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Last update: 2015-08-03

Kirsten Downey, "Isabella: The Warrior Queen"

2015-08-03 :: Boston Athenæum

April 30, 2015 at the Boston Athenæum. In this book talk, Kirstin Downey, author of Isabella: The Warrior Queen, will speak about Isabella of Castile, the Queen of Spain who became one of the most influential female rulers in history. Just as Isabella was a queen in a world of kings, female members of the Athenæum have navigated what librarian Charles Knowles in the Athenæum Centenary called “a man’s institution” for the majority of its history. (Barbara Adams Hebard tackles this topic in her essay, "The Role of Women at the Boston Athenæum" in The Boston Athenæum Bicentennial Essays, which illuminates the hidden history of female contributions to the Athenæum since its inception.) Isabella’s life is not so hidden, sponsoring major historical events such as Christopher Columbus's journey to the New World and the Spanish Inquisition. Whether saintly or satanic, no female leader has done more to shape our modern world, in which millions of people in two hemispheres speak Spanish and practice Catholicism. Using new scholarship, Downey's luminous biography tells the story of this brilliant, fervent, forgotten woman, the faith that propelled her through life, and the land of ancient conflicts and intrigue she brought under her command.…

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Jeffrey Henderson, "The Loeb Classics for a Digital Age"

2015-08-03 :: Boston Athenæum

May 5, 2015 at the Boston Athenæum. Jeffrey Henderson, in his lecture The Loeb Classics for a Digital Age, will reflect on the durability and adaptability of the works of the Loeb Classical Library. Over the millennia, these works have been adapted to new vehicles and systems of reference and organization. The new digital version is the latest of many previous forms: the Greek oral tradition was first captured in writing around the eighth century BCE, after which it was committed to handwritten scroll, handwritten codex, to printed codex, now to the computer in the twenty-first century, and surely to more media in years to come. Each new medium has resulted in unanticipated effects as writers and readers explored its capabilities and discovered its potential, and so it will be with the Loeb Classical Library in its new digital form.…

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Jean Findlay, "Chasing Lost Time: The Life of C.K. Scott Moncrieff: Soldier, Spy, and Translator"

2015-08-03 :: Boston Athenæum

May 14, 2015 at the Boston Athenæum. Since 1922, English-language readers have been able to leap into the prose of Proust thanks to translator C. K. Scott Moncrieff, who wrestled with Proust’s seven-volume masterpiece—published as Remembrance of Things Past—until his death in 1930. In her book, Chasing Lost Time: The Life of C.K. Scott Moncrieff: Soldier, Spy, and Translator, Jean Findlay reveals aspects of Scott Moncrieff’s life which have remained hidden behind the genius of the man whose reputation he helped build. Catholic and homosexual; a partygoer who was lonely deep down; secretly a spy in Mussolini’s Italy; publicly a debonair man of letters; a war hero described as “offensively brave,” whose letters from the front are remarkably cheerful—Scott Moncrieff was a man of his moment, thriving on paradoxes and extremes. In Chasing Lost Time, Findlay gives us a vibrant, moving portrait of the brilliant Scott Moncrieff, and of the era—changing fast and forever—in which he shone.…

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Jonathan Schneer, "Ministers at War: Winston Churchill and His War Cabinet"

2015-07-31 :: Boston Athenæum

June 3, 2015 at the Boston Athenæum. Prize-winning historian Jonathan Schneer investigates Winston Churchill and the role his cabinet played during the war in his book, Ministers at War. Churchill depended on a team of powerful ministers to manage the war effort as he rallied a beleaguered nation. Selecting men from across the political spectrum—from fellow Conservative Anthony Eden to leaders of the opposing Labor Party such as Clement Atlee—Churchill assembled a War Cabinet that would balance competing interests and bolster support for his national coalition government. The group possessed a potent blend of talent, ambition, and egotism, but Churchill masterfully kept the ministers’ rivalries and political challenges in check, paving the way for Britain’s victory.…

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Charles Spencer, "Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I"

2015-07-31 :: Boston Athenæum

February 26, 2015 at the Boston Athenæum. Killers of the King tells the shocking stories—including the fascinating fates—of the 59 men who signed the death warrant of Charles I of England in 1649. This act not only changed British history forever, but may it very well have reverberated across the ocean to the young British colonies, which more than a hundred years later also rose up against their king to become an independent country known as the United States. When Charles I’s son, Charles II, was restored to the throne in 1660, he set about enacting a deadly wave of retribution against all those responsible for his father’s death. Some of the "regicides"—the killers of the king—pleaded for mercy, while others stoically awaited their sentences. This powerful tale of revenge from the dark heart of England’s past, a unique contribution to seventeenth-century history, Killers of the King tells the incredible story of the men who dared to assassinate a monarch.…

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Neil L. Rudenstine, "Ideas of Order: A Close Reading of Shakespeare's Sonnets"

2015-07-31 :: Boston Athenæum

February 5, 2015 at the Boston Athenæum. Shakespeare’s Sonnets comprise the greatest single work of lyric poetry in English, as passionate, daring, intimate, and fiery as any love poems we may encounter. But they are often misunderstood: as W. H. Auden wrote, “more nonsense has been talked and written, more intellectual and emotional energy expended in vain, on the sonnets of Shakespeare than on any other literary work in the world.” Ideas of Order instills pleasure in this extraordinary verse, revealing an underlying narrative within the 154 poems that illuminates the work—providing a guide that inspires a new understanding of this complex masterpiece. Neil L. Rudenstine makes a compelling case for the existence of a dramatic arc within the work through an expert interpretation of the poems in relationship to each other: the jealousies, petty squabbles, reconciliations, discoveries, and longings. The sonnets show us a poet in turmoil who falls for a young man who returns his affections—and the love is utterly transformative, binding him in such an irresistible way that it survives a number of heartbreaks. This spell is only broken when a dark lady comes into the poet’s life, and he becomes enmeshed in another coupling of lust and betrayal.…

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Donald S. Frazier, "Blood on the Bayou: Vicksburg, Port Hudson, and the Trans-Mississippi"

2015-07-31 :: Boston Athenæum

March 10, 2015 at the Boston Athenæum. Blood on the Bayou: Vicksburg, Port Hudson, and the Trans-Mississippi takes a well-known story of the struggle for control of the Mississippi River in the American Civil War, and recasts it as a contest for control of African-American populations. The Emancipation Proclamation may have freed the slaves, but the task of actually moving these liberated people within Union borders and directing their labor to the benefit of the Union fell to the Federal army and navy. This book shows how the campaign to reduce Rebel forts west of the river also involved the creation of a black army of occupation and a remaking of the social and political landscape of Louisiana and the nation. The longer the military campaigns in the Mississippi Valley dragged on, the more Federal officials could feed liberated slaves into the system. No matter the outcome of the war, the Federal government set out to break slavery—forever.…

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Maureen Meister, "Arts and Crafts Architecture: History and Heritage in New England"

2015-07-31 :: Boston Athenæum

March 23, 2015 at the Boston Athenæum. Anyone who has spent time in New England will recognize the century-old buildings that Maureen Meister will discuss in a slide lecture based upon her new book—the first comprehensive study of Arts and Crafts architecture in the region. Focusing on the 1890s through the 1920s, she will explain how a group of Boston architects and craftsmen encountered English Arts and Crafts theorists, including John Ruskin and William Morris, and produced exquisite works of their own. Among the architects were Ralph Adams Cram, Lois Lilley Howe, Charles Maginnis, and R. Clipston Sturgis. They were conservative in some respects, promoting designs based on historical precedent and the region's heritage, while they also were forward-looking, blending Arts and Crafts values with Progressive Era idealism. Their legacy is apparent in landmarks honored today in cities and towns across New England.…

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Marc Shell, "Speaking from the Shore: Islands, Literature, and the Fate of Geography"

2015-07-31 :: Boston Athenæum

June 10, 2015 at the Boston Athenæum. Islandology is a fast-paced, fact-filled comparative essay in critical topography and cultural geography that cuts across different cultures and argues for a world of islands. Written by Marc Shell in view of the melting of the world's great ice islands, Islandology shows not only new ways that we think about islands but also why and how we think by means of them.…

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Roseanne Montillo, "The Wilderness of Ruin"

2015-07-31 :: Boston Athenæum

March 19, 2015 at the Boston Athenæum. In the early 1870s, local children begin disappearing from the working class neighborhoods of Boston. Several return home bloody and bruised after being tortured, while others never came back. With the city on edge, authorities believe the abductions are the handiwork of a psychopath, until they discover that their killer—fourteen-year-old Jesse Pomeroy—is barely older than his victims. The criminal investigation that follows sparks a debate among the world’s most revered medical minds and will have a long-lasting impact on the judicial system and medical consciousness for decades. The historical novel, The Wilderness of Ruin is a riveting tale of gruesome murder and depravity, but at its heart it depicts a great American city divided by class, a chasm that widens in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1872. Roseanne Montillo brings Gilded Age Boston to glorious life—from the genteel cobble stone streets of Beacon Hill to the squalid, overcrowded tenements of Southie—and here, too, is the writer Herman Melville, who, eager to understand both the child killer case and his own mental instability, enlists the aid of physician Oliver Wendell Holmes. With verve and historical detail, Roseanne Montillo explores this case that reverberated through all of Boston society to help us understand our modern hunger for the prurient and sensational.…

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Karen Corsano and Daniel Williman, "John Singer Sargent and His Muse: Painting Love and Loss"

2015-07-31 :: Boston Athenæum

June 11, 2015 at the Boston Athenæum. Learn more about this American artist by joining Karen Corsano and Daniel Williman for a discussion of their book, John Singer Sargent and His Muse: Painting Love and Loss. This sensitive and compelling biography sheds new light on John Singer Sargent’s art through an intimate history of his family, especially of his niece and muse, Rose-Marie Ormond. Between 1906 and 1912, John Singer Sargent documented the idyllic teenage summers of Rose-Marie and his own deepening affection for her serene beauty and good-hearted, candid charm. When his niece died tragically in a bombed church vault, Sargent expressed his grief on canvas: he made his last murals for the Boston Public Library a cryptic memorial to Rose-Marie and her husband, Robert. The book braids together the lives and families of Rose-Marie, Robert, and John Sargent while drawing on a rich trove of letters, diaries, journals, and the Athenæum Archive.…

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Gareth Williams, "House and Hound: Dogs in the English Country House"

2015-07-31 :: Boston Athenæum

April 13, 2015 at the Boston Athenæum. The Boston Athenæum is beloved for its tradition of welcoming well-behaved dogs into its beautiful interiors. In this Royal Oak Society lecture, Gareth Williams will discuss the role of dogs in historic, English country houses. Whilst many people focus on humans depicted in portraits upon English country house walls, it is the four-legged canine occupants of stately homes that are considered de rigueur members of a countryside retreat. From gaunt greyhounds shown in early English tapestries to pampered pooches whose beds have the same Colefax & Fowler chintz as their mistress’ sofas, dogs in England’s country houses command a place in history themselves. Depictions of hunting dogs and family pets abound in English country house collections including sculptures, textiles, tapestries, plaster work, and on tableware or porcelain. Country house doggie accoutrements include splendidly wrought silver and gold collars, dog bowls, and kennels designed by architects, and some bereft owners immortalized their pets’ passings with modest gravestones in pet cemeteries or sculpted garden monuments. Whether focusing on country squires’ dogs at English manor houses, members of hunting packs on grand estates, or dogs from the royal households, this illustrated lecture considers the cultural influences and artistic legacy of the English country house dog.…

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Austen Barron Bailly, "Thomas Hart Benton and the Modern American Woman"

2015-07-31 :: Boston Athenæum

July 13, 2015 at the Boston Athenæum. In Thomas Hart Benton and the Modern American Woman, Austen Bailly will speak about how American artist Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) pictured twentieth-century female experiences in America and saw American women as a means to make the mythic modern in his art. Benton met his Italian-born wife Rita Piacenza around 1917 on the heels of his early involvement with motion pictures in Fort Lee, New Jersey—America’s “first Hollywood.” The movies inspired Benton to chart a new artistic course to compete with the drama and power of movies. Rita, imagined as a glamorous leading lady in Benton’s self-portrait from about 1924, was key to the artist’s vision for presenting himself as new American art star. Like Hollywood directors, Benton cast women as leading and supporting players in authentic American stories and recognized their roles in American myths.…

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Laura Auricchio, "The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered"

2015-07-31 :: Boston Athenæum

July 21, 2015 at the Boston Athenæum. The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered is an "absorbing" (The Wall Street Journal), "sharp and moving" (Kirkus, starred review) biography of the Marquis de Lafayette, French hero of the American Revolution. Laura Auricchio looks past the storybook hero who cast aside family and fortune to advance the transcendent aims of liberty and justice commemorated in America’s towns, streets, and parks that bear his name. Auricchio gives us a rich portrait of the man, from birth to death a man driven by dreams of glory and felled by tragic, human weaknesses.…

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Stephen Kinzer "The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War

2014-04-08 :: Boston Athenæum

Stephen Kinzer discussing his work at the Boston Athenaeum on February 25, 2014.…

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Ben Bradlee, Jr., "The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams"

2014-04-08 :: Boston Athenæum

December 9, 2013 at the Boston Athenæum. Born in 1918 in San Diego, Ted Williams would spend most of his life disguising his Mexican heritage. During his 22 years with the Boston Red Sox, Williams electrified crowds across America—and shocked them, too: his notorious clashes with the press and fans threatened his reputation. Yet while he was a God in the batter’s box, he was profoundly human once he stepped away from the plate. Mr. Bradlee—the only biographer to have full access to Williams’s personal papers, letters, and home movies—has spent ten years gleaning new details about the athlete’s hardscrabble childhood; his spectacular baseball career; his years as a “Top Gun’’ pilot in two wars; a private life marked by affairs, explosion and dysfunction; and finally, the macabre cryonics affair that followed his death.…

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Boston Athenæum

The Boston Athenæum, a membership library, first opened its doors in 1807, and its rich history as a library and cultural institution has been well documented in the annals of Boston’s cultural life. Today, it remains a vibrant and active institution that serves a wide variety of members and scholars. With more than 600,000 titles in its book collection, the Boston Athenæum functions as a public library for many of its members, with a large and distinguished circulating collection, a newspaper and magazine reading room, quiet spaces and rooms for reading and researching, a children’s library, and wireless internet access throughout its building. The Art Department mounts three exhibitions per year in the institution's Norma Jean Calderwood Gallery, rotating selections in the Recent Acquisitions Gallery, and a number of less formal installations in places and cases around the building. The Special Collections resources are world-renowned, and include maps, manuscripts, rare books, and archival materials. Our Conservation Department works to preserve all our collections. Other activities for members and the public include lectures, panel discussions, poetry readings, musical performances, films, and special events, many of which are followed by receptions. Members are able to take advantage of our second- and fifth-floor terraces during fine weather, and to search electronic databases and our digital collections from their homes and offices.

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