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University Libraries Writers Series: Home

Lectures and Conversations with Stony Brook Faculty and Visiting Authors. Sponsored by Stony Brook University Libraries.

Spring 2016 Featured Speakers

Douglas Pfeiffer  Joshua Teplitsky  Celia Marshik  Sue Bottigheimer  Naomi Wolf

Pictured left to right: Douglas Pfeiffer, Joshua Teplitsky, Celia Marshik, Ruth (Sue) Bottigheimer, Naomi Wolf.

Save the Dates and Register

Special Collections Seminar Room, second floor, Frank Melville Jr. Memorial Library (room E-2340), Stony Brook University (directions). 

Please note: food and drink are not permitted in the seminar room.

About the University Libraries Writers Series

The University Libraries Writers Series feature lectures and conversations with Stony Brook faculty and visiting authors.

  • Events are approximately one hour.
  • Free and open to the public. 
  • Events will be filmed. By attending, guests consent to be filmed. 
  • If you require special accommodations, please contact the series coordinators (contact information below).

For More Information

For more information about the programs or participating in the series, please contact event coordinators:

Kristen J. Nyitray
Head, Special Collections & University Archives, University Archivist
Associate Librarian 
(631) 632-7119


Visiting Assistant Librarian, Research & User Engagement

(631) 632-1552

Tuesday, May 3 at 2 p.m.



Naomi Wolf: "Victorian Sexualities"
Read more about the event here.

We think that homophobic laws and attitudes have been with us forever -- but in fact they were codified into law fairly recently; indeed, the way we think today about gay male identity is a fairly recent invention, dating from the turn of the last century. It was the work of a small group of artists, poets, and "sexual dissidents" who fought a battle, using paintings, verse and essays, to change an "abominable vice" to "the love that dares not speak its name" to, finally. a natural variation of response and sensibility that transcends cultures, among human beings. My talk will tell this story. Similarly, we think that censorship has always been with us, in its modern form -- but that too was fairly recently invented and codified into law. I will give a brief overview of that story too, and its relevance to contemporary wars over freedom of speech.


Naomi Wolf is author of eight New York Times nonfiction bestsellers and is at work on Outrages, about the invention of homophobic law and of state censorship in the Victorian period. She is teaching a course in victorian sexualities at Stony Brook University this semester.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 1 p.m.



Read more about the event here.


Douglas Pfeiffer: "How Erasmus Invented Historical Context"

Who invented reading for historical context? One tradition credits the Renaissance philologists such as Erasmus who sought to edit ancient texts for contemporary readers. But this explanatory tradition has also encouraged a disciplinary divide between such pioneering positivism and what in practice went side-by-side with it:  the more imaginative dimensions of reading and writing about literature. To challenge this origins story and its remarkably persistent notion of a fundamental segregation of textual editing from literary criticism, this talk looks at Erasmus of Rotterdam’s learned yet playfully inventive 1516 edition of Saint Jerome. Erasmus’ editing reveals just how central non-rational, even fictionalizing methods were to early modern philology – the field often understood as a progenitor of modern fact-based, critical historiography.
Douglas Pfeiffer is Associate Professor in the English Department and Director of Stony Brook’s English Honors Program. He is author of
The Force of Character: Authorial Personality and the Making of Renaissance Texts, forthcoming from Oxford University Press. His teaching and research focus on early modern poetry, humanism, and history of the book.


Joshua Teplitsky: "A Social Life of Jewish Books: Archiving Jewish Life in Eighteenth-Century Prague"

David Oppenheim of Prague (1664-1736), collected one of the most important Jewish libraries the world has ever known. Assembled over the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries his library contains works of Jewish law and liturgy, Yiddish folklore, mathematical textbooks, and mystical treatises. Remarkable as a collection in its own right, the individual books tell a larger story about the flows of politics, power, and influence in early modern Jewish culture. This talk “unpacks the library” of David Oppenheim and points to the ways that the movement of books can reveal more than just intellectual horizons—following their ephemeral traces provides for an expanded archive of social and political life in premodern Europe.

Joshua Teplitsky is an assistant professor of history at Stony Brook University. Prior to coming to Stony Brook he held the Albert and Rachel Lehmann Junior Research Fellowship in Jewish History and Culture at Oxford University. He has published articles in Jewish Social Studies and Jewish History and is currently working on a monograph about the library and life of David Oppenheim of Prague (1664-1736) as a window into premodern Jewish political culture in Central Europe.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 at 1 p.m.


Read more about the event here.


Celia Marshik: "An Epidemic of Fancy Dress: Representations of Costume in Modernist and Popular Literature"

Costumes were incredibly popular in the early twentieth century: period commentators even diagnosed an "epidemic" of fancy dress. This talk traces the range of options party-goers might wear and looks at the surprising responses of writers to a category of clothing that purported to transform a wearer's identity, if only for a night. I will provide examples of popular writers who routinely punished characters wearing aspirational costumes and others who played with the idea that identity might be no more than costume. Fancy dress, I will argue, became a site for working out the relationship between persons and what they wore.


Celia Marshik is professor and chair of the English Department. She is the author of British Modernism and Censorship  and the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Modernist Culture. Her talk is taken from her forthcoming book, Thinking Clothing: Modernism, Middlebrow and the Strange Life of British Garments, which will be published in summer 2016.


Ruth (Sue) Bottigheimer:"The Europeanness of the Arabian Nights"

The Arabian Nights have undergone remarkable transformations over the centuries, most notably the amazing way that the collection has incorporated European stories from the early 1700s. Always bearing the same title, Alf Lyla wa-Layla, or Thousand and One Nights, the collection began as Aesopic moral tales. Subsequently, they added romances and complex and mind-bending fictions. Over time, motifs or entire plots from European fairy tales joined the eastern stories.


Ruth (Sue) Bottigheimer, Research Professor in the Department of Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies at Stony Brook University, is a leading historian of European fairy tales. She completed her doctorate in German Literature and Language at Stony Brook University. Her most recent book is titled Magic Tales and Fairy Tale Magic from Ancient Egypt to the Italian Renaissance, and she is presently researching the European components of the Arabian Nights.