Greg and Julie Flynn Cogut Institute Speaker Series

Endowed with a gift from Gregory G. Flynn '86, P'20, P'20 and Julie A. Flynn P'20, P'20, this lecture series enriches undergraduate humanities culture at Brown University by bringing high-profile speakers to the campus and creating opportunities for undergraduate students to learn from exciting visitors. Each visit includes a public lecture and a separate seminar-style meeting with undergraduate students. 

We welcome nominations from undergraduate students and faculty. Potential course tie-ins should be mentioned, and we are especially interested in visitors who are known beyond academe (high profile writers, journalists, and public intellectuals, for example). 

Please submit speaker nominations through this form. We welcome nominations throughout the year. Nominations submitted before April 1, 2021 will be reviewed by faculty and students affiliated with the Cogut Institute in the Spring 2021.

Upcoming Events

Details of future events will be displayed soon.

Previous Events

  • February 12, 2020 | Lecture and Book Signing

    Adam Gopnik has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1987. During his three decades at the magazine, he has written fiction, humor, memoirs, critical essays, and reported pieces from at home and abroad. Gopnik has three National Magazine awards, for essays and for criticism, and also a George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting. He is the author of numerous books, including A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventures of Liberalism, At The Strangers’ Gate, The Table Comes First, Paris To The Moon, Through The Children’s Gate and the children’s novel The King’s Window. A musical, written in collaboration with the composer David Shire, “The Most Beautiful Room In New York,” opened May 2017 at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, and his one man show “The Gates” is based on material developed with The Moth. In March of 2013, Gopnik was awarded the medal of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters. Born in Philadelphia and raised in Montreal, he lives in New York City.

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  • October 2, 2019 | Lecture and Book Signing

    Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry, including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; two plays, The White Card, which premiered in February 2018 (ArtsEmerson/American Repertory Theater), and Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue; as well as numerous video collaborations. Her next publication, Just Us, is a collection of essays forthcoming with Graywolf Press in 2020. She is also the editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. In 2016, she co-founded The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII). Rankine is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize, and a National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, United States Artists, and the National Endowment of the Arts. Citizen holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and teaches at Yale University as the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry. She lives in New Haven, CT.

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  • April 4, 2019 | Lecture and Book Signing

    Pico Iyer, “arguably the world’s greatest living travel writer” according to Outside magazine, is the author of two novels and several works of nonfiction, including The Lady and the Monk and The Global Soul. Iyer’s first book, Video Night in Kathmandu, was completed while he was still working as a world affairs writer for Time. It chronicled his explorations across ten countries in Asia and the way these lands have been affected—or not—by the influence of Western culture.

    Iyer, drawing from decades of talks and travels with the XIVth Dalai Lama, also authored the bestselling book The Open Road, which The New York Times Book Review called a “trenchant, impassioned look at a singular life.” Iyer’s newest book, Autumn Light, out in April 2019, is a meditation on impermanence, mortality, and grief informed by his more than 30 years of living in Japan. A very different yet complementary work, A Beginner’s Guide to Japan, will also appear in 2019, a few months before the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

    Iyer recently gave three TED Talks that, together, earned eight million views and complemented his 2014 book, The Art of Stillness. His books have been translated into more than 20 languages. He has written liner notes for Leonard Cohen, a film script for Miramax, a libretto for a chamber orchestra, and the introductions to more than 60 other works. He regularly writes on literature for The New York Review of Books; on travel for The Financial Times; and on global culture and news for TimeThe New York Times, and magazines around the world.

    Iyer was born in Oxford, England to parents from India. He was educated at Eton, Oxford, and Harvard, and earned master’s degrees from Oxford and Harvard as well as an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters. This Spring 2019, he is a Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton.

    For more information on Pico Iyer, please visit

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  • March 11, 2019 | Pubic Conversation

    Mohsin Hamid was born in 1971 in Lahore. He grew up mostly in Pakistan but spent part of his childhood in California and returned to the U.S. to attend Princeton University and Harvard Law School. He then worked in New York and London as a management consultant before pursuing writing full time in Lahore.

    His first novel, Moth Smoke (2000), told the story of an ex-banker and heroin addict in contemporary Lahore. Published in 14 languages, it was the winner of a Betty Trask Award and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. His second novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007), recounted a Pakistani man’s abandonment of his high-flying life in New York. Published in over 30 languages, it became a million-copy international bestseller. It won the Ambassador Book Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Asian American Literary Award, and the South Bank Show Award for Literature, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. The Guardian named it one of the books that defined the decade. A 2013 film of The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Oscar-nominated director Mira Nair starred Riz Ahmed, Liev Schreiber, Kate Hudson, and Kiefer Sutherland. With his third novel How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2013), Hamid “reaffirmed his place as one of his generation’s most inventive and gifted writers,” in the words of Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times. This love story in the apparent guise of a self-help book explored mass-urbanization and global economic transformation. Hamid’s fourth novel, Exit West, is a New York Times bestseller and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize.

    Mohsin Hamid writes regularly for The New York Times, The Guardian, and The New York Review of Books and has lectured at dozens of universities around the world. In 2013, Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the world’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers.

    At Brown University, Shahzad Bashir is Director of Middle East Studies, Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Humanities, and Professor of Religious Studies. His research interests lay in the intellectual and social histories of the societies of Iran and Central and South Asia from the fourteenth century CE to the present. He is the editor, with Robert Crews, of Under the Drones: Modern Lives in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Borderlands (Harvard University Press, 2012) and, most recently, the author of Sufi Bodies: Religion and Society in Medieval Islam (Columbia University Press, 2013). His current project, “Islamic Pasts and Futures: Horizons of Time,” is under preparation as a digital scholarly monograph that emphasizes the multiplicity of temporal configurations found in Islamic materials.

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  • September 27, 2018

    Can art today bring about the catalytic social change that it has in the past? What is the role of the artist in shifting our perceptions, shattering biases, and creating the world we want? More than ever, we are inundated with images. Awash in them. Yet the artist alone has the power—through one iconic image, one profound gesture—to help focus our attention on what truly matters. In this talk, Sarah Lewis made a case for art as a lever to social justice and cultural transformation. “The endeavor to affirm the dignity of human life cannot be waged without pictures,” she has written. “To be an engaged global citizen right now requires visual literacy.” Gathering in various threads—art history, technical innovation, race, photography, the story of America, and a deeply personal narrative—Lewis celebrates individual artists, invokes the collective imagination, and takes a new look at what is there as well as what could be.

    Sarah Lewis is the author of The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery (Simon & Schuster, 2015). She has spoken on the TED main stage and at SXSW, appeared on Oprah’s “Power List,” served on President Obama’s Arts Policy Committee, and been profiled in Vogue. She was the guest-editor of Aperture magazine’s “Vision & Justice” issue. Dedicated to photography of the black experience, the issue explored, with eloquent reach, “what humanity looks like.” Lewis’s work won the prestigious Infinity Award for Critical Writing and Research from the International Center of Photography and received extended press coverage, including from The New York Times, The Los AngelesTimes, and Time.

    Lewis is also an Assistant Professor at Harvard, in the Departments of History of Art and Architecture and African and African American Studies. She has held positions at Yale’s School of Art, the Tate Modern, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Her essays have been published in The New Yorker, Artforum, and The Smithsonian, and her book “Black Sea, Black Atlantic: Frederick Douglass, the Circassian Beauties, and American Racial Formation in the Wake of the Civil War” is forthcoming from Harvard University Press. She currently serves on the board of Creative Time and the Andy Warhol Foundation of the Visual Arts. She received her BA from Harvard, MPhil from Oxford, and PhD from Yale.

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  • April 11, 2018

    Viet Thanh Nguyen’s three recent books—The Sympathizer, The Refugees, and Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War—explore questions of war, culture, and memory. In this talk, Nguyen laid out his model for ethical memory and demonstrated how his fiction has attempted to realize such an ethics.

    Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel The Sympathizer (Grove/Atlantic, 2015) is a New York Times best seller and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Nguyen is also the author of Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (Oxford University Press, 2002), Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (Harvard University Press, 2016), and the short story collection The Refugees (Grove Press, 2017). At the University of Southern California, Nguyen is the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and Professor of English, American Studies and Ethnicity, and Comparative Literature. Among other awards, he received fellowships from the Guggenheim and the MacArthur Foundations in 2017.

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  • February 12, 2018

    Hyper-partisanship is growing, public debate is fragmenting. New information networks have rapidly undermined not only the Western media’s business model, but Western political institutions too. Can democracy survive?

    Anne Applebaum is a Washington Post columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian. She is the author of Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine (McClelland and Stewart, 2017), Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956 (McClelland and Stewart, 2012), and Gulag: A History (Doubleday, 2003). As Professor of Practice at the London School of Economics Institute of Global Affairs, she runs Arena, a program on disinformation and 21st-century propaganda.

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  • January 26, 2018

    This inaugural event of the Greg and Julie Flynn Cogut Institute Speaker Series featured Terry Tempest Williams in conversation with Mark Cladis.

    Terry Tempest Williams, a “citizen writer” known for her impassioned and lyrical prose, is the author of the environmental literature classic, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place (Pantheon Books, 1991). Her most recent book, The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks (Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016), honors the centennial of the National Park Service and is a New York Times bestseller.

    Mark S. Cladis is the Brooke Russell Astor Professor of the Humanities and the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies. His main fields of inquiry are philosophy of religion, religious ethics, and theory of religion (including the integration of these three subfields). His work often pertains to the intersection of modern Western religious, political, and environmental thought, and it is as likely to engage poetry and literature as it is philosophy and critical theory. Among other things, this work entails attention to environmental justice and indigenous ecology. Du Bois has become central to his research on radical aesthetics (aesthetics dedicated to social justice). He is a founding member of Environmental Humanities at Brown (EHAB) and is an active faculty member in Native American and Indigenous Studies at Brown. He is the author of Public Vision, Private Lives (Oxford University Press, 2003; paperback edition, Columbia University Press, 2006) and A Communitarian Defense of Liberalism (Stanford University Press, 1992), and over sixty articles and chapters in edited books.

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