Two Ways of Knowing: The Shredded Blanket and the Memory Palace
Thursday, March 1, 2012, 5 pm
Georgian Room, IMU
View a recording of the lecture
Jonathan Spence is widely regarded as the foremost historian of China in the world today. He is the author of some twenty books, translated into more than a dozen languages, about many aspects of Chinese politics, culture, and art. The Search for Modern China (1990), his history of China since the seventeenth century, has established itself as the standard text on the subject. The fact that it was also a New York Times bestseller attests to Spence's reach beyond the academic world. His writing and his lectures are admired for the ways they combine meticulous scholarship, an unorthodox point of view, and literary flair. The Modern Library named another of his books, The Gate of Heavenly Peace, the Chinese and Their Revolution, 1895-1980 (1981), one of the best non-fiction books of the twentieth century.
His The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci (1984) has served as the source for an opera, which had its world premiere in Hong Kong last year. He has been the recipient of many fellowships, among them a MacArthur and a Guggenheim, has been awarded ten honorary degrees, and was the 2010 Jefferson Lecturer in Humanities, the most prestigious honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities. He taught at Yale for more than forty years and retired from full-time teaching in 2008 as Sterling Professor of History.