Assembly Series presents trio of talks; announces changes, additions

Three programs highlight the Assembly Series schedule this week, with presentations by cultural historian Janice Radway, Ph.D.; computer scientist Jonathan Schaeffer, Ph.D.; and a panel discussion on the legacy of George Washington.

The art and act of popular reading

Radway will speak at noon Tuesday, Feb. 17, in the Women’s Building Formal Lounge. She is a cultural historian and literary scholar who examines the art as well as the act of reading.

Her books “Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy and Popular Literature” (1984) and “A Feeling for Books: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste and Middle Class Desire” (1997) look at the excitement and satisfactions of “middlebrow” reading.

Radway, the Frances Fox Professor of Literature at Duke University, has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her work centers on the study of girls’ self-generated cultural production such as girls’ zines, Web pages, collages, decorated backpacks and other cultural products.

In March, Radway will publish “Print in Motion: The Expansion of Publishing and Reading in the United States” with Carl Kaestle, Ph.D. She co-edited an anthology of American studies, also debuting in March.

Radway earned a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate from Michigan State University; she earned a master’s degree from the State University of New York.

Her talk is titled “Zines, Half-Lives and After-Lives: On the Temporalities of Social and Political Change.” The lecture also is one of this year’s Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities Lecture Series.

— Barbara Rea

The interplay between man and technology

The development of high-performance game-playing computer programs has been one of the major successes of artificial intelligence research. That is the subject of Canadian researcher Schaeffer’s talk at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18, in Steinberg Hall Auditorium.

Schaeffer created the Chinook project to build a computer program capable of winning the human World Checkers Championship. It took 18 years, and to play better than the best human, the computer had to be perfect.

Schaeffer said what started out as a research project quickly became a personal quest. He will talk about the interplay between people and technology in the William C. Ferguson Lecture “Computer (and Human) Perfection at Checkers.”

To appreciate this story, he said, no detailed knowledge of computer science or checkers is needed. His book, “One Jump Ahead: Challenging Human Supremacy in Checkers” (1997), chronicles the technical achievements of Chinook, including a solid discussion of how computers “think” when they play, and provides valuable, candid insights into human nature.

A native of Toronto, Schaeffer is a professor of computing science at the University of Alberta. From 2005-08, he chaired the department, and, in 2008, he became vice provost and associate vice president for information technology. He is involved in the university’s GAMES group developing computer poker systems.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Toronto and a master’s degree in mathematics and a doctorate in computer science, both from the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario.

— Mary Kastens

George Washington: the legend vs. the man

To commemorate the 277th anniversary of George Washington’s birth, WUSTL scholars will examine the legend versus the man and consider whether the philosophical and moral ambiguities he wrestled with during his lifetime have modern implications.

The event will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18, in the Women’s Building Formal Lounge.

Panelists are David Konig, Ph.D., professor of history in Arts & Sciences and of law in the School of Law; Linda Nicholson, Ph.D., the Susan E. and William P. Stiritz Distinguished Professor of Women’s Studies and professor of history, both in Arts & Sciences; and Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D., associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in political science in Arts & Sciences.

Konig teaches colonial American history and civilization. His research interests include the development of constitutional and legal institutions in early America, Anglo-American legal history and American culture studies.

Nicholson specializes in feminism, gender studies, relationships, women, men and social identity.

Rehfeld’s research interests include modern political thought, democratic theory, American political development and public policy. He has a joint appointment in social thought and analysis.

— Kurt Mueller

Changes to Assembly Series schedule

Since the initial announcement of the 2009 Assembly Series schedule was published, several changes and additions have been announced.

The following list provides the updated information at this time.

A Discussion About Race and Identity

4 p.m. Feb. 25, Danforth University Center Fun Room.

Students and faculty will converge for an informal and candid conversation about being a member of a minority group in America today.

Paul Alivisatos

11 a.m. March 4, Graham Chapel.

Nanoscience and its applications will play a major role in future scientific and medical breakthroughs, and Alivisatos is at the forefront of this revolution. His talk, the Compton Lecture, will describe his work and the promise it holds for creating new imaging tools.

Janine Benyus

5:30 p.m. March 19, location TBA.

Benyus is a leading theorist and practitioner of the new discipline of biomimicry, which develops sustainable technologies inspired by ideas from nature. Benyus’ talk is sponsored by Engineers without Borders and the College of Architecture and the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Design.

Robert Osserman

4 p.m. March 25, Steinberg Auditorium.

The St. Louis Gateway Arch is not only a monumental architectural structure, but it’s also a mathematical marvel. Osserman will explore the concepts involved in the Arch’s design.

Henry “Roddy” Roediger III

4 p.m. March 30, Graham Chapel.

Roediger, Ph.D., the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Arts & Sciences, will deliver the annual Phi Beta Kappa Lecture.

An expert in human memory function, his most recent research focuses on applying cognitive psychology to improve learning in educational situations.

Morgan Spurlock

7 p.m. April 1, Graham Chapel.

In 2005, Spurlock received an Oscar nomination for “Super Size Me,” an indictment of Americans’ unhealthy eating habits. His film “Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?” was released in 2008.

This is the Congress of the South 40 Lecture.

Richard Martin

4 p.m. April 9, Steinberg Auditorium.

The distinguished scholar in Homeric poetry and ancient Greece will deliver the annual Biggs Lecture in the Classics.

Martin’s work centers on the way in which Homer was appreciated as performance art in his time and compares ancient Greek poetry with modern rap.

‘The Onion’ guys

7 p.m. April 9, Graham Chapel.

Newscasters Chad Nackers and John Harris of The Onion will bring their satire to campus.

This program is sponsored by WUnderground and Neureuther Library Lecture.

Theresa Wilson

11 a.m. April 15, Graham Chapel.

Wilson is leading thousands of women in some of the poorest countries out of poverty with her nonprofit organization, The Blessing Basket.

The Women’s Society of Washington University Adele Starbird Lecture, “Making a Purchase that Makes a Difference: The Blessing Basket Project,” will close the series.

For the most current information on Assembly Series programs, visit or call 935-5285.

All programs are free and open to the public.