The By the Book author talk series brings big ideas and smart conversation directly to you. 

Join these book events via Zoom from the comfort of your favorite chair and engage with authors and experts 

on a variety of topics. Keep checking back for announcements of future events.



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January 14 / 3:00 PM CT

Join us for a conversation celebrating the new book by Julia A. Stern, Bette Davis Black and White. Stern will be joined in conversation by Nick Davis, Miriam Petty, Jim Hodge, and Jocelyn Szczepaniak-Gillece.

Co-hosted with the Northwestern University Department of English and the Seminary Co-op Bookstore.

About the Book

In Bette Davis Black and White, Davis’s career becomes a vehicle for a deep examination of American race relations. Julia A. Stern analyzes four of Davis’s best-known pictures—Jezebel (1938), The Little Foxes (1941), In This Our Life (1942), and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)—against the history of American race relations. Stern also weaves in memories of her own experiences as a young viewer, coming into racial consciousness watching Davis’s films on television in an all-white suburb of Chicago. Davis’s egalitarian politics and unique collaborations with her Black costars offer Stern a window into midcentury American racial fantasy and the efforts of Black performers to disrupt it. A unique combination of history, star study, and memoir, Bette Davis Black and White allows us to contemplate cross-racial spectatorship in new ways.

About the Speakers

Julia A. Stern is Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence and professor of English at Northwestern University. She is the author of The Plight of Feeling: Sympathy and Dissent in the Early American Novel and Mary Chesnut’s Civil War Epic, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

Nick Davis is associate professor of English at Northwestern University. He is the author of The Desiring-Image: Gilles Deleuze and Contemporary Queer Cinema.

Miriam Petty is Associate Dean for Academic Programs at The Graduate School, and associate professor in the Department of Radio/Television/Film at Northwestern University. She is the author of Stealing the Show: African American Performers and Audiences in 1930s Hollywood.

James J. Hodge is associate professor of English and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities at Northwestern University. He is the author of Sensations of History: Animation and New Media Art.

Jocelyn Szczepaniak-Gillece is associate professor and Director of Film Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is the author of The Optical Vacuum: Spectatorship and Modernized American Theater Architecture and coeditor of Ends of Cinema.


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January 19 / 12:00 PM CT

Join us for a conversation celebrating the new book by D. N. Rodowick, An Education in Judgment: Hannah Arendt and the Humanities. Rodowick will be joined in conversation by Samantha Hill and Thomas Bartscherer. Co-hosted with the University of Chicago Committee on Social Thought.

About the Book

In An Education in Judgment, philosopher D. N. Rodowick makes the definitive case for a philosophical humanistic education aimed at the cultivation of a life guided by both self-reflection and interpersonal exchange. Such a life is an education in judgment, the moral capacity to draw conclusions alone and with others, and in letting one’s own judgments be answerable to the potentially contrasting judgments of others. Thinking, for Rodowick, is an art we practice with and learn from each other on a daily basis.

In taking this approach, Rodowick follows the lead of Hannah Arendt, who made judgment the cornerstone of her conception of community. What is important for Rodowick, as for Arendt, is the cultivation of “free relations,” in which we allow our judgments to be affected and transformed by those of others, creating “an ever-widening fabric of intersubjective moral consideration.” That is a fragile fabric, certainly, but one that Rodowick argues is worth pursuing, caring for, and preserving. This original work thinks with and beyond Arendt about the importance of the humanities and what “the humanities” amounts to beyond the walls of the university.

About the Speakers

D. N. Rodowick is the Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor in the College and the Division of Humanities at the University of Chicago. Among his books are Philosophy’s Artful Conversation, Elegy for Theory, and What Philosophy Wants from Images, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

Samantha Rose Hill is a senior fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities and associate faculty at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Aeon, LitHub, OpenDemocracy, Public Seminar, Contemporary Political Theory, and Theory and Event. She is the author of Hannah Arendt. Thomas Bartscherer is the Peter Sourian Senior Lecturer in the Humanities at Bard College.


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January 28 / 2:00 PM CT

Join us for a conversation celebrating new books in the history of education—Allies and Rivals: German-American Exchange and the Rise of the Modern Research University by Emily J. Levine and The Lost Promise: American Universities in the 1960s by Ellen Schrecker. Co-hosted with the Seminary Co-op Bookstore.

About the Books


During the nineteenth century, nearly ten thousand Americans traveled to Germany to study in universities renowned for their research and teaching. By the mid-twentieth century, American institutions led the world. How did America become the center of excellence in higher education? And what does that story reveal about who will lead in the twenty-first century?

Allies and Rivals is the first history of the ascent of American higher education seen through the lens of German-American exchange. In a series of compelling portraits of such leaders as Wilhelm von Humboldt, Martha Carey Thomas, and W. E. B. Du Bois, Emily J. Levine shows how academic innovators on both sides of the Atlantic competed and collaborated to shape the research university. Even as nations sought world dominance through scholarship, universities retained values apart from politics and economics. Open borders enabled Americans to unite the English college and German PhD to create the modern research university, a hybrid now replicated the world over.

In a captivating narrative spanning one hundred years, Levine upends notions of the university as a timeless ideal, restoring the contemporary university to its rightful place in history. In so doing she reveals that innovation in the twentieth century was rooted in international cooperation—a crucial lesson that bears remembering today.


The Lost Promise is a magisterial examination of the turmoil that rocked American universities in the 1960s, with a unique focus on the complex roles played by professors as well as students. The 1950s through the early 1970s are widely seen as American academia’s golden age, when universities—well funded and viewed as essential for national security, economic growth, and social mobility—embraced an egalitarian mission. Swelling in size, schools attracted new types of students and professors, including radicals who challenged their institutions’ calcified traditions. But that halcyon moment soon came to a painful and confusing end, with consequences that still afflict the halls of ivy. In The Lost Promise, Ellen Schrecker—our foremost historian of both the McCarthy era and the modern American university—delivers a far-reaching examination of how and why it happened.

Schrecker illuminates how US universities’ explosive growth intersected with the turmoil of the 1960s, fomenting an unprecedented crisis where dissent over racial inequality and the Vietnam War erupted into direct action. Torn by internal power struggles and demonized by conservative voices, higher education never fully recovered, resulting in decades of underfunding and today’s woefully inequitable system. As Schrecker’s magisterial history makes blazingly clear, the complex blend of troubles that disrupted the university in that pivotal period haunts the ivory tower to this day.

About the Speakers

Emily J. Levine is associate professor of education and (by courtesy) history at Stanford University. She is the author of Allies and Rivals and Dreamland of Humanists, published by the University of Chicago Press.

Ellen Schrecker is a retired professor of history at Yeshiva University and the author of numerous books, including No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America, and The Lost Soul of Higher Education: Corporatization, the Assault on Academic Freedom, and the End of the American University.


Produced in partnership with the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, By the Book: Smart Talk with Chicago Authors brings big ideas and smart conversation directly to you. Join these book events via Zoom from the comfort of your favorite chair and engage with authors and experts on a variety of topics.

To find out more about previous events in the series, visit our YouTube channel, where you can watch earlier By the Book talks and other author videos.