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SSU 110 — Stanford Saturday University: 2018

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Saturday
Course Format: On-campus
Duration: 1 day
Date(s): Mar 10
Time: 8:45 am—4:00 pm
Drop Deadline: Mar 3
Unit: 0
Tuition: $150
Status: Open
8:45 am—4:00 pm
Mar 10
1 day
Drop By
Mar 3
0 Unit
We are pleased to host our eighth annual Saturday University, and look forward to a day of shared intellectual stimulation featuring some of Stanford’s most engaging faculty. We will start the day with coffee and muffins, followed by two morning “classes”—inspiring lectures and open conversations with the audience. We’ll break for a box lunch, and return in the afternoon for two more sessions. In the past, this program has drawn 200–300 participants, and everybody has gone away at the end of the day feeling intellectually invigorated. We’re confident that this year’s lineup will be as exhilarating. Please join us.


Welcome, Refreshments, and Check-In 8:45 am

Opening Remarks 9:15 am
Charles Junkerman, Dean of Stanford Continuing Studies

Session 1 9:30 – 10:40 am
The Secret Lives of the Brain
David Eagleman, Adjunct Associate Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford

If the conscious mind—the part that you consider “you”—accounts for only a fraction of the brain’s function, what is all the rest of it doing? Our behavior, thoughts, and experiences are inseparably linked to a vast, wet, chemical-electrical network called the nervous system. The machinery is utterly alien to us, and yet, somehow, it is us. David Eagleman takes us into the depths of the subconscious to reveal how our perceptions of ourselves and our world result from the hidden workings of the most wondrous thing we’ve ever discovered: the human brain.

Session 2 10:50 am – 12:00 pm
Cathedrals: Sacred Centers of Learning, the Arts, and Activism
Jane Shaw, Dean for Religious Life; Professor of Religious Studies, Stanford

Cathedrals have always been places of architectural wonder, grand worship, and spiritual solace. They have also acted as patrons of the arts and learning, and homes of extraordinary choral music. In this session, we will explore the great medieval cathedrals as centers of learning and pilgrimage, and compare the activity of that period with the revival and building of cathedrals in the 19th century, the age of industrialization and Empire. In conclusion, we will look at the special role cathedrals have played in some of the important political movements of the 20th century (peace after World War II, fighting apartheid in South Africa, AIDS in America); and finally, why cathedrals are growing today when so many other churches are in decline.

Lunch 12:00 – 1:20 pm

Session 3 1:30 – 2:40 pm
Is There a Crisis of Liberal Democracy?
Larry Diamond, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution and Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford

In the decade following the Cold War, democracy flourished around the world as never before. In recent years, however, much of this progress has been eroded. Military power-grabs are nothing new in countries like Turkey, Thailand, Pakistan, and Egypt, but democracy has been struggling in a wider range of cases, and we never expected to see it under pressure in member states of the European Union, such as Poland and Hungary. Around the world, there is a growing debate about the efficacy of democracy, and even talk of an emerging crisis. Larry Diamond will analyze the scope and causes of this deepening challenge, and suggest a path back to democratic vitality.

Session 4 2:50 – 4:00 pm
Hubble Space Telescope Images and the Astronomical Sublime
Elizabeth Kessler, Lecturer and Program Coordinator, American Studies, Stanford

The dramatic and popular Hubble Space Telescope images now largely define how we picture the cosmos. Most people assume that they show us what nebulae, galaxies, and other celestial objects “really” look like. In fact, the images are translations of data we cannot see, crafted by astronomers who have made aesthetic choices about color, contrast, and composition. Remarkably, many of the resulting Hubble images resemble the sublime landscapes of the American West, especially as depicted by 19th-century painters and photographers. Elizabeth Kessler will explore how this evocation of the sublime encourages us to experience the cosmos, to see it as both beyond our sensory comprehension and within reach of our understanding.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.