Patricia H. Labalme Friends of the Library Lecture

Colm Tóibín & Sara Antonelli – On Henry James

Tuesday, October 18, 2016–6:00 PM
Villa Aurelia
Largo di Porta S. Pancrazio, 1
Rome, Italy
Colm Tóibín with Sara Antonelli - On Henry James

This event is the Patricia H. Labalme Friends of the Library Lecture and is part of the series New Work in the Arts & Humanities: American Classics.

This year marks the centenary of the death of Henry James, the literary titan and cosmopolitan figure whose classic novels explore the culture clash between brash Americans and jaded European society. In this event, Colm Tóibín, the author of the award-winning novel The Master (2004), which unpacks James’s complex character towards the end of the writer’s life, will discuss James’s legacy with Sara Antonelli, who teaches Anglo American literature at the Università degli Studi Roma Tre.

From early novels such as The Europeans or The Portrait of a Lady, which pitted the innocence of the new world against the corruption of the old, to later works, including The Golden Bowl and The Wings of the Dove, James crafted increasingly nuanced portraits of American identities thrown into relief by their experiences abroad. Many of his stories are set against the backdrop of Rome, drawing upon James’s thorough knowledge of the inner workings of its patrician palaces and artists’ studios. James himself, however, despite his prolific output, copious letters, notebooks, novels, and plays, as well as the many portraits of him by friends, remains an enigmatic figure. This has made him and his work an alluring subject for contemporary scholars and writers, including Tóibín, who have speculated about many aspects of his personal life, including his sexual proclivities, his friendships with men and women, his relationships with his siblings, and his ill-fated interest in the theater.

The event will be held in English.

The 2016–17 Conversations/Conversazioni series is sponsored by the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Embassy of Ireland in Italy.

Alina Payne – Architecture, Words, and the Limits of Drawing

Tuesday, March 17, 2020–6:00 PM
Villa Aurelia
Largo di Porta S. Pancrazio, 1
Rome, Italy

Sheepskin parchment (photograph provided by William Cowley)



Alina Payne will deliver the American Academy in Rome Friends of the Library Lecture for 2019–20. Her talk is titled “Architecture, Words, and the Limits of Drawing.”

Payne is Alexander P. Misheff Professor of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University and Paul E. Geier Director of Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. She is the author of The Architectural Treatise in the Italian Renaissance: Architectural Invention, Ornament, and Literary Culture (1999), Rudolf Wittkower (with Francesco Peri, 2011), From Ornament to Object: Genealogies of Architectural Modernism (2012), The Telescope and the Compass: Teofilo Gallaccini and the Dialogue between Architecture and Science in the Age of Galileo (2012), and L’architecture parmi les arts: Matérialité, transferts et travail artistique dans l’Italie de la Renaissance (2016). Payne has edited numerous volumes of essays including, most recently, Renaissance and Baroque Architecture (2016), Histories of Ornament: From Global to Local (with Gülru Necipoglu and Michele Bacci, 2016), and Revision, Revival, and Return: The Renaissance in the Nineteenth Century (with Lina Bolzoni, 2016). In 2006 Payne was awarded the Max Planck and Alexander von Humboldt Prize in the Humanities (2006–12). She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The lecture will be held in English. You can watch it live at

Andrew Robison – Piranesi Connoisseurship: The AAR’s Special Copy of the “Antichità d’Albano” (1764)

Tuesday, February 9, 2021–6:00 PM
AAR Zoom
Central European Time
Rome, Italy
Andrew Robison - Piranesi Castel Gandolfo

Detail of plate XXII of the Antichità d’Albano (1764): “Elevazione e prospetto d’ un’ altra piscina esistente nella vigna de’ PP della Compagnia di Gesù a Castel Gandolfo”

For centuries Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s magnificent etchings and books have been the most influential images of ancient Roman architecture, both in fact and in fantasy. They were so much desired, and so many copies of Piranesi’s works have flooded the world, that it is hard to sort out which ones are actually the closest to what their author wanted, and the best as works of art. The American Academy in Rome has one of the finest copies of Piranesi’s fundamental 1764 book on the antiquities of Albano.
On Tuesday, February 9, Andrew Robison, a prominent Piranesi scholar and the now-retired senior curator of prints and drawings at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, will situate the Academy’s copy of the Antichità d’Albano in Piranesi’s broader work and reveal the special qualities of this copy.

The Patricia H. Labalme Friends of the Library Lecture, to be presented on Zoom, is free and open to the public. The start time is 6:00pm Central European Time (12:00 noon Eastern Time).

The Friends of the Library supports the Library through annual dues and special initiatives. The group also helps to raise awareness of the Library’s resources through regular programs. Join online today!

Watch the video

Thomas Carpenter – In Pursuit of the God Dionysos in Ancient Apulia

Wednesday, May 8, 2019–6:00 PM
Villa Aurelia
Largo di Porta S. Pancrazio, 1
Rome, Italy
Friends of the Library Lecture - Thomas Carpenter

Traditional views in the past have assumed that Apulian figure-decorated pottery was made primarily by and for the colonial Greeks in Taranto, but recent research has shown that the local Italic (non-Greek) people of Apulia provided principal markets. In this lecture, Thomas Carpenter will demonstrate how those local people adopted and modified Greek imagery of Dionysos, the god of wine and theater, for their own purposes and viewed him as a guide to the underworld and a blessed afterlife.

Carpenter is Charles J. Ping Professor of Humanities and Distinguished Professor of Classics Emeritus at Ohio University. Trained as a classical archaeologist and an expert in ancient Greek religion and iconography, he holds degrees from Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, and Oxford University. Carpenter has published numerous books and articles, one of which, Art and Myth in Ancient Greece (1991), has been translated into six languages. His recent work has focused on the Italic people of the fourth century BCE, and he recently coedited the first book in English to focus on these people, The Italic People of Ancient Apulia: New Evidence from Pottery for Workshops, Markets, and Customs (2014).

The event will be held in English. You can watch it live at

Mary Roberts – East of West: Edward Said, Melancholy Time, and the Orientalist Interior

Thursday, March 22, 2018–6:00 PM
Villa Aurelia
Largo di Porta S. Pancrazio, 1
Rome, Italy
Mary Roberts - East of West: Edward Said, Melancholy Time, and the Orientalist Interior

This event is part of the series New Work in the Arts & Humanities: East and West.

Horological inventions such as the marine chronometer (the technological breakthrough enabling accurate global navigation), and the transplantation of metropolitan time marking practices to colonial outposts were a fulcrum of the empire building of European nation states in the nineteenth century. Western progress and its counterpoint, the non-west as a repository of premodernity, were part of the telos of modern colonialism and orientalism. As Edward Said put it in the opening paragraph to his seminal book Orientalism, the Orient of European invention is defeated by time: “its time was over.”

The recent global turn in our discipline resituates European orientalism within a broader, more politically contested cultural geography. It’s a move east of west. How is the temporal logic of modernity differentially articulated across this expanded cultural geography of the visual? Analysing the interiors of two nineteenth-century British orientalist artist-collectors in the imperial capitals of Istanbul and London, and the Islamic and European art displayed there, discloses their entanglements within British, Ottoman, and Sicilian orientalism. In doing so, this lecture reveals the ways the aesthetics of these spaces were inflected by the heterochronicity of Ottoman and European modernity. Focusing on the temporal logic of these sites enables us to elaborate the transcultural and transhistorical complexities of art’s time.

Mary Roberts is John Schaeffer Professor of Art History at the University of Sydney in Australia. She is the author of Istanbul Exchanges: Ottomans, Orientalists, and Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture (Oakland: University of California Press, 2015), which maps patterns of transcultural exchange between Europe and the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century. Istanbul Exchanges won the 2016 Art Association of Australia and New Zealand prize for best book and was translated into Turkish that same year. Roberts also wrote Intimate Outsiders: The Harem in Ottoman and Orientalist Art and Travel Literature (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007). Her current book project, Artists as Collectors of Islamic Art, extends her inquiry into the temporality of modernity forged through visual exchange across cultures.

The event will be held in English. You can watch this event at

Mary Roberts’s lecture, along with the exhibition Yto Barrada, The Dye Garden, opening on May 10, and the international symposium, Islamic Art and Architecture in Italy: Between Tradition and Innovation on May 17-18, are the culminating events of the East and West thematic program at the AAR for 2017-18.

David I. Kertzer & Mauro Canali – New Perspectives on the Fascist Ventennio: What the Archives Reveal

Tuesday, February 23, 2016–6:00 PM
Villa Aurelia
Largo di Porta S. Pancrazio, 1
Rome, Italy
Patricia H. Labalme Friends of the Library Lecture - David I. Kertzer and Mauro Canali

This event is part of the New Work in the Arts & Humanities: Bodies of Knowledge series.

Italy has gone through a variety of phases over the past seventy years in trying to come to terms with its Fascist past. Yet this history still remains a painful one. All too often myth and wishful thinking take the place of dispassionate analysis and the facing of uncomfortable truths. In trying to reconstruct this history, deep archival research is essential. Two of the scholars who have published influential archivally based recent work that casts new light on the Fascist period engage in a conversation about how their findings from the archives have brought dominant narratives about this history into question. They discuss what they have found to be the most valuable sources in both the civil and ecclesiastical archives for shedding new light on this history, and they discuss the question of whether all relevant documents have been made available to scholars.

David Kertzer is professor of social science, anthropology, and Italian studies at Brown University (2000 Resident), and Mauro Canali is professor of contemporary history at the University of Camerino.

The event will be held in English and Italian with simultaneous translation available.

With the support of the United States of America Embassy to Italy.

Mary Beard, Linda Douglass, Sabina Ciuffini & Kashetu Kyenge – Women, Books, and Blogs: Public Speech in the Age of Social Media

Tuesday, October 21, 2014–6:30 PM
Villa Aurelia
Largo di Porta S. Pancrazio, 1
Rome, Italy
Patricia H. Labalme Friends of the Library Lecture - Women, Books and Blogs: Public Speech in the Age of Social Media

For the Patricia H. Labalme Friends of the Library Lecture, a group of academics, journalists, and politicians will discuss the status of women as public intellectuals and how the advent of new media has changed the nature and tenor of feminist discourse. The historical role of women’s voices—as authors and advocates—will be laid against the new terrain presented by the twenty-four-hour news cycle and the democratized internet.

Participants include: Mary Beard, a professor of classics and a blogger for the Times; Linda Douglass, the former White House communications director for health care; Sabina Ciuffini, an entrepreneur and a blogger for Il Fatto Quotidiano; and Kashetu Kyenge, an Italian politician and ophthalmologist.

Simultaneous translation will be available. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Friends of the Library Annual Book Sale will be held in the Academy’s Salone from 2:00 to 5:00pm on the same day.

This event is made possible, in part, by the generous support of the Embassy of the United States of America.

Stephen Greenblatt – Lucretius and the Toleration of Intolerable Ideas

Wednesday, November 20, 2013–6:00 PM
Metropolitan Club
1 East 60th Street
New York, NY
United States
Lucretius and the Toleration of Intolerable Ideas

Join us for the annual Patricia H. Labalme Friends of the Library lecture in New York, featuring the Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Greenblatt (2010 Resident). Greenblatt will discuss how freedom of expression is a recent idea, by no means universal even now and hedged about, in those societies that value it, with restrictions. Through most of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and extending well into the seventeenth-century, there were strict limits on what could legitimately be said or written. To call into question divine providence or to deny the existence of the afterlife were among the positions regarded as particularly intolerable. This lecture centers on why and how the utterly unacceptable ideas reintroduced by the recovery of De rerum natura in 1417 managed to survive and be transmitted during pre-Enlightenment centuries that had no concept of toleration.

Greenblatt is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. He is the author of twelve books, including The Swerve: How the World Became Modern; Shakespeare's Freedom; Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare; Hamlet in Purgatory; Marvelous Possessions; and Renaissance Self-Fashioning. He is general editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature and The Norton Shakespeare, has edited seven collections of criticism, and is a founding editor of the journal Representations. His honors include the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and the 2011 National Book Award for The Swerve, the Modern Language Association’s James Russell Lowell Prize (twice), Harvard University’s Cabot Fellowship, the Distinguished Humanist Award from the Mellon Foundation, Yale’s Wilbur Cross Medal, the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre, the Erasmus Institute Prize, two Guggenheim Fellowships and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of California, Berkeley. Among his named lecture series are the Adorno Lectures in Frankfurt, the University Lectures at Princeton, and the Clarendon Lectures at Oxford, and he has held visiting professorships at universities in Beijing, Kyoto, London, Paris, Florence, Torino, Trieste, and Bologna, as well as the Renaissance residency at the American Academy in Rome. Greenblatt was president of the Modern Language Association and is a permanent fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin. He has been elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the American Philosophical Society.

A reception will follow the lecture.

Peter Brown – Constantine, Eusebius of Caesarea, and the Future of Christianity

Thursday, December 5, 2013–6:30 PM
Villa Aurelia
Largo di Porta S. Pancrazio, 1
Rome, Italy
Peter Brown - Constantine, Eusebius of Caesarea and the Future of Christianity

The lecture is part of the New Work in the Humanities Series 2013–14: New Work on Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

The lecture will delineate the notion of the future expansion of Christianity as this is expressed in the works of Eusebius of Caesarea and as it is implied in the statements and actions of Constantine. It will attempt to conjure up what Christians of the age of Constantine thought about the future prospects of Christianity. By this means, the lecture will define what was considered by Christians to be the limits of the possible in the age of Constantine, and, hence, what they could accept as the measure of their success. In so doing, it hopes to rescue discussion of the age of Constantine from many anachronisms that project onto this period ambitions and expectations of success for the Christian church that belong to later generations.

Peter Brown is Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor Emeritus of History at Princeton University. He previously taught at London University and the University of California, Berkeley. Brown has written on the rise of Christianity and the end of the Roman Empire. His works include: Augustine of Hippo (1967); The World of Late Antiquity (1972); The Cult of the Saints (1981); Body and Society (1988); The Rise of Western Christendom (1995 and 2002); Poverty and Leadership in the Later Roman Empire (2002); and Through the Eye of the Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West (350–550 AD) (2012). He is the winner of an Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award, a Klug Prize, and numerous honorary degrees and book prizes.

The lecture will be held in English. Simultaneous translation will be available. Seating on a first-come, first-served basis. The Friends of the Library Annual Book Sale will be held in the Academy's salone from 10am to 5pm on the same day.

David McCullough – Standing the Test of Time: Reflections on the Craft of Writing

Monday, November 19, 2012–6:00 PM
Villa Aurelia
Largo di Porta S. Pancrazio, 1
Rome, Italy
Patricia H. Labalme Friends of the Library - Rome

David McCullough is one of the United States’ foremost historians and one of the most recognized writers of today. Setting him apart from other historians is his highly celebrated style, which captures his readers and merges the boundaries between history and literature. According his own recognition, he was deeply influenced from his studying and reading of fiction. The issue of how to accurately represent events within a work of history or one’s personal experience within a work of fiction or poetry is central to all scholarly and artistic endeavors. In his address to the Friends of the Library, McCullough will discuss his personal insights and experiences on the craft of writing and how writing history may resemble the art of writing fiction.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1933, McCullough is a graduate of Yale University, where he studied English literature. Since publishing his first work of history, The Johnstown Flood, in 1968, McCullough has won numerous honors, including two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards, and two Francis Parkman Prizes from the American Society of Historians. He is the recipient of America’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and one of the few citizens to have spoken before a joint session of Congress. He has been honored with as many as thirty-one honorary degrees, is a past president of the Society of American Historians, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Friends of the Library, founded in 1961 by library readers, helps build library collections with annual dues and special initiatives. In addition to providing important financial support for acquisitions, the Friends of the Library has helped to raise awareness of the library through regular programs presenting the works of its readers.

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