, a stunned world watched as the twin towers in Lower Manhattan collapsed in flames and smoke and dust.

At 8:46 a.m., an American Airlines Boeing 767 carrying 92 people and 20,000 gallons of jet fuel had crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Seventeen minutes later, a United Airlines flight with scores aboard, also a 767, slammed into the south tower.

At 9:37 a.m., another American Airlines plane struck the Pentagon. Less than half an hour later, a United Airlines flight crashed into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, after passengers fought with the terrorist hijackers who had pirated the plane.

It was the deadliest attack on the United States in its history. All told, 2,997 people died in the day’s strikes, including the 19 radical Islamic hijackers. More than 6,000 people were injured. Two hundred sixty-five people died on the four planes; 125 were killed at the Pentagon. In and around the World Trade Center, 2,606 perished.

“It was an intensely local and exceptionally global event,” said Allison Blais, the chief strategy officer for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

Allison Blais

At 3:30 p.m. Fri., Aug. 17, in the Hall of Christ as part of the Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series, she will present a multimedia program called “A Place of Remembrance & Renewal: The 9/11 Memorial & Museum.”

Blais, who oversees strategic planning, commemorations and events for the organization and is co-author of its official book, A Place of Remembrance, sees a natural connection between memorial and Chautauqua.

“Both are steeped in powerful history,” she said. “These two public spaces are integral parts of their respective communities, serving as forums for people to gather, learn, reflect and — ultimately — connect with each other.”

Blais has her own 9/11 story.

“I moved to New York in 2000, and on 9/11, I was working at the Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival,” she recalled. “I’d just come out of my subway stop about 20 blocks north of the World Trade Center when the first plane came right over my head. The roar was deafening, and I’ll always remember the sound — and really the feel — of the boom when it crashed into the North Tower.

“After a surreal, confusing, and heartbreaking day, I ended up going home to see my parents in Connecticut, but felt almost immediately that I needed to be back in New York as soon as possible. It was the first time I felt, strangely, like a New Yorker — and I wanted to be there, to be there for people, with people.”

The World Trade Center Memorial opened in 2011, on the 10th anniversary of the attack, and the museum opened in 2014, but the determined drive to build a commemorative space arose while the rubble at ground zero was still smoldering, said Blais, who came aboard the project in 2004.

“There was a public mandate to rebuild — and to rebuild quickly,” she said. “And, at the same time, there were deeply passionate opinions on all sides about what to build.”

The memorial’s architect, Michael Arad, won a worldwide competition with his design, “Reflecting Absence,” which transformed the footprints of the twin towers into enormous waterfalls. They comprise the dramatic centerpiece of the complex on sacred ground in the nation’s largest city. But it is the names, the names of the dead, that make the space so moving.

“Those names are etched through bronze-panel walls, and the sun shines through them in a way that makes each letter an absence,” Blais said.

They are not arranged alphabetically; they are organized by what Arad calls “meaningful adjacencies.” The memorial’s staff reached out to family members to share stories about their lost loved ones. As best could be determined, information was gathered on where each person was that day, who they worked with, who they knew and loved and what they were doing in their final moments.

An algorithm was created and software developed to identify connections, and the names are organized into nine groupings — one for the victims of the Feb. 26, 1993, bombing; two for the twin towers; four for the hijacked flights; one for the Pentagon; and one for the first responders, Blais said. Among those first responders on the wall are the 11 members of the nearby New York Fire Department’s Ladder Company 3, who answered the call that day. All of them died.

“The names are the most important,” said Blais, who lives with her husband and children in the neighborhood, which has doubled its population in the last 18 years. “They allow us to focus on the connections we have with each other. They show that we are there for each other in times of adversity, and that is one of the most important things in life.”

One-quarter of all the names on the memorial belong to people who worked at the financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald. At the time of the attack, the company occupied offices on the 101st to 105th floors of the north tower, just above where the first hijacked plane hit.

Howard Lutnick, Cantor’s chairman and CEO, lost his brother Gary, his best friend, and more than 656 colleagues. Lutnik, who became a driving force behind the memorial, survived because he was dropping his son off for his first day of kindergarten that morning. Everyone in the Cantor offices was killed.

“Every company and organization that was impacted stepped up to help,” Blais said. “They gave us the needed confidence to bring this to fruition. Their hearts are in this place.”

Almost 40 million visitors have paid their respects at the site since it opened in 2011; 7 million to the memorial and 3 million to the museum each year, Blais said.

“People come from all around the world, from 180 different countries,” she said, noting that those who died in 9/11 included citizens of 90 nations.

And yet, some New Yorkers have stayed away, their trauma still fresh, their wounds not quite healed.

“I understand the impulse not to come here,” Blais said. “But it’s not a didactic experience. It’s not just about what happened on 9/11. It’s about what came afterward. It’s about the perspective the memorial gives us that inspires the connections and compassion the world needs.”

Volker Benkert to deliver final lecture in Lincoln Applied Ethics Series on memory


Volker Benkert, assistant professor of history at Arizona State University, grew up in Germany, where he was exposed to the memory of the Nazi and Soviet occupations of the 20th century.

“I think that memory is around us all the time,” Benkert said. “If you go to a German city, of course everything is nicely restored, and the old buildings, many of them, are back up again.”

But the history of these “modern buildings” that were once hit with bombs during World War II has not been erased. Benkert and all German citizens remember this time in history, and it was this aspect of Benkert’s life that first motivated him to focus his research on the history and memory of both totalitarian regimes in Germany.

At 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13, in the Hall of Philosophy, Benkert will give a lecture as part of the Lincoln Applied Ethics Series. He has studied how Germany has remembered the time of totalitarian rule in the country, in addition to what the German people have chosen to remember, forget and invent regarding that history.

Germany has developed a particular narrative around its history, according to Benkert. He is currently studying how “World War II (is) expressed in contemporary German film.”

“Germany has, of course, acknowledged the Holocaust and depicts German war crimes,” Benkert said. “But my argument is that even though these crimes are acknowledged, they are wrapped into very apologetic narratives that offer an excuse or explanation for why Germans would participate in these crimes.”

Benkert said that Germany is currently acknowledging that it was not just high-ranking Nazis who made these crimes against humanity possible. He said “ordinary Germans” who were draftees in the military participated in these crimes as well, and Germans who were not fighting in the war still benefited from them.

“This acknowledgement that we can no longer deny triggers a response,” Benkert said. “It’s painful; it means everybody’s grandfather somehow was involved.”

The response to this acknowledgment is the apologetic narratives that have been created, according to Benkert.

Benkert’s lecture will be the fourth and final installment of this season’s Lincoln Applied Ethics Series. He said that memory and ethics are “deeply linked,” as people and countries chose what to remember about a historical event.

“In choosing what to remember and what to forget, we make a deeply ethical choice,” Benkert said. “We cannot remember everything, and memory will change over time — that’s perfectly normal. Every generation will have its own take on the past. … However, one thing that is clear is that these choices that are necessary need to be based on some sort of ethical idea.”

He said in the case of the German people, it is “very ethical” to recognize that ordinary Germans had a part in the war crimes that occured during World War II.

“But at the same time, it’s deeply unethical and self-serving to take that idea and cushion it by coming up with these very apologetic and redemptive narrative traits,” Benkert said. “It’s on us to concentrate … (on) what we chose to remember and what we chose to forget.”

SUNY professor David Kaplin to discuss modern forgeries in Heritage Lecture Series


The term “fake news,” used to describe deliberate misinformation spread by mainstream print, broadcast and social media, is a relatively recent concept, its nomenclature usually attributed to President Donald Trump.

The idea of fake art, on the otherhand, is nothing new. Artistic forgeries are probably as old as art itself. Literary forgeries followed suit. Now there are digital forgeries, too. Scientific advancements have made it easier to detect such fakery, but in an age of relativism, does it really matter what is phony and what isn’t?

David Kaplin

David Kaplin is an associate professor of English at SUNY Fredonia who once practiced trademark law on Wall Street. He has studied literary piracy in the 19th century, particularly as it relates to the flagrant violations of international copyright law that vexed contemporaneously popular writers like Charles Dickens.

Kaplin’s research has led him to explore more modern iterations of such nefarious practices, and at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Aug.3, in the Hall of Christ, he will present his findings in a program called “Modern Forgeries: From Digital Plagiarism to the Phony Kouros at the Getty,” as part of the Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series.

There have been a number of infamous literary hoaxes in the past 50 years, most notably the Howard Hughes “autobiography” perpetrated by Clifford Irving in the 1970s and the forged “Hitler Diaries” in Germany in the 1980s. But Kaplin believes that for sheer chutzpah, the American writer Lee Israel may take the cake.

Israel had published three tepidly received celebrity biographies when, in the 1990s, she began forging — and later stealing and selling — letters from such luminaries as Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Eugene O’Neill and Lillian Hellman, to name a few. In her own memoir, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which will be released as a movie starring Melissa McCarthy this fall, Israel boasted of her prowess using old manual typewriters and aged paper to fool libraries and collectors around the world.

“I love the idea that she was very proud of that stuff,” Kaplin said. “She portrays herself as an endearing misanthrope.”

Israel was not the only colorful fabulist in recent history.

Mark Landis, a prolific art forger who specialized in medieval paintings, bamboozled 46 major museums, including the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, according to Kaplin.

“He is an amazing character,” Kaplin said. “He got his materials at Hobby Lobby. He liked to dress up as a Jesuit priest.”

Unlike Israel, who was convicted and sentenced to house arrest, Landis never ran afoul of the law. That’s because he donated all of his work, often in the name of imaginary family members in France, Kaplin said.

“He said he did it because he liked the way people treated him,” Kaplin said. “He thought, ‘What difference does it make? All that matters is what it looks like.’ We want these things to be real.”

Another forger, Robert L. Trotter, was sentenced to 10 months in prison in the 1990s for cheating people with bogus 19th-century folk art.

“He started off selling paintings for a few hundred dollars each, but he got greedy,” Kaplin said. “He was arrested in an FBI sting for forging a painting ostensibly by John Haberle.”

Why people continue to forge fraudulent artwork may seem puzzling, Kaplin said, because the chances of being exposed are actually high.

“Forgeries are easily called out by the science of detection today,” including radiocarbon dating and pyrolysis gas chromatography, he said. Kaplin noted that a team from Buffalo State College was employed to test one of Trotter’s “19th-century” paintings, and found that the binding agent used to get the paint to adhere to the canvas had not been developed until 2000.

On the other hand, Kaplin said, an estimated 20 percent of all major museum holdings are forgeries, and the percentage at some museums is even higher.

Just this spring, more than half of the paintings at the Etienne Terrus museum in France — 82 out of 140 pieces — were determined to be fake, Kaplin said.

But does it really matter? Was Landis right that “all that matters is what it looks like?”

A Statue of a Kouros is thought to be from about 530 B.C or modern forgery. The statue will be one of the topics disciussed in David Kaplin’s Aug. 3 lecture on forgery.

In 1985, the J. Paul Getty Museum in California paid $10 million for a kouros, a statue of a standing, nude youth popular in ancient Greece.

“These archeologists claimed it was from the fourth century B.C.,” Kaplin said. “It was presented to curators, who tested it extensively and found it to be in accordance with similar statues. They tested the marble. They really went over it. So the Getty got excited and prepared for a grand showing, but just before that, they called in other experts who said ‘No, no, no! There’s something wrong with this!’”

When the statue was uncloaked at lavish dinner party in 1986, “the audience gasped and fell silent,” Kaplin said. “Then they said, ‘Oh, my God! It’s fake!’ Everyone who knew anything about this kind of art knew it was fake.”

And yet, the Getty still exhibits the controversial kouros. The museum’s catalogue describes it as: “Date: About 530 B.C. or modern forgery.”

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