Public Events

Virtual Book Club: “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination

“Most Blessed of the Patriarchs” looks to shed light on perhaps the most complex of America’s Founding Fathers. Two of the world’s leading scholars of Jefferson’s life and accomplishments, Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf, join forces to fundamentally challenge much of what we think we know and help create a portrait of Jefferson that reveals some of the mystery at the heart of his character by considering his extraordinary and capacious mind and the ways in which he both embodied and resisted the dynamics of his age.

Virtual Book Club: Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife

In clear and compelling terms, Bart D. Ehrman recounts the long history of the afterlife, from the Epic of Gilgamesh to the writings of Augustine, focusing especially on the teachings of Jesus and his early followers. He discusses ancient guided tours of heaven and hell, in which a living person observes the sublime blessings of heaven for those who are saved and the horrifying torments of hell for the damned.

Virtual Book Club: The Decameron

Organized around timeless themes such as the power of fortune and human will, the pain of misbegotten love, the tricks we play on one another, and the importance of virtue, The Decameron’s tales form a mosaic that has influenced writers for centuries and created a lasting document about the vibrancy of life juxtaposed against the suffering caused by the Black Death.

Shakesplish book cover

Shakesplish: How We Read Shakespeare’s Language


When Paula Blank passed away suddenly in 2016, three members of the English Department at William & Mary honored their friend and colleague's memory by ushering her unfinished manuscript through publication. On Shakespeare’s 456th birthday, Elizabeth Barnes, Erin Minear, and Erin Webster will remember their friend and talk about what it was like to bring her work to publication.

Virtual Book Club: In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love

In an instant, Joseph Luzzi became both a widower and a first-time father. In the aftermath of unthinkable tragedy, Luzzi relied on the support of his Italian immigrant family to grieve and care for his infant daughter. But it wasn’t until he turned to the Divine Comedy—a poem he had devoted his life to studying and teaching—that he learned how to resurrect his life, passing from his own grief-stricken Inferno through the Purgatory of healing, and ultimately stepping into the Paradise of rediscovered love.

The U.S. Constitution Then and Now


For over 230 years, the U.S. Constitution has served as the central document shaping life and law in the United States. Originally consisting of seven articles, the Constitution has been amended 27 times to meet the changing needs of the country and its citizens. Interpretation of its provisions and the intent of its framers has been debated throughout our country's history.

The National Humanities Center’s Virtual Book Club Series

April and May, 2020

This extraordinary pop-up series spotlights leading humanists and authors discussing their work. In addition to learning about the featured book directly from the author, participants in these sessions will explore important and timeless questions about the human experience in all its complexities—from how we face personal tragedy to the ways we think about the afterlife, how we assign guilt or define greatness.

For Ourselves and Our Posterity: The U.S. Constitution, Then and Now

During the 2020 Discovery and Inspiration: Conversations with Scholars series, we will explore the United States Constitution through the lens of the humanities. National Humanities Center Fellows from the fields of African American studies, economics, history, law, literature, and philosophy will discuss how their work informs our understanding of our nation’s founding document and our attempts to form a more perfect union.