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The Oregon Rare Books Initiative will present three lectures this year thanks to a third year of funding from the Oregon Humanities Center, in addition to support from the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography at University of Virginia’s Rare Book School, as well as support from co-sponsors Special Collections and University Archives and the Clark Honors College.

October 5, 2016:
“Why Pardons Fail.”
Cynthia Herrup, emertia, History, University of Southern California.
Whenever a presidency draws to its end, we Americans brace for the announcement of the president’s final pardons. We brace and then we complain: should George W Bush have commuted the sentence of Scooter Libby? Was it right for Bill Clinton to pardon financier Marc Rich? Had Gerald Ford promised in advance to pardon Richard Nixon? Pardons are meant to do good —to evoke mercy and to provide a necessary remedy to the sometimes overly harsh application of the law, but it is far easier to name scandals attached to them than wrongs righted. We accept the necessity of pardons but we fret that they are unfair, socially biased and too often products of special access. We don’t lack for critiques of pardoning, but these critiques usually concentrate on the specifics of who gives pardons, who gets pardons, and who benefits from pardons. In this lecture I want to turn in a different direction, to show how the history of pardoning in the early modern era suggests that the problem with pardons lies in the concept of pardoning itself. By looking at the history of pardons in the tumultuous world of seventeenth-century England, we can begin to rethink why we have pardons and whether they can ever do what we expect of them.

January 18, 2017:
“From Here to Utopia: Imagining Better Worlds from the Sixteenth Century to Today.”
Evan Gottlieb, English, Oregon State University.
Thomas More was not the first to imagine a world in which peace and plenty had been achieved, but his 1516 book gave this vision its modern name: “utopia.” This word, which More coined, comes from the Latin for “no place” (u-topia), but More was fully aware that his new term also sounded like “good place” (eu-topia). This ambivalence – the best place is by definition one that doesn’t exist – has dogged the concept ever since. How did we get from More’s earnest “good place” to today’s disdain for “utopian thinking”? This talk will consider the modern evolution of utopian thought in Western literature and related arts, looking for clues to help understand the shift from the Renaissance’s faith in the possibility of a better world to today’s pop culture obsession with dystopian visions. One important turning point, I will argue, came during the Romantic Era, when the democratic visions inspired by the French Revolution gave way not only to the Terror and the Napoleonic Wars, but also to a dispiriting conservative backlash following Napoleon’s defeat. Ever since, I will argue, utopian visions have frequently been met or accompanied by skepticism and even cynicism. But with ecological catastrophe looming, can we really afford to give up on imagining a better world?

April 19, 2017:
"The Graphic Nature of Projects."
Vera Keller, History, Clark Honors College. Modernity is unthinkable without projects. We all pursue projects, large and small, in our intellectual research as well as in our daily lives, which are in turn shaped by projects on the local, national, and global levels. We might be surprised to learn, however, that the term project in its modern sense as a plan for the future (rather than literally something thrown out or forward, from the Latin, “pro + icere”) is only a few centuries old. The modern project originated in sixteenth-century graphic practices, as an architectural, engineering or military sketch adumbrating a future building, rampart, or battle arrangement. Only slowly, across the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, did the term come to mean a way to envision and shape the future. The 1720 Great Mirror of Folly (Grote Tafereel der Dwaasheid), which explored the first major stock market crash in a riot of innovative political cartoons, played a role in spreading the notion of a project and re-shaping graphic views of the less-than-savory figure of the “projector.”

All events take place at 4:45 p.m. in the Knight Library Browsing Room. For more information about the Oregon Rare Books Initiative go to: blogs.uoregon.edu/orbi

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