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Lectures - Spring 2013

All lectures were held at King’s College in Central London


Garry Kennard
The dream of reason: art, religion and perception

This illustrated presentation takes a look at how recent research in neuroscience is profoundly influencing current thinking on how works of art are created and experienced. Garry Kennard will show some startling examples of illusions and distortions of perception – and will relate these to how we perceive the material world in general and art in particular. He also looks at theories of the development of consciousness and explains why he believes that these areas of research underlie the most profound revolution in our understanding of the human condition. He ends by making a brave attempt to bring all this together in an ambitious theory of art and religion – their origins and purpose.

GARRY KENNARD was born in London in 1948 and is a painter, writer and festival director. He has exhibited his paintings in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Winchester and at Petworth House as artist in residence at the 2009 Petworth Festival. His paintings are in many private collections in UK, France and the United States, and in the collection of Clare Hall, Cambridge University. He is the founding director of the unique Art and Mind Festival which has attracted leading artists and scientists to explore what light the brain sciences can throw on contemporary culture. His book Essays and Images has recently been published by GV Art.

Kennard has an interest in mountaineering and has climbed in the Alps and Africa, as well as leading his own expeditions to the Nepalese Himalayas.


Polly Morland
The Society of Timid Souls or how to be brave

How brave are you? Are you a lion heart? Or, like the speaker, something of a timid soul, easily frightened by what is frightening? What does bravery mean in an age of anxiety? And is courage something a timid soul could ever learn? With her forthcoming book, The Society of Timid Souls, or How To Be Brave, Polly Morland has assembled a modern anatomy of an age-old virtue, from battlefield to labour ward, bullring to suburban street, natural disaster to the frontline of political dissent. Today, she explores how and why people are brave, as well as how what we talk about when we talk about courage can so often skew our ideas about what bravery really is. And she explains why she believes that in collectivity and community can be found a path to courage for timid souls everywhere.

POLLY MORLAND is an award-winning documentary-maker. She has directed and produced for the BBC, Channel 4, and the Discovery Channel and lives in the Wye Valley with her husband and three sons.

11 MAY - LECTURE - 2-5PM

Tom Holland
Where did Islam come from?

In the 6th century AD, the Near East was divided between two great empires: the Persian and the Roman. A hundred years on, one had vanished forever while the other was a dismembered, bleeding trunk. In their place, a new superpower had arisen: the empire of the Arabs.

The transformation, however, was more than merely geo-political. Today, more than a billion people across the globe believe that it was their religion - Islam - which inspired the Arabs to their extraordinary feats of conquest. But is this a matter of history as well as faith? And if, as many scholars believe, the beginnings of Islam are far murkier than Muslims have traditionally believed, then what might its origins actually have been? Tom Holland explores what, for forty years now, has been an underground but seismic debate: the issue of whether, as tradition claims, Islam was born fully formed in all its fundamentals, or else evolved gradually from the seed-bed of antiquity.

TOM HOLLAND is the author of four books on ancient and early medieval history: Rubicon, Persian Fire, Millennium and In The Shadow of the Sword. He has adapted Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides and Virgil for the BBC. His translation of Herodotus for Penguin Classics comes out this autumn. In 2007, he was the winner of the Classical Association prize, awarded to ‘the individual who has done most to promote the study of the language, literature and civilisation of Ancient Greece and Rome’. He is the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Making History. He has written and presented a number of TV documentaries, on subjects ranging from religion to dinosaurs. He served two years as the Chair of the Society of Authors and is currently on the committee of the Classical Association.

Past lectures and workshops