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Jonathan Kramnick talks literature in speaker series

Guest speaker Jonathan Kramnick is ready to enthrall students and faculty alike as part of this year’s “Critical Speakers Series,” presented by UNC’s Department of English and Comparative Literature.

Kramnick will give two presentations while on campus — the first one, “Presence of Mind,” is scheduled for today, and will be followed by a seminar Friday entitled “Literary Studies and Science.”

“It’s about giving our teachers, faculty and staff exposure to the literary issues of the day and giving them a chance to really talk about those issues,” said English professor David Baker.

Baker said he helped organize this year’s speakers for the series and invited Kramnick to be one of the featured lecturers.

“We bring in distinguished, topical lecturers that speak on issues relevant to our faculty and research,” Baker said.

“I personally admire (Kramnick) for the lucidity of his thinking and his ability to incorporate analytical philosophy into his approach.”

Kramnick is a professor of 18th century literature and philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. His ideas about the relationship between the literary arts and sciences will be the main feature of the lectures.

He said the more specific content of the lectures is difficult to relay outside of an academic talk, but that the first deals more with literary history, while the second is more of an informal discussion about science and literature.

“This is about the conversation between the disciplines,” he said. “About the attempts to bridge academic work between the humanities and the sciences.”

The conversation about literary arts and sciences has grown larger in recent years and has become a contentious and exciting issue for academics to explore, said Bridget Donnelly, a graduate student in UNC’s English department.

Donnelly also works in the field of 18th century literature and will be interviewing Kramnick for the “Ethos” digital review journal at today’s lecture.

“I think that both the talk and seminar are really going to bring a lot to the table, both for those in the department and in general,” she said.

The lectures each have assigned readings for the attendants to go over, which are available on the UNC Department of English website. The discussions are free and open to anyone who would like to join in the dialectic.

“Based on (Kramnick’s) work that I’ve seen, he’s bringing a whole lot,” Donnelly said. “All of our speakers are always interesting, but I think he’s going to be one of the best so far.”

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