Astra Speaker Series Fall 2011 / Winter 2012 | College of Arts

Astra Speaker Series Fall 2011 / Winter 2012

Science Moves: Stories and Dialogue

Tuesday May 29th, 2012
7:00pm to 9:00pm
Guelph Youth Music Centre, 75 Cardigan Street, Guelph
ADMISSION IS FREE (with donations gratefully accepted)

Making a dance inspired by behavioural ecologists presents opportunities and challenges all along the way.  From inception to tour, this talk features LINK Dance choreographer Gail Lotenberg, and collaborating scientist Dr. Mark Winston, sharing a sample of experiences from both ends of the spectrum.  With stories ranging from symbiosis to conflicting sensibilities, this presentation will feature video excerpts and photography, but mostly a woven tapestry of experiences detailing a roadmap for cross-disciplinary collaboration.  The evening will include an opportunity for dialogue, encouraging audience members to share their thoughts, questions or experiences with respect to the creative integration of art and science.

Wednesday March 28, 2012
The Bullring, University of Guelph

The Languages of Biology: Can poetry help us humans understand our place in the world and our relationship with the environment? Are there languages of biology that poets can help translate? Please join us for an evening of poetry readings and discussion at the intersections of poetry and science.

Our panelists:
Prof. Dionne Brand is an award-winning poet and University Research Chair at the University of Guelph. She won the Governor General’s Literary Award for her volume Land to Light On, and nominated for the volumes No Language Is Neutral and Inventory respectively. She has won the Pat Lowther Award for poetry and her volume thirsty was nominated for the Griffin Poetry Prize. She has also achieved great distinction and acclaim in fiction, non-fiction, and film.

Prof. Jan Conn is the author of 7 books of poetry and is a Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, SUNY-Albany. Her book South of the Tudo Bem Cafe, Vehicule Press, 1990, was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award. A suite of her poems, Amazonia, won 2nd prize in the CBC literary awards for 2003. She was recently awarded the inaugural P.K. Page Founders' Award for Poetry (2006) from The Malahat Review.

Prof. Madhur Anand is an award-winning ecologist and Associate Professor in the School of Environmental Sciences, University of Guelph, who has published poetry and co-edited an anthology of poetry about restoration ecology (Regreen: New Canadian Ecological Poetry, YSP)

Books from each author will be available for sale before & after the event.

Open Mic at The Bullring begins at 9pm.

Tuesday March 6, 2012 - Associate Professor Madhur Anand

Human-Environment Systems and Sustainability: Collective Intentions vs. the Invisible Hand
MacKinnon 318 at 12 noon - Bring your lunch

We all know that humans are part of the so-called 'environment'.  But the collapse of human-dominated ecosystems in not so distant and recent times suggests that we don't have a good understanding of human-environment systems.  What are some of the belief and values that humans introduce into their interactions with ecosystems? Can this kind of knowledge help us to move away from 'invisible hand' metaphors of production systems and more towards managing collective intentions towards greater sustainability?  I will address these questions and give an example of an approach to coupling human-environment systems from our recent work on mathematical modeling of human influence on forest-grassland mosaic dynamics.   By 'coupling', I mean a two-way feedback: from human behaviour to 'environmental' dynamics and back to human behaviour.  In my talk I may also refer, albeit obliquely, to poetry.





Science Complex Atrium, University of Guelph at 7pm

The subject of this lecture is a manuscript of extraordinary importance to the history of science, the Archimedes Palimpsest. This thirteenth century prayer book contains erased texts that were written several centuries earlier still. These erased texts include two treatises by Archimedes that can be found nowhere else, The Method and Stomachion. The manuscript sold at auction to a private collector on the 29th October 1998. The owner deposited the manuscript at The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, a few months later. Since that date the manuscript has been the subject of conservation, imaging and scholarship, in order to better read the texts. The Archimedes Palimpsest project, as it is called, has shed new light on Archimedes and revealed new texts from the ancient world. These new texts include speeches by an Athenian orator from the fourth century B.C. called Hyperides, and a third century A.D. commentary on Aristotle’s Categories. The project, which is in its twelfth year, has generated a great deal of public curiosity, as well as the interest of scholars throughout the world. All the raw imaging data, as well as transcriptions of the unique texts in the manuscript have been published on the web. William Noel was the Project’s director, and he will give an account of the history of the book and the project, and discuss its discoveries.

Dr. William Noel, is Curator of Manuscripts and Rare Books at The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, a position he took up in 1997.  He received his Ph.D in 1993 from Cambridge University England.  Among the positions he has held are Director of Studies in the History of Art, Downing College, Cambridge University, and Assistant Curator of Manuscripts, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Will Noel is the author of The Harley Psalter, Cambridge Studies in Palaeography and Codicology Vol. 4, Cambridge University Press 1995, a detailed investigation into the making of an illustrated eleventh-century Psalter, and the author of "The Oxford Bible Pictures" Facsimile Verlag, Luzern and The Walters Art Museum, 2004 which concerns a series of English miniatures of the thirteenth century in The Walters Art Museum.  He is also co-editor and contributor to an exhibition catalogue: The Utrecht Psalter in Medieval Art: Picturing the Psalms of David, London, 1996.  In 2002, together with Professor Daniel Weiss and Dr. Griffith Mann, he curated an exhibition entitled "The Book of Kings: Art, War, and the Morgan Library's Medieval Picture Bible" at The Walters Art Museum.  Since January 1999, Dr. Noel has directed an international program to conserve, image and study the Archimedes Palimpsest, the unique source for three treatise by the ancient Greek mathematician ( 

He has co-written a popular account of the project, entitled "The Archimedes Codes", together with Professor Reviel Netz, published by Wiedenfeld and Nicolson (2007).  He is the Curator of the exhibition: Lost and Found: The Secrets of Archimedes".  Dr. Noel was the principal grant writer for two successful applications to the NEH to create full digital surrogates of The Walters holdings of illuminated Islamic, English, Dutch, Central European, Armenian, Byzantine and Ethiopian manuscripts.  Dr. Noel has taught and lectured widely.  He is on the Faculty of the Rare Book School, University of Virginia, and he is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Art History, John Hopkins University.  Will likes reading and sailing.


Tuesday February 7, 2012 - Jennifer Bonnell

An Environmental History of an Urban Borderland: Toronto's Don River Valley, 1860-1930
MacKinnon 318 at 12 noon - Bring your lunch

This presentation explores the social and environmental history of Toronto's Don River Valley, and the circumstances that transformed an area central to the development of the early town of York to a polluted and vilified urban periphery by the mid-nineteenth century.  Cast as a "space apart" for the assimilation of municipal and industrial wastes, the river valley also functioned through this period as a place of refuge and reform for people at the margins of society-for gangsters, Roma travellers, depression-era hoboes.  This presentation examines the connections between these functions, and the ramifications they had for perceptions and material uses of this space at the city's edge.



Tuesday February 28, 2012 - Dr. William Noel

Lost and Found: The Archimedes Palimpsest
Science Complex Atrium, University of Guelph at 7pm

For more information about this talk

This talk is brought to you by ASTRA, the Art History Speaker Series, the School of Fine Art and Music, and the College of Arts.


Thursday September 15, 2011 - Shelagh Grant

Polar Imperative and Beyond
Science Complex Atrium at 7pm

Shelagh Grant is Canada's Leading Arctic historian.

Click on the following link for more information about this talk:


Thursday September 22, 2011 - Professor Gard Otis

The Benefits of Honey Bees: Honey, Pollination, and Rural Livelihoods
MacKinnon Building Room 132 at 12 noon - Bring your lunch

Bees are important as pollinators of both crops and native plants. Honey bees, in particular, can be delivered when needed in huge numbers, and in addition to their pollination services they produce products (honey and beeswax) that are valued by humans. Gard will draw on his personal experience to explore the relative value of honey bees in both North America and developing countries.



Tuesday November 1, 2011 -- Professor Tom Nudds

The Art of Science for Environmental Policymakers

Mackinnon Building Room 229 at 12 noon -- Bring your lunch

Governments and stakeholders alike turn to scientific authority to advocate and defend policy choices. However, scientific knowledge is in a constant state of flux; uncertainty is pervasive. New tools for aiding policy makers to manage in the face of uncertainty require a fundamental re-shaping of what agencies and advocates typically mean by “science-based”. Tom will build on his recent presentation to policy directors from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to illustrate the case for scientific policy analysis.


Monday November 14, 2011 - Lawrence Weschler

Art and Science as Parallel and Divergent Ways of Knowing

War Memorial Hall at 7pm

LAWRENCE WESCHLER, for twenty years (1981-­2002) a staff writer at The New Yorker, where his work shuttled between political tragedies and cultural comedies, is a two-­time winner of the George Polk Award (for Cultural Reporting in 1988 and Magazine Reporting in 1992) and was also a recipient of the Lannan Literary Award (1998).

Weschler’s books of political reportage include The Passion of Poland (1984); A Miracle, A Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers (1990); and Calamities of Exile: Three Nonfiction Novellas (1998). His “Passions and Wonders” series of books currently comprises Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin (1982); David Hockney’s Cameraworks (1984); Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder (1995) which was shortlisted for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; A Wanderer in the Perfect City: Selected Passion Pieces (1998) Boggs: A Comedy of Values (1999); Robert Irwin: Getty Garden (2002); Vermeer in Bosnia (2004); Everything that Rises: A Book of Convergences (2006), which received the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticsm; True To Life: Twenty-­Five Years of Conversations with David Hockney (2008); Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: Over Thirty Years of Conversations with Robert Irwin (Expanded Edition, 2008); and just released this fall, Uncanny Valley: Adventures in the Narrative.

Weschler has contributed to recent museum and gallery  catalogues focused on the work of Tara Donovan, Deborah Butterfield, Liza Lou, The Art Guys, Michael Light and Mark Dion, among others. He is a contributing editor to McSweeney’s The Threepenny Review, and The Virginia Quarterly Review; curator at large of the DVD quarterly Wholphin; former chair of the Sundance Documentary Film Fund; and director of the Ernst Toch Society, dedicated to the promulgation of the music of his grandfather, the noted Weimar emigre composer.

Lawrence Weschler has taught, variously, at Princeton, Columbia, UCSC, Bard, Vassar, New York University, and Sarah Lawrence. He currently serves as the director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU and artistic director emeritus of the Chicago Humanities Festival.