Annual Richard A. Macksey Lecture

The Annual Richard A. Macksey Lecture draws esteemed scholars from across the humanities and humanistic social sciences, amplifying those teachers and researchers who are leaders at higher-learning institutions around the country and across the world. Invited Macksey Lecture speakers take to the podium to share insights about the state of their disciplinary field(s), the wider landscape of higher education, and the broad social and political moment in which they speak. Recent Macksey lecturers have included Professors Judith Butler (video available below), Elaine Scarry, and Robert Pogue Harrison.

This annual lecture series honors the late JHU titan Professor Richard A. Macksey (1931–2019), co-founder of the Humanities Center (now Department of Comparative Thought & Literature) and beloved teacher and colleague for more than 50 years. Recalling Prof. Macksey’s versatile intellectual work, AGHI supports this lecture to further discussions that reach across disciplinary boundaries and instead spotlight the forefront of critical conversations each year.

2024 Macksey Lecture

In 2024, AGHI was honored to host Professor Merve Emre (Wesleyan University) for the Macksey Lecture in a two-talk series.

Merve Emre headshot

ABOUT OUR SPEAKER: Merve Emre is the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing and Criticism at Wesleyan University and the Director of the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing and Criticism. Her books include Paraliterary: The Making of Bad Readers in Postwar America, The Personality Brokers (selected as one of the best books of 2018 by the New York Times, The Economist, NPR, and The Spectator), The Ferrante Letters (winner of the 2021 PROSE award for literature), and The Annotated Mrs. Dalloway. She has been awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize, the Robert B. Silvers Prize for Literary Criticism, and the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing by the National Book Critics Circle. She is a contributing writer at The New Yorker.

Prof. Emre gave two talks this year: on March 7, “Too Close Reading: On American Miniaturism” at the Glass Pavilion on JHU’s Homewood campus in Baltimore; and on March 8, “Why I Feel Bad for Men, or Reading ‘A Room of One’s Own’ with Pierre Bourdieu,” at JHU’s new Bloomberg Center at 555 Penn Ave NW in DC.

Info about AGHI’s Macksey Lecture for 2025 will be released in the coming months.

Past Macksey Lecturers

2023 — Kwame Anthony Appiah

Kwame Anthony Appiah (man in blue suit) standing in afternoon sunlight with his profile framed in shadow and light against the wall.

Appiah, “Whose Heritage? Preservation, Possession, and Peoples”: on the “attitudes” and principles behind the matter of cultural heritage, repatriation, and global communities of cosmopolitanism.

2022 — Judith Butler

Butler, “Endangered Scholarship, Academic Freedom, and the Life of Critique” [Full video below]

2021 — Tiya Miles, “This Sack”: Reconstructing Enslaved Women’s Lives through Objects

2019 — Elaine Scarry, “Imagining Color”

2018 — Robert Pogue Harrison, “The Mind in Love: Reflections on the Universe”

2017 — Dan-el Padilla Peralta, “Undocumented”: on “a vocabulary and a language with which to resist the deadening objectification that is the immigration state.” [Full video below]