This annual lecture honors Hamilton alumnus and trustee Richard “Dick” Couper ’44 for his commitment and contributions to Hamilton College and the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the oldest academic honorary society in America.

2022 Fall Lectures

The Story Sells the Stone, Or How to Write New Narratives with Jade Artifacts

Jade PectoralA talk by Miruna Achim. Cosponsored by the History Department, Latin American Studies Program, and Couper Phi Beta Kappa Library Lecture Series

This talk focuses on the contemporary extraction of jade in the Motagua River Valley, in the wake of (climate-change-induced) storms, which, on the one hand, destroyed vegetation and exacerbated poverty and emigration in the region, and, on the other, laid the ground bare, resulting into increased visibility and exploitation of jade as a resource. Specifically, Prof. Achim inquires into the conceptual and political arrangements that have sustained the differential production of knowledge and ignorance about jade, making it possible for certain narratives of the stone’s use and value to become prominent, while the social and environmental violence pending on its extraction has been silenced and opaqued.

Universal Magic in the Age of Enlightenment: Touzay Du Chenteau’s Great Philosophic Chart and Its Context

Richard W. Couper Lecture by Joscelyn Godwin

9 fold starThe Special Collections of Burke Library has recently acquired a set of three large and magnificent engravings, struck from the original copperplates of 1775. Their creator was Touzay Du Chenteau (or Duchanteau, 1741-1788), who was deeply involved in Masonic and secret fraternities. These engravings belong to his "Philosophical Chart" that unites magic, Kabbalah, alchemy, and Hermetic philosophy in a display of emblematic images, symbols, charts, and tables. They are an early example of the spiritual syncretism that underlay many fraternal and communal movements of the following centuries--visually striking but baffling to the uninitiated. One key to them is that Du Chenteau has illustrated structures from Cornelius Agrippa's Three Books on Occult Philosophy (1533) with images from Robert Fludd's History of the Macrocosm and Microcosm (1617). Professor Godwin, who has published two books on Fludd and much else on esoteric traditions, will explain how this visual encyclopedia works, and tell something of Du Chenteau's life and bizarre spiritual practices.

Burke Library, All Night Reading Room, October 26, 2022, 4:15 PM

Past Lectures

Artist and graphic designer Stephen Bornstein will present the Richard W. Couper Lecture on Wednesday, April 13, 2022 at 4:10 p.m. in the Science Auditorium. Bornstein’s journey took him from the Kerista commune of New York’s lower east side, into close friendships with Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, as well as considerable interaction with Neal Cassady, Ken Kesey, and Gregory Corso. Bornstein’s masterwork, a 160 foot long scroll painting illustrating the Tibetan Book of the Dead, is now in the special collections of Burke Library. Bornstein will discuss his life, work, art, and time spent at Ginsberg’s commune East Hill Farm in Cherry Valley, New York. Come enjoy an afternoon with one of the Beats!

Stephen Bornstein

The Richard “Dick” Couper ‘44 Lecture Series is pleased to present a "Robert E Lee and Me: A Soldier and Scholar Confronts His Own History" by Ty Seidule, Chamberlain Fellow and a visiting professor of history. Introduction by Joe Shelley, Vice President for Libraries and Information Technology Services. The lecture is scheduled for noon on Wednesday, February 10, 2021, via Zoom. 

Video of presentation

Kearney, Kathryn '21. "Robert E. Lee and Me and Us." Hamilton College News. February 10, 2021. 

American Messiahs” (October 10, 2019 4:15 p.m.)
Taylor Science Center G027

The Richard “Dick” Couper ‘44 Lecture Series is pleased to present “American Messiahs” a presentation by Adam Morris. Introduction by Joe Shelley, Vice President for Libraries and Information Technology Services.

“Contested Museum Objects in Darwin's Century” (April 8, 2019 noon)

Nicholaas Rupke, Johnson Professor of History at Washington and Lee University, in conjunction with the Natural Things Conference, will present this year's Couper Lecture. 

"From Sumerian Clay to MARC: A Broad History of the Card Catalog"

September 12, 2017, 4:10 p.m.

Peter Devereaux, a writer-editor with the Library of Congress Publishing Office, presents the Couper Phi Beta Kappa lecture for fall 2017. 

“The Landscape of Scholarly Publishing” (October 20, 2016)

Mark Edington, director of the Amherst College Press; Oya Y. Rieger, associate university librarian for scholarly resources and preservation services and Jerry Singerman, senior humanities editor at the University of Pennsylvania Press will participate in a panel discussion titled “The Landscape of Scholarly Publishing,” moderated by Lisa Trivedi, professor of history at Hamilton College.

View Announcement

“Open Access Monographs: Why Should Authors, Librarians, and Administrators Care?” (October 20, 2015)

Charles Watkinson is Director of University of Michigan Press and Associate University Librarian for Publishing. (view announcement)

Campus news article: University of Michigan Press Director Discusses Open Access Monographs in Couper PBK Lecture (October 24, 2015).

“Edward Robinson: ‘Father of the Scientific Study of the Holy Land’” (September 24, 2014)

by Dr. Haim Goren, historical-geographer, until recently Vice President for Academic Affairs of Tel-Hai Academic College, Upper Galilee, Israel, and chair of the newly-established M.A. program of Galilee Studies. (View announcement)

“What Can Higher Education Learn from Libraries?” (October 10, 2013)

by R. David Lankes, professor and Dean's Scholar for the New Librarianship at Syracuse University’s School of Information Science and director of the Information Institute of Syracuse. View announcement)

Reviewed by Benjamin Anderson ’14 - “R. David Lankes Discusses What Higher Ed Can Learn from Libraries” October 11, 2013. 

“The Elders Speak: The NEA’s Jazz Oral History Project, 1972-1983” (April 8, 2013)

by Dan Morgenstern, jazz historian, author, critic, eight-time Grammy Award winner and recently retired head of Rutgers University's Institute of Jazz Studies. (View announcement)

Reviewed by Esther Malisova ’13 - “Dan Morgenstern Ties Jazz History to Oral Tradition in Couper Lecture” (April 9, 2013)

“From Schopenhauer to Schwarzenegger: The Impact of Copyright on Art and Scholarship in the Digital Age” (October 6, 2011)

Kevin Smith ’81, Scholarly Communications Officer of Duke University’s Perkins Library.(View announcement)

Reviewed by Bonnie Wertheim ’14 - “Kevin Smith ’81 Details Copyright Impact in Digital Age” (October 7, 2011)

“History of Shaker Music Explored in Couper Lecture” (November 12, 2010)

Christian Goodwillie, Hamilton College rare books librarian, and Jane Crosthwaite, professor of religion at Mount Holyoke College (View announcement.)

Reviewed by Esther Malisov ’13 - “History of Shaker Music Explored in Couper Lecture” (November 16, 2010)

“Copyright Conundrums” (April 29, 2010)

by Tracy Mitrano, director of IT Policy and Computer Policy and Law Programs for the Office of Information Technologies at Cornell University (View announcement.)

Reviewed by Pat Dunn ’12 - “Cornell’s Tracy Mitrano Details Copyright Problems Facing Higher Education” (April 30, 2010)

“Is Google Making Us Stoopid? A Response” (January 29, 2009)

by Bryan Alexander, director of Research for the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE) (View announcement.)

Reviewed by Mariam Ballout ’10 - “Is Google Making Us Stupid? Bryan Alexander, Responds” (January 30, 2009)

“Sex, Celibacy, and Gender Roles among the Shakers” (October 23, 2007)

Glendyne Wergland (View announcement.)

Reviewed by Mariam Ballout ’10 - “Gender Roles in Shaker Communities were Complementary,” Couper Phi Beta Kappa Library Lecturer Says (October 24, 2007)

“Liberating Research through Open Access” (September 15, 2006)

Ray English (Azariah Smith Root Director of Libraries at Oberlin College). English spoke about the need for fundamental reform in the system of scholarly communication, and advocated a move toward open access publishing.

Reviewed by Caroline Russell O’Shea ’07 - “Ray English Presents Second Annual Couper Library Lecture” (September 18, 2006)

“An Army without Ammunition: Books and the College Library” (Inaugural Couper Phi Beta Kappa Lecture, September 9, 2005)

David Stam (Syracuse University librarian emeritus). Stam discussed the trials and tribulations of Hamilton Library in 19th Century.
(View announcement.)

Reviewed by Laura Trubiano ’07 - “Inaugural Couper Phi Beta Kappa Lecture Features SU Librarian Emeritus David Stam,” (September 12, 2005)

About the Lecture Series

The Couper Phi Beta Kappa Lecture was established in 2005 to honor Hamilton alumnus Richard “Dick” Couper ’44. Couper died in January 2006. Each year a distinguished speaker is invited to present topics related to the college's special library collections or to present an issue related to libraries in general. 

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