Programs and Events

Alongside our interdisciplinary seminar, the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture sponsors interdisciplinary conferences, lectures, workshops, and other events both on and off-campus. We also coordinate with various existing graduate student workshops on campus.  Students interested in collaborating with the Scherer Center should contact Tara Rutledge.

Upcoming Events:

Conversations in American Culture

The Transcendentalists and Their World: A conversation with Robert A. Gross, Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Bancroft Prize-winning historian Robert A. Gross on his new book, The Transcendentalists and Their Worldrecently named one of the top 10 books of 2021 by the Wall Street Journal. The discussion will be hosted by Eric Slauter, Director of the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture.

The Week: A History of the Unnatural Rhythms That Made Us Who We Are: A conversation with David M. Henkin, Thursday January 27, 2022, 6:00pm -7:00pm CST (via Zoom)

REGISTER HERE (And please see below for information on discounted and complimentary copies of the book.)

Please join us for a conversation with David Henkin on his recent book The Week: A History of the Unnatural Rhythms That Made Us Who We Are (Yale University Press), one of the Seminary Co-op’s notable books of 2021. The discussion will be hosted by Eric Slauter, Director of the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture.

About the book: An investigation into the evolution of the seven-day week and how our attachment to its rhythms influences how we live

We take the seven-day week for granted, rarely asking what anchors it or what it does to us. Yet weeks are not dictated by the natural order. They are, in fact, an artificial construction of the modern world.

With meticulous archival research that draws on a wide array of sources—including newspapers, restaurant menus, theater schedules, marriage records, school curricula, folklore, housekeeping guides, courtroom testimony, and diaries—David Henkin reveals how our current devotion to weekly rhythms emerged in the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century. Reconstructing how weekly patterns insinuated themselves into the social practices and mental habits of Americans, Henkin argues that the week is more than just a regimen of rest days or breaks from work, but a dominant organizational principle of modern society. Ultimately, the seven-day week shapes our understanding and experience of time.

About the author: David M. Henkin is Margaret Byrne Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley.  His primary field of research is US history, with research interests in 19th-century, urban history, reading and writing,  and popular culture. He lives in San Francisco, CA, and Bozeman, MT.

General discount through Seminary Coop:

The Scherer Center is pleased to offer a 15% discount and free shipping for all purchases of The Week made through the Seminary Coop before Friday, February 4th.  Please use coupon code SCHERER. You will not ultimately be charged for shipping, though your credit card will be pre-authorized to cover it. We apologize for the inconvenience.  

Complimentary copies for University of Chicago students

One copy of The Week will be available free of charge to the first ten University of Chicago students to register for this event and complete the Form for Complimentary Copies  through the Seminary Co-op.

Upcoming guests for Conversations in American Culture to be announced soon.

Previous Events:

Fall 2020 Amending America Series via Zoom

Beyond Belief, Beyond Conscience:  The Radical Significance of the Free Exercise of Religion

Thursday, October 15, 4:30pm-5:30pm (CST)

Aconversation on the First Amendment between two leading experts on American constitutional law and history, the first in a series of events supported by the Scherer Center focused on the theme of amending America. This conversation, prompted by the recent publication of Jack Rakove’s Beyond Belief, Beyond Conscience: The Radical Significance of the Free Exercise of Religion (Oxford University Press, 2020) in the Inalienable Rights Series edited by Geoffrey Stone, promises to range across history, politics, and law to address the origins, meanings, and contested legacies of the idea of religious freedom.

Jack N. Rakove is William Robertson Coe Professor of History and American Studies and Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Stanford University. He is the author of six books, including Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, finalist for the George Washington Book Prize, and Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution, which won the Pulitzer Prize. 

Geoffrey R. Stone is the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago and the author of many books on constitutional law, including Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion and Law from America’s Origins to the Twenty-First Century and Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism, which received book prizes in political science, law, and history. His next book will be National Security, Leaks and The Freedom of the Press

About the book: Today, Americans believe that the early colonists came to the New World in search of religious liberty. What we often forget is that they wanted religious liberty for themselves, not for those who held other views that they rejected and detested. Yet, by the mid-18th century, the colonists agreed that everyone possessed a sovereign right of conscience. How did this change develop? In Beyond Belief, Beyond Conscience, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jack Rakove tracks the unique course of religious freedom in America.

He finds that, as denominations and sects multiplied, Americans became much more tolerant of the free expression of rival religious beliefs. During the Revolutionary era, he explains, most of the new states moved to disestablish churches and to give constitutional recognition to rights of conscience. These two developments explain why religious freedom originally represented the most radical right of all. No other right placed greater importance on the moral autonomy of individuals, or better illustrated how the authority of government could be limited by denying the state authority to act. Together, these developments made possible the great revival of religion in 19th-century America.

As Rakove explains, America’s intense religiosity eventually created a new set of problems for mapping the relationship between church and state. He goes on to examine some of our contemporary controversies over church and state not from the vantage point of legal doctrine, but of the deeper history that gave the U.S. its own approach to religious freedom. In this book, he tells the story of how American ideas of religious toleration and free exercise evolved over time, and why questions of church and state still vex us. 

A Conversation on the Fifteenth Amendment:

Eric Foner (Columbia University) will discuss his recent book, The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution, with interlocutor Thomas C. Holt (University of Chicago).

Thursday, October 22, 4:30pm-5:30pm (CST)

Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University, specializes in the Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery, and 19th-century America. He is the author of many works, which include The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery which won the Pulitzer, Bancroft, and Lincoln prizes (2011), as well as Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (1988), which was the winner, among other awards, of the Bancroft Prize, Parkman Prize, and Los Angeles Times Book Award.

Thomas C. Holt, James Westfall Thompson Professor of American and African American History,  has taught at Howard University, Harvard University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Chicago. Holt’s first book Black Over White: Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina during Reconstruction (1977) won the Sydnor Award from the Southern Historical Association. Another of his books, The Problem of Freedom: Race, Labor, and Politics in Jamaica and Britain, 1832–1938, (1992) was awarded the 1995 Elsa Goveia Prize by the Association of Caribbean Historians. 

Citywide Partnerships

The Scherer Center is a proud co-sponsor of the Newberry Library’s Seminar in American Art and Visual CultureSeminar in Early American History and CultureSeminar in Labor History, the Urban History Dissertation Group, and the Seminar on Women and Gender.