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Empathy, Language Key Topics at 13th Annual Hallwas Lecture

Langauge will be a main focus of the 13th Annual John Hallwas Liberal Arts Lecture.

The 13th annual John Hallwas Liberal Arts Lecture will be held this week by the College of Arts and Sciences at Western Illinois University. It’s seen as an opportunity to show a commitment to liberal arts programming.

This year’s speaker is Dr. Gary Schmidt, chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature at WIU. His lecture is titled The Role of the Liberal Arts in Fostering Empathy: Language, Literature, and Human Understanding.

Credit Western Illinois University
Dr. Gary Schmidt will deliver his lecture, "The Role of Liberal Arts in Fostering Empathy" on September 9 and 10.

Schmidt said his lecture is inspired by several events in his life, notably his discovery of Jewish-German-Romanian poet Paul Celan.

“His parents were both murdered in the Holocaust, and he wrote poetry about his own experience, and more generally about the experiences of Jewish people at that time period,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt noted that Celan continued to write poetry in his native language of German, despite knowing what the Nazis had done to his family and to the Jewish people.

It wasn’t only the experiences of Paul Celan that inspired Schmidt’s lecture. He said he studied liberal arts in college, which greatly influenced who he is today.    

“Being forced, as a liberal arts student, to read texts that were uncomfortable for me and challenging for me opened up my eyes to a whole new way of viewing the world, and also understanding myself," Schmidt said.

Schmidt’s presentation is free and open to the public. He will give the 13th Annual John Hallwas Liberal Arts Lecture on Wednesday, September 9, at 3:00 p.m. in Riverfront Hall on WIU’s Quad Cities campus, as well as on Thursday, September 10, at 7:00 p.m. in the Union Grand Ballroom on the Macomb campus.