University of Rochester
Ferrari Humanities Symposia, Ferrari Symposia

Fall 2014
“Breakthroughs, Blind Spots, and Disruptive Ideas” with Stephen Greenblatt

Thursday, October 30 and Friday, October 31

Made possible through the generosity of Bernard T. Ferrari '70, '74M (MD) and his wife Linda Gaddis Ferrari, this year’s annual Ferrari Symposia takes the theme of "Breakthroughs, Blind Spots, and Disruptive Ideas." AS&E welcomes Stephen Greenblatt, an American literary critic, scholar, Harvard University professor, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. He will take part in a variety of meetings, discussions, and lectures. Please contact Thomas Hahn, professor of English, with questions.

Stephen Greenblatt

About Stephen Greenblatt

Greenblatt is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. He is the author of 12 books, including The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, Shakespeare’s Freedom, Will in the World, and Hamlet in Purgatory. His honors include the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and the 2011 National Book Award for The Swerve, MLA’s James Russell Lowell Prize (twice), and two Guggenheim Fellowships, among many others. He has been elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Letters, and the American Philosophical Society.

Photo credit: Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Keynote Lecture and Reception: Lucretius and the Toleration of Intolerable Ideas
Thursday, October 30, 4-6 p.m.
Hawkins-Carlson Room (Rush Rhees Library)

To attend, an RSVP is required by October 23.
Please register by contacting University Advancement at or by calling (585) 275-7393.

Greenblatt’s keynote lecture will delve into concepts explored in The Swerve, namely how ideas introduced in the challenging poem De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) by the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius managed to survive and shape the modern world after its startling recovery in the early 15th century. Greenblatt’s publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, provides this crisp overview of The Swerve on its website:

Swerve Cover Art"One of the world's most celebrated scholars, Stephen Greenblatt has crafted both an innovative work of history and a thrilling story of discovery, in which one manuscript, plucked from a thousand years of neglect, changed the course of human thought and made possible the world as we know it.

Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late thirties took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic, On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius—a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion, colliding and swerving in new directions.

The copying and translation of this ancient book-the greatest discovery of the greatest book-hunter of his age-fueled the Renaissance, inspiring artists such as Botticelli and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno; shaped the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein; and had a revolutionary influence on writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare and even Thomas Jefferson."

Schedule of Events

Thursday, October 30

Friday, October 31

About the Ferrari Symposia

Past Events | Humanities Project

University of Rochester Alumnus
and Trustee Bernard T. Ferrari, M.D.,
and his wife, Linda Gaddis Ferrari

In 2012, University of Rochester Trustee Bernard T. Ferrari ’70, ’74M (MD) and his wife, Linda Gaddis Ferrari, established the Ferrari Humanities Symposia to broaden the liberal education of the University’s undergraduates, enhance the experience of graduate students, and expand the connections of University faculty with other scholars from around the world.

The annual symposia features a public talk from a visiting scholar with expertise in humanistic thought from the 14th to 17th centuries. The visiting scholar also participates in other activities on campus designed to complement the lecture.

Both Dr. and Mrs. Ferrari have a long-standing appreciation of the arts, particularly paintings of the Italian Renaissance period. "The study of the humanities provides people with the ability to better appreciate beauty, and better appreciate life," said Dr. Ferrari, who explained that art helped to keep him grounded through his rigorous studies in science and medicine. Read more.