From David’s slaying of Goliath to Shakespeare’s murderous version of Richard III to Washington’s chopping down a cherry tree, stories have been used throughout human history to teach lessons, establish social values and condense complex problems. Scholars are gaining new insights into why these stories have so much power, learning how and why our brains are “wired” to perceive the world through digestible narratives. A panel moderated by Marty Kaplan and featuring three distinguished thinkers, George Lakoff, John Romano and Joyce Appleby, will explore these issues just prior to the 2012 national elections, shedding light on how stories shape our political understanding.
Narratives are not something new in American politics. From “Honest Abe’s” rise from log cabin to White House to Ike’s Kansas boy turned war hero, stories have been used to translate societal and political complexities into familiar, archetypal narratives that embody and communicate cultural values.
Event participant Dr. George Lakoff has expressed hope for a “New Enlightenment” in which we will be self-aware of our cultural narratives, and “discuss what they might be, to raise the question of what influence they have, and whether we can or should put them aside.” The panelists will discuss the nature of stories and whether a better understanding of political narrative can help make sense of our current political culture. The evening will be enriched and enlivened by movie clips, photos and political ads that will serve as examples and catalysts for the discussion.
About the Panelists:
Joyce Appleby is professor emerita of history at UCLA. She served as president of the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association. She is a specialist in historiography and the political thought of the early American Republic, with special interests in Republicanism, liberalism and the history of ideas about capitalism. She has served on the editorial boards of numerous scholarly journals and editorial projects, and has received prominent national fellowships.
Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society at USC Annenberg. His career has spanned government and politics, the entertainment industry and journalism. He served as chief speechwriter to Vice President Walter F. Mondale and as executive assistant to the U.S. Commissioner of Education, Ernest L. Boyer. He also served as vice president of production for live-action feature films at Walt Disney Studios. Radio credits include creating and hosting Air America Radio’s So What Else is News? and commentary on NPR’s All Things Considered and Marketplace. He is the founding director of the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.
George Lakoff is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, and senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute. He is the author of numerous influential books, including The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think and the New York Times best seller Don’t Think of an Elephant!
John Romano has been a writer-producer for television and movies since 1985. His principal television credits include Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Party of Five, Providence and Monk. He also wrote the screenplays for The Third Miracle, Intolerable Cruelty, Nights in Rodanthe and The Lincoln Lawyer. Previously he was an assistant professor of English at Columbia University, and he has remained active in the field of Dickens studies and the novel, and in the public discourse on the relationship between the humanities, entertainment and the media.
Organized by Jed Dannenbaum (Cinematic Arts).
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