July 23 - 27, 2017

Do you remember the first day of a new college semester at Colby? The first words of the professor or questions from peers that made you want to dive deeper into the topic? That experience isn’t behind you. Colby College provides a unique lifelong learning opportunity that allows all alumnae and alumni to relive that experience at Alumni College on campus each summer.

We have worked with Colby faculty to craft and align the lectures with core academic themes taking place on the campus so that all Colby alumni, students, and faculty may contribute perspectives and knowledge to these broad academic themes in their own unique way.

Alumni College 2017: Revolutions in Literature and Politics

Do revolutions always have to be progressive (what about conservative revolutions, fascism, Nazism)? How do revolutions connect to the arts? How did the scientific revolution influence revolutionary writing in the 18th century? Alumni College 2017 will start with revolutions in literature before turning to revolution in politics. The session will also address revolutions in Latin America, the revolutions of 1989, and revolution in present American society and politics. Has a revolution occurred? Or is a revolution coming?


Program Fees
$600 Full session (tuition, on-campus housing, meals Sunday dinner-Thursday breakfast [participants may leave on Wednesday evening])
$475 Off-campus package (tuition and meals Sunday dinner-Wednesday dinner)


Click on the schedule for a copy of the printed program and schedule.

Additional Details about the Various Faculty Led Discussions

Monday, July 24

Elizabeth Sagaser, Associate Professor of English
Lecture: "Shakespeare, Milton, and Three Revolutions"

During England’s revolutionary 17th century, poetry played a vital role in developing and disseminating major philosophical and political questions. Shakespeare’s plays and Milton’s Paradise Lost did so with such compelling voices that their works not only absorbed contemporary playgoers and readers, but also literary and political minds a continent away and centuries later. Jefferson greatly admired both poets, for example, and Lincoln knew long passages of Shakespeare by heart. In this lecture, we will focus on a few powerful passages of Shakespeare and Milton in the contexts of revolutionary England, revolutionary America, and Civil War America, illuminating relationships between poetry and politics, past and present, and language and power.

Elizabeth Sagaser is an Associate Professor of English. She has published numerous articles on early modern poetry and poetics and literary history, including work on Shakespeare, Milton, and Mary Sidney Herbert. Her new work, including a forthcoming article on Dickinson, integrates poetics/rhetoric, intellectual history, and cognitive psychology. Recent courses include Poetry and Revolution, Poetry and Cognition, and Shakespeare in America.


Aaron R. Hanlon, Assistant Professor of English
Lecture: Is There a Data Revolution?

Among the many important developments of the European Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution was the emergence of data, both the term and the concept. As trends in natural and experimental science found their way into social science and literature, data emerged as a new standard for indicating how we know what we know. This presentation explores the question of whether the long history of data could be called a data "revolution." Since data started out as a rhetorical term—and because data arguably maintains a rhetorical purpose even in modern usages of the term—we'll examine the literary history of data to arrive at a fuller understanding of what data means today.

Aaron R. Hanlon is an assistant professor of English, specializing in literature and culture of the British Enlightenment. He holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Oxford, and his published scholarship focuses on both the political novel in the eighteenth century and the epistemology of Enlightenment science and science writing. He also writes essays for popular venues including The New York Times, The New Republic, and The Atlantic. 


Tuesday, July 25

Raffael Scheck, Katz Distinguished Teaching Professor of History
Lecture: "Conservative Revolutions? Fascism and National Socialism as Revolutions from the Right"

After World War I, continental European conservatives, disillusioned by the discredited monarchies and fearful of bolshevism, articulated a new vision for a revolution from the right instead of the left. A variety of movements used the rhetoric of a conservative revolution to claim that they could stop cultural decline and make their countries great (again). Italian fascism and National Socialism in Germany, as well a myriad of similar movements in other countries, took inspiration from these movements and integrated their ideas into their own revolutionary program. Why were they so successful for some time? What do they share with today’s populist movements of the right?

Raffael Scheck is the Audrey Wade Hittinger Katz and Sheldon Toby Katz Professor of History and teaches modern European history. He has published five books and more than 20 articles on German history and French colonial prisoners of war in World War II. His book Hitler’s African Victims: The German Army Massacres of Black French Soldiers has been translated into French and German.

Jennifer Yoder, Robert E. Diamond Professor of Government and Global Studies, Department Chair
The Power of the Powerless? The Meanings and Legacies of the “Velvet Revolutions” of 1989

The Czech dramatist, dissident, and later president, Vaclav Havel, wrote The Power of the Powerless in 1978. In it, he described life under Communism and the possibilities for individuals and small groups to exercise freedom and power in that system. His inspirational vision for dissent seemed to set the stage for the Velvet Revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe. Almost three decades later, what meanings and legacies are associated with the events of 1989?

Jennifer Yoder is the Robert E. Diamond Professor of Government and Global Studies and chair of the government department. Her research interests include German politics, remembrance and reckoning after communism, and borderlands in Europe. She is the author of From East Germans to Germans? The New Post-Communist Elite (1999) and Crafting Democracy: Regional Politics in Post-Communist Europe (2013), as well as articles published in German studies and political science journals.

Evening speaker:

Paul Josephson, Professor of History
Lecture: "The Scientific, Utopian, and Dystopian Visions of the Russian Revolution"

The Russian Revolution is the most important event of the twentieth century. The USSR was the major experiment with socialism; it served as an exemplar of the "developing nation" for other peasant societies; it was the ideological rival to capitalism; it fought Nazi Germany as an ally of the United States in World War II; and it engaged the United States in the Cold War from 1945 until its collapse in 1991. After seizing power in 1917, its leaders embraced a variety of utopian and allegedly scientific visions for the organization of a new society and a new Soviet man and new Soviet woman that contributed to many of these phenomena.

Paul Josephson, professor of history at Colby College since 2000, first went to the USSR in 1984 for a yearlong research exchange program. He has spent a total of three years in Russia and Ukraine, including half a year in the Arctic and half a year in Siberia -- and not because of exile ordered by the Tsar.  The author of 13 books, Paul is finishing a study on nature transformation projects in Russia, 1900-present, and the continuities between Tsarist and Soviet projects and those of the Putin Era.


Wednesday, July 26

Winifred Tate, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Lecture: "Muralists of the Mexican Revolution"

In the first years of the twentieth century, the Mexican Revolution transformed society, promising land and new opportunities to long-excluded indigenous and peasant communities. Murals, by Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, and Jose Clemente Orozco, among others, became the best known public art representing the social agenda of the Revolution. We will examine the revolutionary ideologies that influenced muralists, their aspirations, achievements, and frustrations, as part of the broader transformations of Mexican society at the time. Finally, we will consider how these muralists continue to influence artists throughout the Americas.

Winifred Tate is associate professor of anthropology and the author of the award-winning Counting the Dead: The Culture and Politics of Human Rights Activism in Colombia (2007) and Drugs, Thugs, and Diplomats: US Policymaking in Colombia (2015). 

Dan Shea. Professor of Government
Lecture: "Back to the Future: Redefining America's Revolutionary Spirit"

Many believe our democracy is in trouble. For nearly 200 years, we have defined the democratic character of our system—the revolutionary spirit—through elections. We are now a ballot-crazed nation, putting all of our marbles in periodic events that shape the personnel of government. But momentous transformations are occurring—changes that distort how elections are conducted and the impact they have on policy. This lecture will explore whether contemporary elections are consistent with the Spirit of '76, that is, if they can produce an outcome that reflects the will of the people. If not, are there other forms of engagement that can better produce a common good?

Daniel M. Shea is professor of government and has served as director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement. He has written or edited nearly 20 books on American electoral politics. Two of his recent books include Can We Talk? The Rise of Rude Nasty Stubborn Politics (2014) and Let’s Vote! The Essentials of the American Election Process (2013).