Lectures & Seminars



Programs listed below are in chronological order.

Novelist Jodi Picoult: On Tackling Tough Topics

Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

In a conversation with NPR’s Lynn Neary, best-selling author Jodi Picoult discusses her career, inspirations, writing process, and why the issues she takes on in her latest book Small Great Things spoke to her as a novelist. 

Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer

Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 7 p.m.

This evening, Nina Totenberg, NPR’s Legal Affairs correspondent, talks with Justice Stephen Breyer about his life before and after becoming a Supreme Court justice and his interpretation of the Constitution as a “living” document.

Write a Novel in a Month

Saturday, October 29, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

November is National Novel Writing Month. Each year thousands of writers around the world sign up for what’s dubbed the NaNoWriMo Challenge: drafting at least 50,000 words of their novel in "30 days and nights of literary abandon." Whether you take up the challenge or just want a solid base to begin or continue a novel at your own pace, this seminar is for you!

How the Britons Became the English, the Welsh, and the Scottish: Creating a United Kingdom

Saturday, October 29, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

How did the island of Britain come to comprise three distinctive ethnic identities—English, Welsh, and Scottish—and what does it mean to be British? Historian Jennifer Paxton traces the emergence of Britain’s diverse ethnic landscape and considers the future of the United Kingdom in a time filled with many uncertainties.

Public Speaking: From Fear to Confidence

Saturday, October 29, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

If your mouth turns dry and your knees grow weak at the very thought of speaking before a group—large or small—this all-day program is meant for you. Public speaking coach Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger offers practical, confidence-building guidance for anyone who has to speak in front of others, whether it be formal presentations to large audiences or less formal talks to small groups.

DC’s Historic Sites: Welcome to Georgetown

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 at 12 p.m.

Our D.C. lunchtime lecture series continues with a focus on Georgetown. Founded in 1751, it predates the establishment of the federal district and Washington City by 40 years. Each week, expert lecturers focus on one of the extraordinary historic places that make Georgetown the unique neighborhood it is. This lecture features the Peabody Room, Georgetown Library.

A Taste of Japan

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Join Rudy Maxa, host of Rudy Maxa’s World on public television, and local restaurateur Daisuke Utagawa (Daikaya, Bantam King) for a preview of their upcoming series Taste of Japan, which follows their search for the ingredients, the people, and the traditions behind the country’s exquisite cuisine.

The Splendors of Vienna

Wednesday, November 2, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Mention Vienna, and waltzes, pastries, and refined elegance come to mind. But the Austrian capital also gave us Freud, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Mahler, and its remarkable achievements in painting, design, contemporary music, medicine, literature and philosophy are second to none. Opera expert Fred Plotkin reveals the many layers of this beautiful city.

Shuck Beans, Stack Cake, and Chocolate Gravy: Food Traditions of the Mountain South

Thursday, November 3, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Food writer and cooking teacher Sheri Castle, who hails from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, explores the rich history and heritage of the foodways of the Mountain South, a region whose cuisine—long overlooked or misunderstood—is riding the wave of new attention.

Choosing the Right To Die: A Mother’s Perspective

Thursday, November 3, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

When Deborah Ziegler’s 29-year-old daughter Brittany Maynard, diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, went public with the decision to end her own life she became the face of the controversial right-to-die movement. Ziegler shares how that family anguish played out in public, and how since her daughter’s death in late 2014 she has found a role as an advocate for the growing number of people worldwide who are struggling with end-of-life issues.

Seductive Paris: American Painters in the City of Light, 1855–1920

Saturday, November 5, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

In the late 19th century, Paris beckoned young aspiring American painters like Whistler and Sargent. Art historian Bonita Billman highlights Paris’s ascension as the center of the art world, and the French masters who trained American artists and sent them home brimming with creative new ideas. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

Russia’s Place in the World

Saturday, November 5, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

As Russia transformed itself from a formal empire into the Soviet Union, and most recently, into the Russian Federation, it has been a power to be reckoned with. Historian George Munro examines four key periods of Russian history, each spanning about a half century of Russia’s history, concluding with a consideration of Russia’s ambitions in the post-Cold War world. 

Jewelers Gilded Age

Monday, November 7, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Enduring Extremes: The Science of Astronaut Health

Wednesday, November 9, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

As a manned mission to Mars becomes a possibility, the dangers of long-duration space travel for humans must be addressed. Find out what is being done to ensure astronaut health from a panel of top NASA medical experts.

Death by Shakespeare: Final Exits

Wednesday, November 9, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Shakespeare knew that gory, grisly, and imaginatively unusual deaths were what his fans at the Globe wanted to see. Carol Ann Lloyd Stranger of the Folger Shakespeare Library and classical actor and dramaturge Cam Magee lead an evening devoted to the onstage demises that have moved, surprised, and shocked audiences for four centuries.

The World of Spices

Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Lior Lev Sercarz knows exactly how to spice up your life—and your cooking. New York City’s “wizard of spice” shares spice history, how-tos for creating your own blends, cooking inspirations, and other flavorful tips from his new book, The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices.

Campaign 2016: Behind the Scenes of the Presidential Election

Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

For a firsthand look behind the scenes of this election, joins U.S. News and World Report senior White House correspondent Kenneth Walsh as he moderates a lively discussion among a panel of experts who were right down in the trenches during the battle.

Prisoners of War

Monday, November 14, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Just as war and the rules of engagement have changed dramatically over the years, so has the treatment of one of their inevitable results, prisoners of war. Evan J. Wallach, an expert on war crimes and the law of war, investigates the history of POWs and their status in current conflicts.

The Hollywood Musical: Four Decades of Magic! Part 4: The 1960s

Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Big stars, big budgets, and big box office were the mark of hits like West Side Story, The Sound of Music, and My Fair Lady, crowning achievements of the screen musical. But how did Hollywood and the beloved film form reflect—and weather—the social and cultural change of the 1960s? Music specialist Robert Wyatt looks at the triumphs and the decline in the musical’s last golden decade.

I’ll Take a Manhattan: Cocktails of the Gilded Age

Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

As the robber barons were making millions, bartenders around the country were making something that was also in demand: the cocktail. Join author and cocktail historian Philip Greene in a spirited discussion of the cocktails of the Gilded Age and sample four delicious cocktails of the era.

Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After

Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Eleanor Roosevelt redefined the role of first lady, creating a public presence that made her both a supporter and surrogate for her husband, as well as an advocate for her own social issues. Biographer Blanche Wiesen Cook examines how her experiences in the wartime White House and FDR’s death shaped Roosevelt’s emergence as a moral force in a turbulent world.

Serbia: A Cultural Confluence

Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at 7 p.m.

Serbian-born writer Vladimir Pistalo provides a cultural and historical overview of a nation whose widely diverse heritage makes it “the East of the West and the West of the East.” Exhibits of contemporary jewelry and traditional costumes bring elements of the present and past to a reception featuring Serbian wines and food.

Cracking the Runic Code: The Alphabet of Mystery

Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

The Runic alphabet has long held its secrets chiseled on stone. Henrik Williams, a professor and chair in the department of Scandinavian languages at Uppsala University, shares the stories behind this still-mysterious code, providing glimpses of the Viking culture as it was nearly 2,000 years ago.

Inside Blair House

Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Blair House has long been an elegant and welcoming setting for international diplomatic hospitality. Join curator Candace Shireman for an illustrated lecture in which she covers the intriguing history of “the president’s guest house” and highlights its recently restored interiors.

The Pulse on Modern Medicine: Insights from NIH Experts

Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

In a five-part series, listen to National Institutes of Health directors and scientific and medical experts discuss what is currently “hot” in biomedical research—and what it all means for our health and medical treatment today and in the future. This session features Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Exploring Islam: Myths and Realities

Saturday, November 19, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

In a thought-provoking program, explore the faith of Muslims from different perspectives with an Islamic scholar Salih Sayilgan.

Spanish Art and Architecture: A Treasury of Delights

Saturday, November 19, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

Art historian Joseph Cassar examines how the art and architecture of Spain—as seen in the works of El Greco, Goya, Velazquez, Picasso, and Gaudi—offer a window into the influences that define the country's history and national identity. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

Theodor Herzl: The Founder of Modern Zionism

Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

As an assimilated Viennese Jew who was not particularly religious and didn’t speak Hebrew, Theodor Herzl was a most unlikely candidate to spearhead the movement to create an independent Jewish homeland. Ralph Nurnberger, professor of international relations at Georgetown University, shares how—against the odds—this determined playwright, writer, and political activist became the founder of 20th century Zionism.

Montgomery Meigs in Washington: The Civil War and Beyond

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

From the Capitol dome to the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building, the work of architect and engineer Montgomery Meigs is still a visible part of our region’s landscape—and our daily lives. Historian and urban studies specialist Bill Keene explores the many facets and achievements of the former Civil War officer who helped define and develop an enduring vision of the capital city.

Cultivate Your Speaking Voice

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

It’s loud and clear: A well-developed, effective speaking voice best supports who you are and what you want to say. Listen up as speech pathologist Laura Purcell Verdun reveals why you have more control over your voice than you realize, and how specific techniques can bring greater impact to your words.

Naples: History in a Crucible

Thursday, December 1, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Come on a virtual tour of one of the world’s most exciting and appealing cities, Naples, in the Campania region of Italy, guided by art historian Nigel McGilchrist. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Ray Charles: “The Genius”

Thursday, December 1, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

His unique voice and passionate style made Ray Charles one of the most beloved and influential musicians of our time. Music curator John Edward Hasse of the American History Museum celebrates the music, the man, and his place in our country’s cultural history.

The Civilizations of the Andes: A Cultural Exploration

Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

In a day-long seminar, survey the pre-Columbian civilizations that created the earliest cities of the Western hemisphere, stupendous monumental architecture, magnificently crafted artifacts, and one of the most extensive empires the world has known, the Inca. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo: Contrasts in Greatness

Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

In a daylong program, art historian Nigel McGilchrist examines Leonardo and Michelangelo, towering geniuses of Western art, who shared an intense dislike for each other, but their fraught relationship spurred them—and their contemporaries—to new levels of artistic achievement. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

P.G. Wodehouse: “I Expect I’ll Feel Better After Tea”

Monday, December 5, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Raise a toast to the genius of P.G. Wodehouse and his uniquely comic—and uniquely British—literary world as author Daniel Stashower and actor Scott Sedar salute one of most widely read humorists of the 20th century.

The Christmas Markets of Europe: A Festive Stroll

Tuesday, December 6, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Take a vicarious stroll through some of Europe’s charming Christmas markets in a delightful evening filled with holiday music and a reception highlighting European-inspired specialties and traditional holiday sweets.

Jack London: The Adventure Path

Tuesday, December 6, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

A century after his death at 40, the name Jack London and adventure remain nearly synonymous. He stuffed a bounty of living into that short life, and Kenneth Brandt, executive coordinator of the Jack London Society, examines how his thirst for experience is reflected in London’s still-thrilling works.

Hieronymus Bosch: Heaven and Hell

Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Full of fantastic imagery and dense symbolism, the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch create a one-of-kind world that continues to fascinate—and perplex—across the centuries. Art historian Aneta Georgevskia-Shine offers a guide to his life and his haunting works. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

The Pulse on Modern Medicine: Insights from NIH Experts

Thursday, December 8, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

In a five-part series, listen to National Institutes of Health directors and scientific and medical experts discuss what is currently “hot” in biomedical research—and what it all means for our health and medical treatment today and in the future. This session features Julie Segre, Head, Microbial Genomics Section and Chief, Translational and Functional Genomics Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute.

Travel Hacking 101: How To Travel Longer for Less

Thursday, December 8, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Mike and Anne Howard—founders of the travel website HoneyTrek.com—share tips on a travel style that is more immersive and creative—where saving money is but one of the pleasurable benefits.

Taking a Bite Out of Invasive Species: From Ecosystem Menaces to Menu Items

Friday, December 9, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

How do you transform ecosystem menaces into to menu items? Jackson Landers, author of Eating Aliens: One Man's Adventures Hunting Invasive Animal Species, and chef John Shields, an expert in the cuisine of the Chesapeake region, explore the benefits—both ecological and culinary—that an inventive use of invasive plants and animals can offer.

Kafka: The Man Who Defined a Nightmare

Saturday, December 10, 2016 at 1 p.m.

His name has become synonymous with anxiety and alienation, but how much do you know about the man behind it? Elizabeth Rejac, president of the Kafka Society of America, analyzes the life and literary context of the author of The Metamorphosis, his influence on contemporary literature, and what exactly makes something “Kafkaesque.”

Christmas with the First Ladies: Decking the Halls at the White House

Saturday, December 10, 2016 at 2 p.m.

Spend an afternoon with professional decorator and author Coleen Christian Burke as she covers the traditions of White House holiday decorating, brings you behind the scenes as the seasonal transformation takes place, and shares how modern first ladies from Jacqueline Kennedy to Michelle Obama have lent their distinctive styles and creativity to guiding the seasonal themes.

Brandy: In the Winter Spirit

Monday, December 12, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Join Scott Harris, the distiller behind Catoctin Creek’s 1757 Brandy from Loudoun County, for a lively evening as he surveys brandies from around the world, offers expert tips for enjoying the venerable spirit, and shares some of his favorite bottles.

Architectural Splendors: Fifth Avenue Palaces and Long Island Retreats

Tuesday, December 13, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Architect, author, and historian Gary Lawrance offers a look at these now-vanished wonders of residential architecture, their breathtaking interiors, the people who built them, and the changing face of New York City and Long Island from 1870 to 1930. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

A Once and Future Earth?: Exploring Titan, Saturn’s Giant Moon

Monday, December 19, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

One of the most Earth-like worlds found to date, the frozen “prebiotic” moon Titan offers a glimpse of what our own planet might have been like before life evolved—and whether similar life might be found elsewhere. Ralph Lorenz of Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics lab examines how Titan is being explored in space missions and in the laboratory.

Temples, Monuments, and Tombs: Exploring Egypt’s Ancient Treasures

Saturday, January 7, 2017 at 9:30 a.m.

Egyptologist Bob Brier examines Egypt's spectacular historic sites from the Giza Plateau to the Philae Temple—some of which still hold their secrets after thousands of years. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

Spies Among Us: Codebreaking, Espionage, and Counterintelligence in Arlington

Tuesday, January 10, 2017 at 6:45 p.m.

Arlington, that across-the-Potomac center of booming neighborhoods, restaurants galore, and enviable real estate, has long held a secret distinction: It’s a hotbed of spies. Rendezvous with David Robarge, the CIA’s chief historian, as he exposes the dark side of suburban Virginia.

The Pulse on Modern Medicine: Insights from NIH Experts

Tuesday, January 24, 2017 at 6:45 p.m.

In a five-part series, listen to National Institutes of Health directors and scientific and medical experts discuss what is currently “hot” in biomedical research—and what it all means for our health and medical treatment today and in the future. This session features Gary Gibbons, Director, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Connie Britton: Actress as Advocate

Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at 6:45 p.m.

She’s created attention-getting characters on “Friday Night Lights” and “Nashville,” but Connie Britton plays an equally notable role as goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme. In a conversation with NPR’s Linda Holmes, she discusses her television experiences and her work as an advocate for poverty eradication and women’s empowerment.

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