this is a photo of Dr. Michele Speitz of Furman University with arms crossed, wearing a royal-blue outfit

Lecture Series at Furman University Aims to Bring People Together in Polarized Times

The novel coronavirus has spent the last three months driving people apart. This summer, Michele Speitz, an associate professor of English literature at Sullivan Foundation partner school Furman University, hopes the humanities can help bring them back together with “Tolle, Lege,” a virtual lecture and discussion series.

“The humanities addresses these fundamental questions of what it means to be human, of what it means to live the good life, and we’ve had everything that feels normal and feels right go out the window,” Speitz, also the director of the Furman Humanities Center, said. “It’s the tools of the humanities that can help us find a clear path forward and take some comfort in what people have done and said before.”

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A child’s voice chanting “tolle, lege” (Latin for “take, read”) prompted theologian and philosopher Augustine of Hippo to begin reading from his collection of Paul’s epistles, which led to his conversion to Christianity. Influencing religious choice isn’t the aim of the series but opening the door to enlightenment certainly is.

“The driving idea behind this was to connect Furman’s really illustrious humanities professoriate to people when we’re feeling disconnected, using the humanities’ power to heal, to reach audiences within the Furman community and then beyond the Furman community,” Speitz said. “It’s always been very important for us that there wouldn’t be any paywalls and that this could be accessed by anybody.”

To wit, all six lectures are free, open to the public, and available now for viewing on the “Tolle, Lege” website. You can also visit the website to register for the live Q&A sessions, which will be held on the following dates:

“There is a really nice spectrum of topics, from biblical Christian texts to Indian art, and I’m proud that it represents the many different types of varied work that makes Furman such a great place to be faculty and to be a student,” Speitz said.

She noted that her early fears of lack of interest have been assuaged with a surge of signups for the Q&As. “This is kind of beyond our wildest imagination how well this is being received right now.”

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“Tolle, Lege” is a collaboration among Furman faculty representing the departments of English, religion, history, Asian studies, classics, and modern languages and literatures, with support from the Furman Humanities Center and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), under the direction of Nancy Kennedy. The Louis G. Forgione Professor of Classics Chris Blackwell was also instrumental in the process of bringing the lecture series to life.

This article was edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Furman University website.

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