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Annual Torrence C. Harder Endowed Lecture, Christopher Benfey, Adoption by Wolves: Taking in Kipling

Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm

Annual Torrence C. Harder Endowed Lecture, Adoption by Wolves: Taking in Kipling

Rudyard Kipling—beloved by children for his vivid stories of human interaction with animals, and reviled by adults for his imperialist political views—remains a controversial figure. This talk will zero in on a single theme in The Jungle Books: the adoption and upbringing of the human baby Mowgli by a family of wolves. Mr. Benfrey will shed light on Kipling’s fertile period in Brattleboro, Vermont, where he began writing The Jungle Books, his own traumatic childhood experience of living with a foster family, and other aspects of adoption, kidnapping (by monkeys, for example), and belonging.

Christopher Benfey is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English and Acting Dean of Faculty at Mount Holyoke College, where he has taught since 1989. He was educated at the Putney School, Earlham College, Guilford College, and Harvard University, from which he holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature. He has held fellowships from the Danforth Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. A prolific journalist, Mr. Benfrey served as the long-time art critic for the online magazine Slate, and is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, and The New Republic, among many other publications.

Established in 1999, the Torrence C. Harder Lectureship focuses on inviting noteworthy English and Arts scholars from institutions in the Boston area to speak on literature and its relation to nature. In the past, the Harder lecture series has hosted venerable speakers
such as James Engell and Helen Vendler. Torrence Harder has also endowed the William H. and Jane Torrence Harder lecture series at Cornell University. In addition to being a generous philanthropist, Torrence Harder has served as President and Director of Harder Management Company since 1971.

To Reserve: There is no charge for this members-only event. Reservations are required but cannot be accepted until Tuesday, March 5 at 9:00 a.m. To register, please log onto your My Athenæum profile or call the Athenæum’s reservation line, (617) 720-7600.

Christopher Benfey will sign copies of his book at a reception following the lecture, books will be provided for sale by Zimmara. If you wish to reserve or purchase a book or books in advance, please visit Zimmara or call 617-651-1627.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters announced that Christopher Benfey is the 2013 winner of the Vursell Memorial Award for the quality of his prose style.