Campus Theme: American Myth/American Reality
We are continually bombarded with narratives telling us who we are. Many such stories have reverberated for generations — passed by word of mouth, sung in songs, enacted in rituals and traditions, institutionalized in laws, reified in textbooks, memorialized in popular culture, literature, art and architecture, and amplified in political discourse. These deeply embedded narratives permeate our culture and profoundly influence our self-understanding, but how accurately do they reflect the lived experiences of Americans past and present? Whose best interests do they help and whose do they hinder? When might we embrace a cultural myth as solid ground, and when should we jettison that truth for a different truth? The speakers and artists in this year’s Creative Intelligence series will help us interrogate “American Myth and American Reality.”
– Greg Partain, Director of Creative Intelligence
Creative Intelligence Events
Additional speakers will be added as they are confirmed. Specific details regarding attendance at the events — whether they are in person or virtual, or any specific health protocols — will be included as they become available.
Sept. 8: Jill Stratton ’91
Happiness is so ingrained in our society that the mere notion of being temporarily unhappy seems counter to living the American dream. The pursuit of happiness is even proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence as an unalienable right. Are we supposed to be happy all the time? Is happiness the ultimate life goal? What happens when we are not happy? Jill Stratton ’91, assistant provost at Vanderbilt University, will explore the idea of happiness in her talk “Don’t Worry, Be Happy: American Myth or Musical Hit?” Known by students as the Dean of Joy, she will include research on happiness in the discussion and answer the question: Does the Dean of Joy ever get sad?
- Creative Intelligence series kickoff and public talk — Thursday, Sept. 8, 4 p.m., Haggin Auditorium
Sept. 22: Jade Jones
Delcamp Visiting Musician
American singer, rapper and actor Jade Jones caused a sensation when they starred as Belle in Olney Theatre’s acclaimed production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” A self-described queer, plus-sized black woman, their performance shattered stereotypes. Jones will reflect on their on- and off-stage role in “redefining beauty” in American culture and will help us examine “what it means to know your worth and own it.” They will also perform selections from the show.
- Creative Intelligence Speaker, Delcamp Visiting Musician — Thursday, Sept. 22, 7 p.m., Carrick Theater
Nov. 2: Les Johnson
In his day job, physicist Les Johnson ’84 serves as principal investigator of NASA’s first two interplanetary solar sail space missions and leads research on other advanced space propulsion technologies. In his spare time, he has published popular science and science fiction books, including “The Traveler’s Guide to the Stars.” A Transylvania graduate, Johnson is excited to return to his alma mater to visit classes and present a talk titled “You Don’t Have to be Neil Armstrong or “Big Bang Theory’s” Sheldon Cooper to Work at NASA.”
- Public talk followed by book signing — Wednesday, Nov. 2, 7 p.m., Carrick Theater
Nov. 3: Conversations with young adult literature authors David Arnold, Heather Henson, Kaitlyn Hill ’16 and Mariama J. Lockington
Creative Intelligence and Transylvania’s education program present four successful authors of young adult fiction from our region who will explore themes related to today’s youth culture. The “Stories and Myths of American Youth” discussion topics will include the craft and career of storytelling and fiction writing and how the arts and humanities offer powerful, necessary tools for living a good life.
Nov. 10: Ada Limón
Delcamp Visiting Writer
U.S Poet Laureate Ada Limón, who lives here in Lexington, will give a poetry reading followed by a Q&A and book signing at Transylvania. The event is part of Transylvania’s Delcamp Visiting Writer series and sponsored by other campus programs including Creative Intelligence, Crucial Terrain and the Hazelrigg-Humanities Endowment. Limón, whose poetry collection “The Carrying” won a National Book Critics Circle Award, began her term as the nation’s 24th poet laureate Sept. 1.
Jan. 12: “Masculinity Reimagined” Panel discussion with artists Justin Korver and John Paul Morabito, and exhibit curator Josh Porter ‘19
Curator Josh Porter ‘19 sits down with artists Justin Korver and John Paul Morabito to discuss the artwork and themes of the current Morlan Gallery exhibition MASCS: Masculinity Reimagined, which explores how performances of contemporary masculinities can counteract traditional, binary understandings of gender.
- Panel Discussion — Thursday, Jan 12, 6 p.m., register to participate live via Zoom
Jan. 19: Transylvania Faculty Panel Discussion
“Myths of Empire” — Professors Gregg Bocketti, Michael Cairo, and Steve Hess
The United States supposedly embodies universal values that assume what is good for America is good for the world. This idea convinces Americans and our leaders that our empire is a benevolent one, but the ideal is often at odds with the practice. What are the myths of the American empire and the reality of historical and contemporary American practice? Join professors Bocketti (history), Cairo (political science) and Hess (political science) for an evening of penetrating analysis.
- Panel discussion followed by Q&A — Thursday, Jan. 19; 7 p.m., Carrick Theater
Jan. 25: Anton Treuer
Anton Treuer, professor of Ojibwe at Minnesota’s Bemidji State University, has authored 19 books about indigenous culture and history, including “Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask” and “The Indian Wars: Battles, Bloodshed, and the Fight for Freedom on the American Frontier.” A frequent guest speaker and clinician, his equity, education and cultural work has put him on a path of service around the region, nation and world. Treuer comes to Transylvania through the joint efforts of Creative Intelligence, Cultural Terrain and the Hazelrigg Lecture Series for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Watch his TED Talk.
- Public Talk: “Reconciliation Begins with Truth” — Wednesday, Jan. 25, 7 p.m., Carrick Theater
- Class visits on Jan. 24 and 25
Feb. 13: Fernando Valverde
“America: Poetic Perspectives from the Outside”
Recently deemed by 200 critics and researchers the most relevant Spanish language poet born since 1970, Fernando Valverde has been widely published and translated throughout Europe and America. In “America,” he brings a poet’s sensibilities and outsider’s perspectives to an examination of political divisions in contemporary America.
“Mournfully lyrical, politically sharp, with a sweeping view of American roots, dysfunctions, and ideals ― as if from above, and yet also from within ― this is a book that deconstructs the legacy of empire.”Copper Canyon Press
- Public Talk: Readings from “America” and Book Signing — Monday, Feb. 13, 5 p.m., Carrick Theater
March 2 and 3: Imani Perry
If there were one impact I’d like my work to have, it would be that people would cease talking about African American history and culture in terms of deprivation or inadequacy and actually acknowledge its depth and complexity and beauty.Imani Perry
Interdisciplinary scholar, cultural historian, public intellectual, and bestselling author of “South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation” (National Book Award winner), Imani Perry has garnered accolades for her penetrating insights into the interweaving myths and realities that infuse America’s past and present.
[“South to America is”] an elegant meditation on the complexities of the American South — and thus America — by an esteemed daughter of the South and one of the great intellectuals of our time. An inspiration.Isabel Wilkerson
Engaging, accomplished, and illuminating, Imani Perry is a Renaissance threat. Gifted in scholarship and fluid in her expression of complex ideas, she is already one of the nation’s great public intellectuals. She’s the best of best right now.Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels
Imani Perry is one of the greatest thinkers of our time.”Tarana Burke, founder of #MeToo
- Kenan Lecture and book signing — Thursday, March 2, 7 p.m., Haggin Auditorium
- Moderated conversation followed by Q&A — Friday, March 3, 10:30 a.m., Carrick Theater
March 27: Emily Bingham
“My Old Kentucky Home”
In her new book, “My Old Kentucky Home: The Astonishing Life and Reckoning of an Iconic American Song,” historian Emily Bingham untangles and reassesses the legacy of this popular tune. From its origin as a blackface minstrel sensation penned by Stephen Foster to its role as Kentucky’s state song and Kentucky Derby theme song, “My Old Kentucky Home” has worked its way into the bloodstream of American life. Few tunes are better known. But how well known really? Bingham asks: How can a melody be so memorable, yet so formed by forgetting?
A powerful story of how, exactly, we fool ourselves into thinking the past is pastThe Washington Post
Bingham asks readers to think critically about a song cherished by many and to consider the price of nostalgia.Library Journal
Public talk followed by book signing — Monday, March 27, 5 p.m., Strickland Auditorium