The Past is Present Everywhere

The past is present everywhere: in our daily lives and activities, our natural, engineered, and social environments, our political commitments, our biasses and prejudices, our religious and spiritual convictions, our scientific and technological accomplishments and ambitions, and more. What happens when competing versions of the past come into conflict? How is knowledge about the past produced? How do structures of power and prestige operating in the present shape our current knowledge of the across the disciplines?

Andrew Moore, Sanctuary, 2018, Double negative print. © Andrew Moore 2018

Presence of the Past Courses

In multiple disciplines across the curriculum, courses foster inquiry into the rich intellectual possibilities raised by the theme. Presence of the Past resonates in an oral history ethnographic lab, black intellectual activism, the timeless relevance of classical literature, the city in economic history, the politics of post-1945 Europe, the historical roots of contemporary issues, poetic engagement with the past, national myths in Russian cinema, persistent class inequality in American novels, etc.

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Presence of the Past events

Next Event

June 17, 2021

12:00 a.m.,


Theme Co-Sponsors

Elizabeth D. Leonard is the John J. and Cornelia V. Gibson Professor of History at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. A native of New York City, she earned her Ph. D. in U.S. history from the University of California, Riverside, in 1992. Leonard is the author of several articles and books on the Civil War-era: Yankee Women: Gender Battles in the Civil War (1994); All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies (1999); Lincoln’s Avengers: Justice, Revenge, and Reunion after the Civil War (2004); Men of Color to Arms! Black Soldiers, Indian Wars, and the Quest for Equality (2010); and Lincoln’s Forgotten Ally: Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt of Kentucky (2011), which was named co-winner of the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize in 2012, and Slaves, Slaveholders, and a Kentucky Community’s Struggle toward Freedom (forthcoming). Leonard is currently doing research for a biography of Colby’s most famous Civil War alumnus, Benjamin Franklin Butler, class of 1838. She is also a life-long guitarist and singer-songwriter, and many of her songs are inspired by the history she studies and teaches.
Megan Cook teaches medieval literature, with an emphasis on Chaucer and other late medieval poets, and she researches and writes about the fate of Middle English texts and books in the early modern period. Her current book project examines the scholarly reception of Chaucer’s works in sixteenth-century England, with special emphasis on the role of antiquarians in the production of early printed editions. Drawing on both intellectual history and studies in the material book, Megan seeks to understand how antiquarian readers used Middle English poetry to produce new knowledge about literary history and how this, in turn, informed emerging views of the English past.

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