Recent Colloquia

16 June 2015

Foss Lene
Professor in innovation and entrepreneurship in The Arctic University of Norway
Visiting Fellow, Judge Business School
Developing Entrepreneurial Universities

Global recessions and structural economic shifts are motivating government and business leaders worldwide to increasingly look to “their” universities to stimulate regional development and to contribute to national competitiveness. The challenge is clear and the question is pressing: How will universities respond?

The speaker will discuss case narratives of ten universities from Norway, Finland, Sweden, UK, and the U.S. that have overcome significant challenges to develop programs and activities to commercialize scientific research, launch entrepreneurial degree programs, establish industry partnerships, and build entrepreneurial cultures and ecosystems. The universities are quite diverse: large and small; teaching and research focused; internationally recognized and relatively new; located in major cities and in emerging regions. Each case narrative describes challenges overcome, actions taken, and resulting accomplishments.

The talk will be of interest to policymakers and university administrators as well as researchers and students interested in how different programs and activities can promote university entrepreneurship while contributing to economic growth in developed and developing economies.

Duration: 1h43

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2 June 2015

Heide Estes
Professor of English, Monmouth University
Visiting Fellow, Clare Hall
An Enemy Robbed Me of Life
Voices of Nature in Old English Poetry

In a series of Riddles written in about the year 1000, animals, plants, and even ore from the earth complain about being torn from their homes and deprived of life so as to become things useful to humans – a book, a bow, an inkwell.

These Riddling voices seem to answer back to Beowulf and similar heroes, who indiscriminately slaughtered animals and monsters alike with regard only for human priorities.

We tend to think that early cultural formations gave humans more access and empathy for natural environments and that modern alienation from nature emerged as a result of the Industrial Revolution. However, the models articulated in Beowulf and the Riddles suggest that utilitarian ideas about nature existed 1000 years ago alongside a recognition that humans did not possess the only voices worth listening to.

Duration: 1h00

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19 May 2015

Rosanna Cantavella, Professor of Medieval Catalan Literature
Universitat de Valencia, Visiting Fellow.
Sexual education in the Middle Ages

Yes: hard to believe as it may be, sexual education was taught in the Middle Ages throughout Western Europe. From the twelfth century on, a number of erotodidactic texts were written for the youth, following the steps of Ovid’s Ars Amandi.

These works – whether by Ovid, or its quite different medieval sequels – were part of the syllabus for the elementary study of Latin grammar, apparently as a strong incentive for its advancement. They were given to very young schoolboys to prepare them for sex in puberty. No similar books are

registered for girls. The purpose of these medieval books was to teach how to seduce maidens in a gentlemanly manner. Erotodidactic texts are related to courtesy texts.

The medieval idea of sexual education was, of course, quite different from the contemporary one. No advice on contraception was given. Instead, a great deal of attention was paid to how a boy should verbally and physically prepare a girl for sex.

We’ll see a panorama of these medieval texts, written in Latin as well as in the vernacular, and will consider particularly the detailed advice given in a Catalan fourteenth-century amplification of one of these handbooks: the Facetus.

Duration: 1h26

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12 May 2015

Pieter Botha
South Africa’s Freedom Park
Considering land and religion in striving for identity

The recently completed Freedom Park is a national monument consisting of various elements, such as a memorial garden, a sanctuary, a wall of names, a sacred space and a museum.  It provides a profound representation of South Africa’s troubled past, evoking memories of forgotten names and long suppressed South African identities.

It attempts to establish parameters for ‘new’ cultural memories in a new South Africa. It provides a powerful contrast to the selective and violent views of South African history represented by many public monuments in South Africa, and the Park shapes meanings, values and identities appropriate to a struggling multi-cultural society.

In the museum, religious and land motifs dominate the exposition of these cultural and collective memories. In the presentation, the ‘African land’ receives considerable symbolic significance. The evocations of ‘sacred land’ as a basis for identity should be seen against South African history where the identity of South Africans was over determined by religion.

Racialised memory sets the context for almost every commemoration in South Africa, but the role of religion in these memories requires serious critical analysis.

Discussion of the Park’s visual experience raises the question whether, contrary to intention, unavoidable selection and/or concentration on topics and exhibits do not give rise to further problematic versions of the past.

Duration: 1h38

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28 April 2015

Mercedes Aguirre
Richard Buxton
Changing Perceptions of an Ogre

Greek myths have always been powerful resources for thinking and feeling: they are ‘good to think with’. We shall illustrate this with the example of Polyphemus, the best known of the one-eyed, anthropophagous, pastoral giants known as the Cyclopes.  

In the Odyssey Polyphemus is outwitted and blinded by Odysseus; in later Greco-Roman narratives he is the naive suitor of an unresponsive sea-nymph. Already in antiquity, myths about the Cyclopes raised issues relating to monstrosity, vision, and cannibalism. Cyclopean society was in part ‘ideal’, in part a negation of the values of culture.

Since antiquity, the Cyclopes have been a continuing cultural presence, in grottoes, operas and films; in Hugo, Joyce and Walcott; in Moreau, Redon and Paolozzi. A modern tendency has been to focus exclusively on the image of the eye. But Cyclopean tradition is far richer than that.  

Our talk will suggest some of the pathways and multiple meanings in that tradition.

Duration: 1h18

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24 March 2015

Mikiko Chimori
Gulliver in the Orient

Professor of Comparative Literature Teikyo University, Tokyo
Life Member, Clare Hall

The talk compares Japanese and English illustrations in various editions of Gulliver’s Travels published in Japan between 1880 and the early 1920s.

I am interested in how the Western illustrations in the English editions influenced Japanese illustrators and also the reverse process, as Japanese arts and culture in turn influenced British illustrators’ work.  In some cases the Japanese illustrators’ work is derivative and in others highly original.

I will look at illustrations used in several different translations of Gulliver’s Travels in the late nineteenth century as well as two published in the 1920s.

Duration: 1h07

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10 March 2015

Ruth Parkin-Gounelas
Regarding Animals
Regarding Humans

Emeritus Professor, English Literature and Culture, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

How should humans define themselves in relation to other animals? This familiar question has recently attracted new attention in several disciplines, with some radical results.

Jacques Derrida recreates a scene in which he stands naked before the gaze of a cat, experiencing both its ‘intolerable proximity’ and the ‘absolute alterity’ of its point of view. Animals, he argues, have been turned into a ‘theorem’, seen but not seeing. To be confronted by their gaze is to face up to ‘the abyssal limits of the human’.

The talk will explore ways in which disciplines from ethology and cognitive neuroscience to biopolitics and the philosophy of mind are unsettling definitions of human subjectivity which, since the Enlightenment, have excluded other animals. The effect of this work has been the increasing erosion of the distinctions humans have awarded themselves (speech, reason, having a relation to death, etc.). 

Examples from literature (EmilyDickinson, Kafka, J.M. Coetzee) will be included to illustrate the tensions and dislocations produced by the encroachment of other animals, with their uncanny proximity and alterity, upon the human domain.

Duration: 1h15

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24 February 2015

Gillian Brown
500 years of changing patterns in English English grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation

Professor of English Language & Director of the Research Centre in English & Applied Linguistics, 1988-2004

I shall focus most of the discussion on the standard English used in the south east of England to describe very briefly some changes in the structures and use of English over the last 500 years. 

I shall begin with the most obvious area of rapid change - vocabulary, looking at claims made for Shakespeare's vocabulary, the development of dictionaries, the diversification of English overseas and what's happening in England today. 

Then we'll consider a few of the big grammatical changes which were already taking place in the 16th century, speculating on the reasons for some of these changes before moving on to note changes currently in progress, some of which appear to be influenced by current social attitudes. 

Since I'm particularly interested in sound change, I shall give a slightly more extensive overview of some major changes during the last 500 years before drawing attention to a few of the remarkable changes which are happening now.

Duration: 1h11

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17 February 2015

Ian Goldberg
Privacy enhancing technologies: Combatting surveillance and censorship on the Internet

Associate Professor of Computer Science University of Waterloo, Canada
Visiting Fellow, Clare Hall

Over the last twenty years, the Internet has become an essential tool for global communication, collaboration, and commerce. Not all governments, however, are in favour of the free and open interactions that the Internet provides. 

In addition to the well-known Internet censorship performed by the so-called "Great Firewall of China" and other regimes, the revelations by Edward Snowden over the last year and a half have provided a glimpse into the level of mass Internet surveillance performed by Western governments. 

In this talk, we will look at some examples of such Internet surveillance and censorship, and give an overview of some of the more popular technologies used by journalists, activists, and others to safely communicate online without observation or interference.

Duration: 1h27

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10 February 2015

Michael Loewe
A journey up-­stream, on the day  of the Qingming festival 

University Lecturer in Chinese Studies 1963-­90
Fellow, Clare Hall

In about 1100, Zhang Zeduan painted a horizontal scroll that took as its theme the return journey that a family made back to Kaifeng, capital city of the Northern Song Dynasty (960­‐1127). 

They had been paying their annual visit to clean and repair the graves of their ancestors after the ravages of winter. They passed through farmland and along the river, with its shipping and its wharves; they encountered traders, bargaining with customers for wares just unloaded on the river bank, or on the stalls packed together on the river’s bridge. They saw the watermen at work manoeuvring their ships; they made their way through one of the main gates of the city and passed along its streets until reaching part of its centre. 

Finally they came to a street where drovers were hustling their animals and carts at greater and greater speed, amid the ever‐busy work of a city. Not far away, artisans were repairing a carriage; ladies were intent on their shopping; one was consulting a doctor about the health of her baby. As a climax to the painting Zhang Zeduan showed a dignified official, surveying the scene and doubtless drawing up his report. 

This painting may be valued not only as the creation of an artist but also as a source of information for scholars and historians who are concerned with China’s social structure, economic practice and technological development. 

Michael’s talk is illustrated by high a resolution scan of Zhang Zeduan’s painting prepared by Denis Bilodeau. 

The painting is regarded as one of the great achievements of Chinese art.

Duration: 1h08

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3 February 2015

Bruno Riccò
From Silicon to Graphene and Beyond
The hidden engine of change

Professor of Electronics, University of Bologna
Visiting Fellow, Clare Hall

We live in the Information society which is changing at unprecedented and ever increasing speed, shaped by the generation, transmission and processing of “information” (news, financial transactions, data, images, video, voice...). This is expressed in the digital language of computers, real engines of economic, social and cultural change.

The heart of computers is essentially made of silicon and after the ages of bronze and iron, the first and second industrial revolutions and the reign of steel, about sixty years ago we entered the age of silicon, present in all systems we use in our everyday life, often without knowing it.

Silicon development cannot last forever so two complementary strategies are being pursued at research level:  one seeks to extend the life of silicon technology, and the other seeks alternative materials. 

Graphene, a material discovered in the UK, is one of these alternatives.  

The results of this research will have a major role in shaping our future. New applications and markets are already in sight (domotics, wearable electronics, internet of things…) and others will certainly follow.  Endlessly?

Duration: 1h23

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25 January 2015

Emilia Wilton-Godberfforde
The Liar in Seventeenth-Century French Comedy
Liar, liar, pants on fire!

Junior Research Fellow, Clare Hall

In this colloquium I will explore the phenomenon lying and its comic potential. As the playground taunt reminds us, lying is incendiary, subversive and theatrical. The image of the falsifier aflame also points to hell-fire, the punishment inflicted for fraud. When catching the liar out others can enjoy seeing the transparent and hyperbolic nature of the fibber and view the liar as an amusing spectacle.

I look at how lying is presented on the stage in seventeenth century France, reflecting its provocative and scandalous nature and also its flamboyant, histrionic and even explosive dimension. I examine the process whereby characters construct narratives designed to trick, misdirect, dazzle, confuse or exploit their interlocutors.

This talk should appeal not only to those working in French literature, cultural studies and intellectual history but to anyone interested in how we communicate or miscommunicate and why we continue to be fascinated by trickery and deception. 

Duration: 1h05

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25 November 2014

Malcolm Longair
The Cavendish Laboratory, 1932 to 1953
Decline and Regeneration

Emeritus Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy, Emeritus Professorial Fellow and former Vice-President, Clare Hall.

1932 was an Annus Mirabilis at the Cavendish Laboratory, the culmination of the Laboratory's ascent to the forefront of physics associated with the names of Maxwell, Rayleigh, Thomson and Rutherford.

In 1938 Bragg inherited a laboratory in decline after its glory years.  Then WW2 intervened.  After the war, Bragg changed the direction of activity in the laboratory and within a decade it was back at the forefront of research with the discovery of the structure of DNA and the birth of radio astronomy.  How this came about reflects many changes in  research in physics, resulting from work during the war and the growth of Big Science.  

Duration: 1h27

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18 November 2014

Hasok Chang
Hans Rausing Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, and Professorial Fellow of Clare Hall
Is Water H2O?

Every schoolchild knows that water is H2O, but it was a terribly difficult thing for scientists to learn originally. The story of the changing ontology of water is not only fascinating in itself, but illustrates many important points about the nature of scientific knowledge and its development.

The story begins with the Chemical Revolution of the late 18th century, in which Lavoisier’s proposal that water was a compound of oxygen and hydrogen flew in the face of the traditional wisdom that it was an element. 

Cavendish, who made the first synthesis of water from hydrogen and oxygen, thought that hydrogen and oxygen were merely water with an excess/deficit of ‘phlogiston’. Priestley also defended the phlogiston theory. Even the electrolysis of water in 1800 failed to produce a consensus. 

Agreement that water was a compound was not the end of the story. Dalton gave the formula of water as HO and it took half a century before consensus was reached on the modern set of atomic weights and molecular formulas, including H2O.

Duration: 1h25

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4 November 2014

Boudewijn de Bruin
Professor of Financial Ethics, University of Groningen
Ethics and the global financial crisis
Why incompetence is worse than greed

To the extent that the global financial crisis is a moral crisis, most commentators have focused on banker bonuses, cultures of greed, shameless self-enrichment, and other forms of egoism.

But while unrestricted egoism is certainly a vice, I argue that the more serious moral defects in finance lie somewhere else. They have to do not so much with the motivation of bankers and other finance professionals, but rather with their competence, that is, with the way they gain and process information, make predictions, assess business risks, scrutinise clients, and so on.

Using insight from a recent strand in philosophy called ‘virtue epistemology’, I consider in this talk such things as the ethics of sub-prime mortgages, credit rating agencies and banks, as well as the way in which ‘epistemic virtues’ assisted in the uncovering of the Madoff scam.

Duration: 1h35

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28 October 2014

Laurie Zoloth
Professor of Religious Studies, Bioethics and Medical Humanities, Northwestern University
The Ethics of Translation
Power, Exchange, and Hospitality

Translation may be described as the central act of scholarship across a variety of disciplines: science, theology, philosophy and ethics.  

Scholars are often told that a subsidiary task of all research is translation: basic science needs to  ‘translate’ its theory into understandable public language, or to ‘translate’ research into clinical applications, and theologians and philosophers are urged to ‘translate’ philosophy into political and social policy.  Bioethicists ‘translate’ abstractions into pragmatic decisions.

What ethical judgments are at stake when we ‘translate’?  What is ‘lost in translation’ when theories of human agency are translated into practices, or when practices are re-inscribed, or translated into theory?  Where does the power in the relationship reside? 

This short presentation will explore both the underlying moral appeals in play when scholars ‘translate’ and raise questions about how to do so with both justice and generosity. 

Duration: 1h44

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14 October 2014

John Parker
Vice-President Clare Hall, formerly Director of the University Botanic Garden.
The man who knows everything
The life of John Stevens Henslow

Cambridge's pre-eminence in science began in the early 19th century. Prominent at the time was John Henslow who was a mathematician, naturalist, superb field geologist and founder member of the Cambridge Philosophical Society.  By 29, he was Professor of Mineralogy and of Botany.

He is remembered for recommending Darwin to the Beagle expedition but his research is less well known – the nature of species through understanding natural variation.  

His life changed dramatically in 1837 when he became Rector of a Suffolk parish. He refocused research to the application of science in agriculture and he helped poor labourers in the depressed agricultural economy of the time. His enduring legacy is his championing of universal education and the creation of the University Botanic Garden.

Duration: 1h17

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A Midnight Modern Conversation (Detail)
Engraving by
William Hogarth, 1732

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Updated  Nov.18.2014