Skip to main content

The Humanities Center at UT kicks off its annual Conversations and Cocktails series on Tuesday, January 10.

Offered in partnership with Holly’s Gourmet’s Market and Cafe, the programs provide the community an opportunity to interact with guest scholars as they discuss history, all while enjoying special dinner and appetizer selections.

The talks begin at 6 p.m. Dinner reservations are required, and seating is limited. A reservation can be made by calling Holly’s Gourmet’s Market and Cafe at 865-330-0123. 

Housed within the College of Arts and Sciences, the Humanities Center supports faculty fellows and graduate students whose work explores what it means to be human, our place in the universe, and our obligation to extend compassion and social justice to one another. Scholars in residence research various subjects including religious manuscripts in the eastern Mediterranean, what archaeology reveals about slavery and identity in 18th-century America, the role of chivalry in medieval Europe, metaphors and images of humans depicted as machines in 20th-century American drama, images and portrayals of the Holocaust, and the work of peasant farmers in dramatically changing agrarian practices in the 19th century.

The first discussion of the series will feature guest scholar Michael Lofaro, professor of English, whose discussion is titled “James Agee Reviews the South: Films and Books (1927-1947).” Agee is best known as the author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, A Death in the Family along with Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and The Morning Watch. But he also wrote award-winning poetry, the screenplays for The African Queen and The Night of the Hunter, and the lead piece for Time magazine on the dropping of the first atomic bomb. A Knoxvillian by birth, he was educated at St. Andrews School in Sewanee, Tennessee; Knoxville High School; Phillips Exeter Academy; and Harvard University. His works often explored his Appalachian and southern roots.

Lofaro’s talk will focus on the Journalism and Film Essays and Reviews volumes of The Works of James Agee, an ongoing series publishing all of Agee’s writings. These particular materials have previously received little attention.

“What I hope to do by evaluating all of Agee’s southern reviews over his entire career is to discern a sense of his South, or at least how he has constructed it from his experiences and memories,” Lofaro said.

Other “Conversations and Cocktails” talks include:

  • February 21—Hope Smith, doctoral student of anthropology: “Adorned Identities: An Archaeological Perspective on Race in 18th-century Virginia” 
  • March 21—Daniel Magilow, associate professor of German: “Using and Abusing the Memory of the Holocaust”
  • April 11—Luke Harlow, associate professor of history: “Religion and the Meaning of Civil War Emancipation”
  • May 9—Rachelle Scott, associate professor and associate head of religious studies: “Buddhism, Capitalism, and the Politics of Identity in Contemporary Thailand”

For more information on the Humanities Center, visit its website.


Joan Murray (865-974-4222,