Capital University’s Gerhold Lecture in the Humanities will uphold its tradition of cultivating relevant dialogue and fostering greater understanding of the human experience with this year’s keynote, Richard Rodriguez — journalist, author, essayist and unconventional thinker on class, ethnicity, race and religion in America.
Rodriguez will present What the Scholarship Boy Knew at 7:30 pm Thursday, October 10, in Mees Hall, located on Capital’s Bexley campus, 1 College and Main. A book signing will follow. The event is free and open to the public. No tickets are required.
At 3 pm in the Bridge of Learning, 260 Ruff Learning Center, Rodriguez will meet with Capital students to discuss his book Hunger of Memory, and autobiography on Rodriguez's experience in assimilation and difficult Americanization in the classroom.
Rodriguez, the author of three memoirs and dozens of essays broadcast on The NewsHour on PBS, has been published in newspapers and magazines in the United States and Europe. In his newest series of essays, compiled in Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography, to be released October 3, Rodriguez explores topics like Islam, Judaism, Christianity and their connection to the desert.
Other titles include:
- Hunger of Memory
- Days of Obligation, An Argument With My Mexican Father
- Brown: The Last Discovery of America
Known, criticized and heralded for his unfiltered, probing observations about deeply held forces of identity, Rodriguez is an unabashed lover of America’s potential if not its current state.
The son of immigrants, he entered first grade at a Sacramento, Calif., parochial school knowing fewer than 50 English words. Today he praises his teachers for accepting the challenge to teach him in English rather than in his "family language" — Spanish. He became a classically educated intellectual, earning degrees from Stanford University, Columbia University and UC Berkeley, where he received his Ph.D. in English Renaissance Literature, before studying for a year as a Fulbright Scholar at London’s Warburg Institute.
His brush with affirmative action prompted him to abruptly abandon the academy prior to accepting his dream job on the faculty of an Ivy League college and pursue a career as a freelance writer.
Characteristic themes of Rodriguez’s work and commentary are his unexpected positions against bilingual education, affirmative action and diversity too narrowly defined, as well as his love for the religion that shapes him. He argues that class, more than race and ethnicity, is at the root of bias, discrimination and inequity.
“Anybody who has met a real minority — in the economic sense, not the numerical sense — would understand how ridiculous it is to describe a young man who is already at the university, already well into his studies in Italian and English Renaissance literature, as a minority. Affirmative action ignores our society's real minorities — members of the disadvantaged classes, no matter what their race," Rodriguez explained in an interview with journalist Scott London.
His perspective flows out of a fluid concept of race and ethnicity — determined not by birthright and blood but by osmosis and influence. His collection of essays, Brown: The Last Discovery of America, expands on that perspective by exploring “the browning of America” — the notion of blending cultures, colors and attributes of difference races rather than keeping them distinct.
He explained it this way in an interview with Salon.com:
“What interests me about the color brown is that it is a color produced by so many colors. It is a fine mess of a color. Initially, I had a sense that most Americans probably regard Hispanics as brown. But my interest was not in the Hispanic part of that observation but in the brown part of it — what is brown? And it seemed to me that the larger questions about America that the color raised is the fact that we are, all of us, in our various colors, our various hues, melting into each other and creating a brown nation. I tried to write a brown book, that is, brownly, by engaging contradiction and paradox, and rhetorical devices that suggest the way that I experience my own life. That is, for example, as the descendent of a conquistador and the Indian — as a Hispanic.”
Gerhold Lecture in the Humanities
Edward L. and Mary Catherine Gerhold established the Mary Catherine Gerhold Annual Lecture in the Humanities at Capital University to promote peace and human understanding through higher education. Past lecturers include A.S. Byatt, author of the Booker Prize-winning Possession, and Tracy Kidder, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Mountains Beyond Mountains. Funds from the endowment also support symposia, conferences, study projects and other scholarly activities in Mrs. Gerhold’s honor. The couple also established an endowed chair in the humanities at Capital. They were longtime Bexley residents, and Edward Gerhold was a lifelong Lutheran. The Gerholds were awarded honorary alumni status in 1996. Gerhold lecturers have been:
*The 2008 Gerhold Lecture in the Humanities was canceled due to severe weather.