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Sept. 11: Humanities Lectures To Explore "Mechanization" Theme


Jonathan Potts

Carnegie Mellon Humanities Lectures To Explore Theme of "Mechanization"

PITTSBURGH—The Humanities Center at Carnegie Mellon University will launch its 2007-08 lecture series on Thursday, Sept. 27, with a talk by Jonathan Sawday, chair of English Studies at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. The event will begin at 4:30 p.m. in the Adamson Wing of Baker Hall (136A) with remarks by Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Sawday's talk is titled "Calculating Engines: Minds, Bodies, Sex and Machines in the Enlightenment." The lecture is co-sponsored by the Pittsburgh Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, which is a group of scholars and students interested in the art, literature, history, philosophy and culture of the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Early Modern period. Its members represent a range of institutions, including Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne University, the University of Pittsburgh, West Virginia University, Chatham University and Slippery Rock University.

The theme of this year's Humanities Center lecture series is "Mechanization." The mechanization of physical and intellectual labor has had an enormous impact on economic and social developments, as well as on human self-understanding. In the fall, the lectures will present facets of historical developments, beginning with a discussion of mechanical devices in the 17th century and the mechanistic turn in the thinking of Descartes, Hobbes and Leibniz. The historical sketch ends with Turing's abstract computing machines and their realization in modern computers. In the spring, the lectures will focus on contemporary applications of computational theory and technology, but also related, deeply human problems.

The lecturers and lectures for the fall are as follows:

  • Oct. 15: Norton Wise, UCLA — Wise's talk, "Why Were Victorian Automata Female," will take place at noon in Rangos 1 in the University Center.
  • Nov. 2: Joel Mokyr, Northwestern University — Mokyr's talk is titled "Mechanization, The Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution in Britain." It is set for 4:30 p.m. in the Adamson Wing.
  • Nov. 15: "Italian Futurism" — This performance, the details of which are a surprise, takes place at 4:30 p.m. in the Adamson Wing.
  • Nov. 29: Martin Davis, New York University and the University of California, Berkeley — Davis will speak at 4:30 p.m. on "Alan Turing's Computers and Our Computers" in the Adamson Wing.

The Humanities Center fosters collaboration of faculty members from the university's humanities departments who aim to strengthen research and teaching in the humanities; develop ties between humanities faculty and faculty in other disciplines; and nurture a greater role for the humanities in an increasingly technological and global society. The Humanities Center is part of the university's Humanities Initiative, an effort to broaden and make more visible the humanities at Carnegie Mellon.