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Karen B. Mann to Present Liberal Arts Lecture September 7

August 29, 2005

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MACOMB, IL - - Karen B. Mann, professor in the Western Illinois University department of English and Journalism, will examine the reasons why literature and humanities matter in a science-dominated world when she presents the third annual College of Arts and Sciences John Hallwas Liberal Arts Lecture at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7 in the University Union Grand Ballroom.

“Reading Between the (Front) Lines: Science and Stories” will explore whether and how literature has anything to say about the world we live in. Mann will discuss Alan Sokal’s 1996 hoax in which he pointed out the inadequacies of “scientific” theories used in cultural studies, and she will show various film clips in an effort to discover the relationships between story and truth.

“I have been happy to discover that the juxtaposing of science and culture is of interest to others as well as myself,” said Mann.

Mann, who has been a faculty member at Western for more than 30 years, focuses her scholarship in the area of humanities. She won the Humanities Forum presentation award for a discussion of Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” in 1980 and has published articles and a book-length study of the novels of George Eliot, which treat the novelist’s exploration of metaphors we use to shape our reality.

Her more recent work is in the area of contemporary film, having written on several films such as “Terminator,” “Silence of the Lambs” and “Minority Report.” She focuses on films that entangle time to explore how women are projected on the screen.

“When I turned from working on Victorian novels to film study, I discovered
how much the technology of the movie image could enrich the stories told in
words,” Mann said. “I was able to pursue the same issues about meaning, and especially
meanings for women, in a new medium. I even believe that the story-telling
available on television can offer a significant place of discovery.”

A proponent of humanistic study, both within and outside the University, Mann has been a member and officer of the Illinois Humanities Council, the state-based affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. She has received University grants to develop computer-based activities for students to analyze literary texts individually, first on CD-ROM and then on the web. She also created and carried out programs on general education for incoming freshmen.

Mann, a consulting editor for the journal “College Teaching,” is committed to multicultural education. She co-instructed Western’s first Women’s Studies course, co-created the first department of English course on women in literature, led the assessment team for multicultural courses and most recently joined other faculty in a conference presentation on women and war at the National Women’s Studies Association.

Mann has also taken an active role in shared governance, serving on college committees, Faculty Senate and many University councils and committees, including the Council on General Education. She was presented with the inaugural College of Arts and Sciences Award for Service in 1980, received a national Carnegie Foundation Award for faculty commitment in 1986 and was awarded the WOW (Women of Western) Achievement Award in 2003.

Mann will retire in December after 34 years in higher education.

In September 2003, English Professor and Historian John Hallwas delivered the inaugural Liberal Arts Lecture on “The Liberal Arts, Civic Responsibility and Western’s Mission.” Political Science Professor and Chair Charles Helm presented the 2004 lecture, “Declining Civic Engagement: Democratic Theory and Liberal Arts to the Rescue?”

The Liberal Arts Lecture is an outgrowth of the College of Arts and Sciences liberal arts discussion group formed in 2002 as a way to express commitment to a liberal arts education at Western and share approaches for maintaining a high quality educational program.

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