Humanities on Demand

Apr 10 2014

Gregory Freeze: Dostoevsky and Russian Orthodoxy

In this talk, delivered on March 8th as part of Winter Weekend 2014 Gregory Freeze presents Dostoevsky and Russian Orthodoxy. Freeze is a professor of history at Brandeis, where he teaches courses on 19th and 20th-century Russian and German history.

He is currently preparing two volumes, one a study of Church and Believers in Imperial Russia, 1750-1917, and a sequel for the Yale Series on the Annals of Communism, Bolsheviks and Believers, 1917-1941.

Freeze discusses the background of religious belief that surrounded Dostoevsky’s world, even when it does not appear directly in his novels.  According to Freeze, “If you’re going to study the Russian people, that means you study the Russian Church.” 

Mar 28 2014

William Todd: Literature as a Profession in Dostoevsky’s Russia

Welcome to another of the Maine Humanities Council’s Humanities on Demand podcasts. Here, Professor William Todd gives a talk during Winter Weekend 2014 entitled Literature as a Profession in Dostoevsky’s Russia.

Todd is Harry Tuchman Levin Professor of Literature at Harvard University, where he has taught Russian and Comparative Literature since 1988. His publications include The Familiar Letter as a Literary Genre in the Age of Pushkin, Fiction and Society in the Age of Pushkin, and Literature and Society in Imperial Russia.

Though the “professional” makes few positive appearances in Dostoevsky’s work, Todd argues that Dostoevsky himself “became a consummate professional in the course of his writing career. In so doing he not only participated in the transformation of Russian literary culture, but also took part in one of the salient phenomena of modernization, of post emancipation Russian society: the gradual rise of the professions.”

Mar 19 2014

Bruce Bourque: The Swordfish Hunters

Dr. Bruce Bourque is the chief archaeologist and curator of ethnography at the Maine State Museum. He has published many books on Maine’s native cultures, the most recent of which is The Swordfish Hunters: The History and Ecology of an Ancient American Sea People.  He is also a professor of Anthropology at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.

This talk was held on November 13, 2014 as part of the Portland Public Library’s Brown Bag Lecture series.



Mar 11 2014

Robin Miller on Crime & Punishment: The Hum and Buzz of Implication

In this talk, delivered on March 7th as part of Winter Weekend 2014, Robin Feur Miller discusses Dostoevsky’s Crime & Punishment. She analyzes different readings of the novel and studies it through the lens of Dostoevsky’s own notebooks and letters. Miller is a professor of the humanities at Brandeis University. She teaches and studies the fiction of writers in the nineteenth century, with a focus on Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Dickens.

Miller describes Crime & Punishment as the most tautly structured of Dostoevsky’s novels. Is the novel a tragedy in five acts? Is the epilogue bogus? Does Raskolnikov repent, or only feel shame? Miller argues that our capacities of sympathy and fantasy are taxed when we read the novel. She questions whether this readerly knowledge can render us more capable of making rational, ethical judgments in the real world. Miller discusses the spread of ideas like viruses, “equally contagious and both airborne.”

Feb 19 2014

Rebroadcast: The Thinking Heart

Photo by Arthur Fink

In this episode we revisit Martin Steingesser’s The Thinking Heart in honor of its inclusion in one of our recent grants. A 2013 grant brought the performance to Bates College, where it was very well received. Here we hear a recording made in 2009 of The Thinking Heart, A Performance in Two Voices with Cello by Martin Steingesser, Judy Tierney and Robin Jellis. The Thinking Heart is an original arrangement of journal and letters written by Etty Hillesum, a Dutch woman who chose to enter a World War II concentration camp in order to be with her people.

Jan 16 2014

The Lonely Fight: A History of AIDS in Maine

Katie Rutherford

Katie Rutherford in front of 'The Lonely Fight' exhibit


Katie Rutherford of the Frannie Peabody Center discusses the creation of ‘The Lonely Fight: a History of AIDS in Maine,’ from the first stages of research to the final reception. She shares the difficulties of tackling a tough subject and the responses that made it worthwhile. ‘The Lonely Fight’ ran from December 1-6, 2013 at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. It was sponsored in part by a grant from the Maine Humanities Council.


Please be aware that the content in these audio files does not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of the Maine Humanities Council or any organization with which the Maine Humanities Council is affiliated. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the podcast do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.