Merle Curti Lecture Series

Merle Curti

The annual Merle Curti Lectures commemorate our late colleague Merle Curti, a pioneer in the practice of American intellectual and cultural history, as well as a beloved member of our department for nearly half a century until his death in 1996. The Curti Lectures constitute the centerpiece of the department’s academic year. For over forty years, highly distinguished historians have presented new or ongoing research to large audiences, comprised of faculty, students, and members of the larger Madison community. The series takes the form of three public lectures, presented on consecutive days, under an overarching thematic rubric.

Upcoming Lecture Series

Forty-First Annual Merle Curti Lecture Series

Philip Deloria
Leverett Saltonstall Professor of History
Harvard University

March 10-12, 2021
4:00-5:15 PM

Schedule of Lectures

Wednesday, March 10th | 4:00-5:15 PM CST | Zoom Webinar, Registration Required | Register Here

“The Stories We Tell: American Indians and American Historical Narratives”

Co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities, as part of their Humanities Without Boundaries series.

Center For Humanities Logo

The 2018 report Reclaiming Native Truth laid out a central and ongoing problem for Native Americans in a multi-racial American democracy. Across education, entertainment, and media, the voices of Native people are almost entirely missing: “Into this void, springs an antiquated or romanticized narrative, ripe with myths and misperceptions.” What are the big mythic stories that “we” Americans tell about Native people? How do historical narratives produce the ideological structures that take shape as a curious dynamic of Indian hypervisible/invisibility? Reclaiming Native Truth concludes with a call for new narratives. What kinds of stories might be possible, and how might they be told?

Thursday, March 11th | 4:00-5:15 PM CST | Zoom Webinar, Registration Required | Register Here

“Indigenous Declaration, Indigenous Constitution: Making the Indigenous States of America”

The dream state of Lenape, originating with the 1788 Fort Pitt treaty and wedged in between the western border of Pennsylvania and the eastern edge of Ohio, proved to be the first of several Indigenous counter-states. Their stories invite a rethinking of treaties, collective rights, constitutions, race formation, border control, militias, and perhaps even democracy itself. What can a step into the wild world of the counterfactual reveal about American narratives and the building blocks that might be assembled into new stories?

Friday, March 12th | 4:00-5:15 PM CST | Zoom Webinar, Registration Required | Register Here

“The Greater X: Indigenizing American History”

Elliott West and others have argued for a “Greater Reconstruction” that would expand the classic temporal, geographical, and political analyses used to mark Reconstruction, and so produce a continental narrative in which Native histories have import beyond the teleological margins. What kinds of stories might be told if historians took x to be any well-studied moment in United States history? And then sought to make such moments “greater” by reading them through Indigi-centric lenses? Might a collection of “greater” stories rebalance the old “big” stories, demanding new kinds of narratives and syntheses, and in doing so, address Reclaiming Native Truth’s call to drive culture change by paying serious attention to History?

Attendee Information

This Zoom webinar event requires attendees to register in advance. Upon registration, attendees will receive an invitation sent to their email address containing a unique link to join the webinar. This link is unique to each attendee and should not be shared. Registrants will be able to attend all three of the lectures using their unique webinar link. Register here.

Speaker Bio

Philip J. Deloria is the Leverett Saltonstall Professor of History at Harvard University, where his research and teaching focus on the social, cultural and political histories of the relations among American Indian peoples and the United States, as well as the comparative and connective histories of indigenous peoples in a global context. He is the Chair of the Committee on Degrees in History and Literature.

His first book, Playing Indian (1998), traced the tradition of white “Indian play” from the Boston Tea Party to the New Age movement, while his 2004 book Indians in Unexpected Places examined the ideologies surrounding Indian people in the early twentieth century and the ways Native Americans challenged them through sports, travel, automobility, and film and musical performance. He is the co-editor of The Blackwell Companion to American Indian History (with Neal Salisbury) and C.G. Jung and the Sioux Traditions by Vine Deloria (with Jerome Bernstein). Co-authored with Alexander Olson, American Studies: A User’s Guide (2017), offers a comprehensive treatment of the historiography and methodology of the field of American Studies. His most recent book is Becoming Mary Sully: Toward an American Indian Abstract (2019), which reclaims a previously unknown Native artist while offering a new exploration of American Indian visual arts of the mid-twentieth century.

Deloria received the Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University in 1994, taught for six years at the University of Colorado, and then at the University of Michigan from 2001 to 2017, before joining the faculty at Harvard in January 2018. At Michigan, he served as the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, Director of the Program in American Culture, and of the Native American Studies Program, and held the Carroll Smith-Rosenberg Collegiate Chair. His courses have included American Indian history, Environmental history, the American West, and American Studies methods, as well as Food Studies, Songwriting, and Big History.

Deloria is a trustee of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, where he chairs the Repatriation Committee. He is former president of the American Studies Association, an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the recipient of numerous prizes and recognitions and will serve as president of the Organization of American Historians in 2022. Along with Erika Doss, he is the series editor of CultureAmerica, a University Press of Kansas series focused on American cultural history. He maintains ongoing academic engagements with scholars in Taiwan and Australia.

Philip Deloria portrait
Philip Deloria

Previous Curti Lectures

  • 2018 – N.D.B. Connolly and Bethany Moreton – “Reimagining: Capital’s Worlds: From Colonialism to the Alt-Right”
  • 2017 – Frederick Cooper – “Empires and Citizenship”
  • 2016 – David W. Blight – “Writing the Life of Frederick Douglas: Why and Why Now?”
  • 2015 – Anthony T. Grafton – “Past Belief: Visions of Early Christianity in Early Modern Europe”
  • 2014 – Professor Michael Cook – “Religion, Politics, and Geopolitics in the Pre-Modern Middle East”
  • 2013 – Jacquelyn Dowd Hall – “Southern Women On The Left ”
  • 2010 – Barbara Weinstein – “The Color of Modernity: Racial and Regional Difference in Postcolonial Brazil”
  • 2009 – Carol Gluck – “Past Obsessions: World War Two in History and Memory
  • 2008 – Laura Engelstein – “Between Nationalism and Empire: Violence and the Jewish Question in World War I Russia”
  • 2006 – Thomas Holt – “‘Work, Culture, Liberty’: Contesting Jim Crow at the Turn of the 20th Century”
  • 2005 – Paul Boyer – “Apocalypse Then, Apocalypse Now: Bible-Prophecy Belief in American Religion, Politics, & Popular Culture”
  • 2004 – Richard White – “Misunderstanding, Lies, and Deception: An American History”
  • 2003 – Jonathan Spence – “Courting the End: One Man’s Vision of the Ming Dynasty’s Fall”
  • 2002 – Lynn Hunt – “The Eighteenth-Century Origins of Human Rights”
  • 2001 – Francis C. Oakley – “Natural Law, Law of Nature, Natural Rights: Continuity and Discontinuity in the History of Ideas”
  • 2000 – John Lukacs – “The Way We Live Now: The Profession of History”
  • 1999 – David A. Hollinger – “Cosmopolitanism and Solidarity”
  • 1998 – Friedrich Katz – “Nazis and Anti-Nazis in Mexico”
  • 1997 – Nell Irvin Painter – “Making Beauty”
  • 1996 – Linda K. Kerber – “The Obligations of Citizenship”
  • 1995 – Simon Schama – “Landscape and Memory”
  • 1994 – William Cronon – “Many Wests: The Search for a Common American Past”
  • 1993 – Bernard Lewis – “The Multiple Anniversaries of 1492”
  • 1992 – Elizabeth Eisenstein – “Divine Art/Infernal Machine: Western Views of Printing from Gutenberg to McLuhan”
  • 1991 – Lawrence Levine – “Patterns of American Culture during the Great Depression”
  • 1990 – Paul Conkin – “Cane Ridge: America’s Pentecost”
  • 1989 – Keith Thomas – “Distinguished Marks: Visibility and Social Difference in Early Modern England”
  • 1987 – Peter Brown – “Philosophers and Monks: A Late Antique Option”
  • 1986 – Lawrence Stone – “Broken Lives: Marital Separation and Divorce in England, 1660-1860”
  • 1986 – Michael Kammen – “The Spheres of Liberty: Changing Perceptions of Liberty in American Culture”
  • 1984 – Peter Gay – “Hidden Agendas: On Love and Sex in Three Nineteenth-Century Novels”
  • 1984 – Bernard Bailyn – “The People of British North America”
  • 1983 – Natalie Z. Davis – “The Gift in Sixteenth-Century France”
  • 1982 – Gordon A. Craig – “The End of Prussia”
  • 1981 – James Willard Hurst – “A Legal History of Interest Bargaining in the United States”
  • 1979 – Benjamin I. Schwartz – “Understanding Other Cultures: Perils and Pitfalls”
  • 1978 – Carlo M. Cipolla – “Plague, Society and Public Health in the Late Renaissance”
  • 1978 – John Higham – “Ethnicity in America: A Comparative Approach”
  • 1976 – Christopher Hill – “Intellectual Consequences of the English Revolution”
  • 1976 – Lawrence A. Cremin – “Traditions of American Education”