J. Edward Wright
Director of the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies

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J. Edward Wright
Director of the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies

Professor J. Edward Wright, director of the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Arizona, is an expert in early Jewish history and religion with particular interest in the field of early Jewish apocryphal texts. Wright’s book The Early History of Heaven traces the origin and development of the images of the heavenly realm in earliest Judaism and Christianity. He has also co-edited three other books on heaven and the afterlife. Wright was the president of the William F. Albright Institute for Archaeological Research in Jerusalem from 2006-12 and was named a lifetime trustee in 2013. Wright has received the UA’s Leicester and Kathryn Sherrill Creative Teaching Award and the UA Five Star Teaching Award. 

The Histories and Mysteries of Heaven

J. Edward Wright

Wednesday, October 14, 2015 -
6:30pm to 7:30pm

Many people imagine heaven as a spectacularly beautiful place somewhere “up there” where God resides and where loved ones are finally and eternally united. How did the hope for a blessed afterlife arise and evolve in Western religions? Why did the hope for a heavenly afterlife become so powerful? And what do our images of the afterlife reveal about our deepest fears and highest hopes as humans today? In this lecture, Professor Wright will address these and other questions related to the power of afterlife beliefs and images of heaven. He will also explore possibilities for future images of the afterlife in light of recent advances in technology and modern science. 

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Mary C. Stiner
Regents' Professor of Anthropology

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Mary C. Stiner
Regents' Professor of Anthropology

Mary C. Stiner is Regents’ Professor in the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona. She conducts archaeological research on human ancestors, paleoeconomics and social evolution across the Mediterranean Basin. She is particularly interested in the ever-changing relationship between human societies and Eurasian ecosystems. With an expertise in zooarchaeology, she has worked on a wide range of topics in human evolution, Paleolithic archaeology, hunter-gatherer ecology, the transition from hunter-gatherer to early village economies, and early art as media for visual communication.

Love and Death in the Stone Age

Mary C. Stiner

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 -
6:30pm to 7:30pm

When we die, we live on as a persistent presence in the minds and memories of our loved ones.  Loved ones left behind have many ways of maintaining connections with their deceased, most notably marked burials in quiet places where the living are likely to return and visit.  Humans are the only kind of animal that buries their deceased loved ones and, as it happens, this gesture is preserved in some ancient archaeological sites. The emergence of burial traditions in the Stone Age implies that certain pre-modern humans (the Neanderthals) had already begun to care for the person as a unique, irreplaceable individual. In this lecture, Professor Stiner explores the origins of this essential human development, which likely represents the first cognitive bridge between the living and the deceased in human evolution.

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Jerrold Hogle
University Distinguished Professor of English

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Jerrold Hogle
University Distinguished Professor of English

Jerrold E. Hogle is a University Distinguished Professor in the University of Arizona Department of English. Hogle is the winner of multiple teaching and research awards, including a Guggenheim, Mellon, and the Distinguished Scholar Award of the Keats-Shelley Association of America. He has published extensively on English Romantic literature; literary and cultural theory; and the many different forms of the Gothic. His books include Shelley’s Process; The Undergrounds of The Phantom of the Opera; and The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction. Hogle has also served as the elected President of the International Gothic Association.

The Dark Immortality of the Vampire

Jerrold Hogle

Wednesday, October 28, 2015 -
6:30pm to 7:30pm

In time for Halloween, Professor Hogle will explore the surprising evolution of the vampire as an immortal being and why it has has become increasingly popular as both a desirable and an ominous figure.  For centuries, the mythic figure of the vampire embodied an evil immortality, bent on sucking life-blood from the living. Incorporated into 19th century Gothic fiction, this figure became symbolic of social and psychological evils, such as (sadly) the threat to "white purity" from the blood of other races, the depravity of the old-world aristocracy (as in Count Dracula), or the feared aggressiveness and greater independence of "liberated" women. But towards the end of the 20th century, the vampire-figure started to become "good" in some fictions and films. What does this recent change say about our modern social and cultural values? 

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Rachana Kamtekar
Associate Professor of Phillosophy

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Rachana Kamtekar
Associate Professor of Phillosophy

Rachana Kamtekar is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona.  She specializes in Ancient Greek philosophy, and has written many articles on ancient ethics, politics, and psychology, along with a few articles on the relevance of the ancients to contemporary moral psychology.  She is currently completing a book entitled 'Plato's Moral Psychology'.

Two Ancient Philosophers on Why Death is No Evil

Rachana Kamtekar

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 -
6:30pm to 7:30pm

What happens to us after we die?  The ancient philosopher Plato claims that our soul is immortal and after death, undergoes reward or punishment, followed by reincarnation.  Another ancient philosopher, Epicurus, argues that our soul disperses at death, extinguishing our consciousness.  Yet neither philosopher thinks that death is to be feared, and both argue that understanding death gives us reason to live a philosophical life in the present.  Philosophy professor Rachana Kamtekar explains how Plato and Epicurus came to such similar conclusions from very different starting points and explores the relevance of their views for us today.

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Shaun Nichols
Professor of Philosophy

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Shaun Nichols
Professor of Philosophy

Shaun Nichols, a professor of philosophy at the University of Arizona, studies the psychological underpinnings of how people think about philosophical issues such as free will, morality, and the self. Nichols, a leader in the growing movement of experimental philosophy, is the author of Sentimental Rules: On the Natural Foundations of Moral Judgment and Bound: Essays on Free Will and Moral Responsibility. He has published over 100 articles in academic journals and been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Institutes of Health, and the John Templeton Foundation. In 2013, Nichols’ research was selected by UC Riverside to be part of the Immortality Project.

The Elusive Self in Life and Death

Shaun Nichols

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 -
6:30pm to 7:30pm

Professor Shaun Nichols and his research team spent months exploring attitudes towards death among Hindus and Tibetan Buddhists in India. His exploration was prompted by the philosophical argument that we should not fear the idea of death because there is no enduring self that remains exactly the same even during biological life. At most we (our selves) are a collection of values, convictions, and memories undergoing constant change. From this perspective, the future “you" who dies will not be the same person as “you" today.  Because Tibetan Buddhists embrace the concept that there is no enduring self throughout biological life, they should be less afraid of death at the end of biological life. But are they? His findings may surprise you.

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