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Presidential Lectures

The Presidential Lectures bring the most distinguished scholars, artists, and critics of our time to the Stanford University campus for lectures, seminars, panel discussions, and a variety of related interactions with faculty, students, and the community at large. The Presidential Lecture website contains complete biography information for these speakers.


Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author 
"An Evening with Junot Díaz" May 24, 2017


Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author 
"The American Scholar Now," October 29, 2015


Michael Ignatieff, Professor, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
"On Partisanship: Enemies and Adversaries in Politics,"October 15, 2012


Helen Vendler, A. Kingsley Porter University Professor, Harvard University
"Wallace Stevens as an American Poet", January 17, 2012  


Leon Botstein, President of Bard College, Music Director of the American Symphony Orchestra
"Music Between Nature and Architecture," April 26, 2011

Judith Jamison, Choreographer and Artistic Director, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
"An Evening With Judith Jamison," January 10, 2011

Robert Putnam, Malikin Professor of Public Policy, Harvard University; Visiting Professor and Director of the Graduate Programme in Social Change, University of Manchester
"American Grace: The Changing Role of Religion in America," November 15, 2010  


Mary Robinson, Founder of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative; President of Ireland 1990-1997; United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights 1997-2002
"Human Rights Strategies in the 21st Century," April 12, 2010

André Aciman, Distinguished Professor & Chair of (the PhD Program in) Comparative Literature, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
"Parallax: Exile as Metaphor," October 19, 2009  


James M. McPherson, George Henry Davis '86 Professor of American History Emeritus, Princeton University
"But There Was No Peace: The Aftermath of the Civil War," April 13, 2009

Daniel C. Dennett, Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, Tufts University
"The Evolution of 'Why' as the Key to Free Will," January 12, 2009

Seyla Benhabib, Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, Yale University
"Comopolitan Norms, Human Rights, and Democratic Iterations," October 27, 2008

Robert Wilson, Theater Director and Visual Artist
"1. Have You Been Here Before 2. No This Is The First Time, An Evening with Robert Wilson," October 1, 2008  


Marina Warner, Literature, Film & Theatre Studies, University of Essex, UK
"The Voice of the Toy: Writing Magic and Enchanted States," April 14, 2008

Richard Taruskin, Class of 1955 Professor of Music, University of California, Berkeley
"Shall We Change the Subject? A Music Historian Reflects," March 3, 2008

Partha Chatterjee, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University; Professor of Political Science, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta
"The Black Hole of Empire," November 7, 2007

Simon Schama, University Professor of Art History and History, Columbia University
"The Abolition of the Slave Trade Two Hundred Years On- America and Britain: Two Diverging Destinies?" October 29, 2007  


Joan W. Scott, Harold F. Linder Professor of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study
"Cover-Up: French Gender Equality and the Islamic Headscarf," April 30, 2007

Talal Asad, University Distinguished Professor in Anthropology, City University of New York Graduate Center
"Thinking About Blasphemy and Secular Criticism," October 9, 2006  


Amy Gutmann, President, University of Pennsylvania; Professor of Political Science
"Extremism," April 24, 2006

Douglas Hofstadter, College Professor of Cognitive Science and Computer Science, Indiana University, Bloomington
"Analogy as the Core of Cognition," February 6, 2006

Lani Guinier, Bennet Boskey Professor of Law, Harvard University
"Wealth, Race, and Merit in Higher Education," October 31, 2005  


Carolyn Abbate, Musicologist
"Overlooking the Ephemeral," May, 2005

Merce Cunningham, Dancer/Choreographer
"Merce Cunningham in Conversation with John Rockwell," March 9, 2005

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy and Professor at the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University "The Ethics of Identity," November, 2004 


Isabel Allende, Author, Lima, Peru
"A Sense of Place," May, 2004

Wendy Doniger, Author, Translator, Editor
"Self-Imitation in Ancient India, Shakespeare, and Hollywood," February 23, 2004

Hazel Carby, African American Scholar
"Child of Empire: Racializing Subjects in Post World War II Britain," October 27. 2003  


Bruno Latour, Pioneer of Science Studies
"Why has Critical Spirit Run Out of Steam? About Iconoclash and Beyond,"April, 2003

Peter Brown, Philip and Beluah Rollins Professor of History, Princeton University
"Scholarship and Imagination: The Study of Late Antiquity," January 27, 2003


Lynn Hunt, Eugen Weber Professor of Modern European History, University of California, Los Angeles
"The Novel and the Origins of Human Rights: The Intersection of History, Psychology, and Literature," April 8, 2002

Elaine Scarry, Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value, Department of English, Harvard University
"Nine One One: Citizenship in Emergency," February 25, 2002  


Gayatri Spivak, Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University
"Human Rights and the Humanities," February 13, 2001

Roger Chartier, Directeur d'E‰tudes, E‰cole des Hautes E‰tudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris); Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large, Cornell University
"At the Crossroads Between Textual Criticism and Cultural History: The Return to Literature," October 16, 2000


Wolfgang Iser, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Constance
"An Evening with Wolfgang Iser," April 3, 2000

Homi Bhabha, Chester D. Tripp Professor of Humanities, University of Chicago
March 6, 2000

Marjorie Garber, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of English, Director of the Center for Literary and Cultural Studies, Harvard University
January 11, 2000

Bei Dao, Poet
November 29, 1999

Svetlana Alpers, Art Historian
"What Are We Looking For? Expectations in Art History," November 8, 1999

Pina Bausch, Director, Tanztheater Wuppertal, Germany
October 18, 1999


Stefan Maul, Assyriologist
"Constructions of Divinity: The Idea of God in Ancient Near East," May 17, 1999

Jacques Derrida, Director of Studies, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris; Professor of Humanities, University of California, Irvine "The Future of the Profession, or the Unconditional University (Thanks to the 'Humanities': What Could Take Place Tomorrow)" April 15, 1999

Alexander Nehamas, Edmund N. Carpenter Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Philosophy, Professor of Comparative Literature, Princeton University
"The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters," March 8, 1999

Beatriz Sarlo, Professor, Universidad de Buenos Aires
"No Future? Literature and Cultural Politics," February 22, 1999

Fredric Jameson, William A. Lane Professor of Comparative Literature, Duke University
"Aesthetic Autonomy in the Age of Late Capitalism," January 25, 1999

Wole Soyinka, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of the Arts, Emory University
"Contemporary Literature and the Future of the Humanities and Arts," November 30, 1998

Karl Heinz Bohrer, Professor for Modern German Literary History, University of Bielefeld
"Without Future: The Meaning of Poetic Nihilism for Interpretation, Theater and State," November 9, 1998

Stephen Jay Gould, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology, Professor of Geology, adjunct member of the Department of the History of Science, Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology in the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology
"Interactions of Art and Science, and the Largely Arbitrary Nature of Academic Boundaries," November 4, 1998

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of Humanities, Harvard University
"Race and Class / Race in Class," October 12, 1998


Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the Humanities,Yale University; Berg Professor of English, New York University
May 18, 1998

Helene Cixous, Professor of Literature at the University of Paris VIII
March 16, 1998

Peter Eisenman, Founding Director, Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, New York
March 9, 1998

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Artistic Team
March 2, 1998