summer of love SF 1967
summer of love SF 1967

Summer of Love: San Francisco 1967

Humanities West explores the distinctive history of 1960s San Francisco as we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love. Revisit with us the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood as it was transformed into a center of counterculture. Walk in the footsteps of the Beats, the bohemians, and the hippies. Learn about the vibrant forms of cultural expression that burst forth, from rock music to poster art to freeform radio. San Francisco became a showcase for musical diversity, and we celebrate the music of the Grateful Dead with a live performance by the China Cats, a premier tribute band.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

6:30 pm – 10:00 pm

Hippies in the Hood: Haight-Ashbury in the Summer of Love / Mitchell Schwarzer (Urban and Architectural Historian, California College of the Arts). By the 1960s, the nation’s center was not holding and San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury was turning into a neighborhood unlike any other in North America. There had been bohemian enclaves before. There had never been a place that drew oddballs and seekers by the thousands. Just a decade after the suburbs were branded as the new American standard, a chunk of the nation’s youth broke off from the sterility of subdivision and shopping center, making the trek to San Francisco and turning onto group living, psychedelic music and drug-induced states of consciousness. Why did sixties counterculture coalesce in a small and hitherto unremarkable hood on the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park? How did hippies turn the Haight-Ashbury into an incubator for alternative lifestyles?

Situating the Summer of Love / Peter Richardson (American Studies, SFSU). Although the Summer of Love was the incandescent moment of the 1960s San Francisco counterculture, it arose from a historically specific arts and music scene whose origins stretched back to the 1950s. This presentation will survey the development of that scene with special attention to the San Francisco Renaissance and Beat writers, the bohemian culture at the California School of Fine Arts, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, and other influences. It will also consider the vibrant forms of cultural expression–including rock music, light shows, poster art, freeform radio, and journalism–that preceded the Summer of Love and were partly displaced by it.

The Soundtrack of the Summer of Love / Nicholas Meriwether (Director, Center for Counterculture Studies). The music that flourished in the San Francisco ballrooms in the 1960s was vibrant and eclectic, a soundtrack forged by hundreds of musicians and bands that still attracts a passionate audience today. During the Summer of Love, dozens of bands performed in venues such as the Fillmore Auditorium, the Avalon Ballroom, Winterland Arena, the Straight Theatre and others, sometimes even performing for free in Golden Gate Park. The remarkable profusion of music prompted San Francisco Chronicle music critic Ralph J. Gleason to call the city “the Liverpool of America,” an acknowledgment of its status as both an incubator of talent and as a crossroads showcasing a fascinating diversity of styles, genres and talents. This lecture will discuss the major and many of the minor voices whose music defined the Summer of Love, from the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane to the Charlatans and the Mystery Trend.

China Cats

Performance / The China Cats. The China Cats are a Grateful Dead Tribute Band based in Santa Cruz. As Nicholas Meriwether has said, “The China Cats aren’t a cover band. …They approach the Dead’s work with same kind of reverence and sophistication that the Dead themselves showed in their own forays into American roots music…. When you listen the Cats, … old favorites take on new lives, revealing facets that will delight and amaze even jaded listeners. These guys aren’t copycats — their sets demonstrate how the Dead’s music now is a part of the great American songbook, alongside the giants who first inspired the Dead.”

Download the postcard here: HW Summer of Love Postcard


Cleopatra: The Last Pharaoh

More than two millennia after her death, Cleopatra VII remains an enigma and an object of fascination. The last Ptolemaic ruler of Hellenistic Egypt and the most influential woman of her times, Cleopatra amassed enormous wealth and power. She lived dangerously and died sensationally. Ever since, she has been an iconic figure, continually re-imagined through the cultural prisms of successive ages.

Presented with the support of the Italian Cultural Institute.

Friday, May 5, 7:30 – 9:30 pm

Cleopatra: The Last Pharaoh / Stacy Schiff. Her palace shimmered with onyx and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator. She was married twice, each time to a brother: she waged a brutal civil war against the first and poisoned the second. She dispensed with an ambitious sister as well; incest and assassination were family specialties. Cleopatra appears to have had sex with only two men—Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, with both of whom she had children. Famous long before she was notorious, she has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Even before the Roman intrigues she was the wealthiest ruler in the Mediterranean; the relationship with Antony confirmed her status as the most influential woman of the age. The two would attempt to forge a new empire, in an alliance that spelled their spectacular ends. Cleopatra has lodged herself in our imaginations ever since. Though her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world.

Performance: Cleopatra at the Opera: Excerpts from Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto. Of the numerous operas inspired by Cleopatra’s life and legends, the arguably most successful is George Frideric Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Julius Caesar in Egypt) of 1724. Its heroine Cleopatra proves herself to be a multifaceted and fascinating character who uses her beauty, wit and wiles to seduce Caesar in order to gain power, but then falls in love with him. Together they combat her brother, the would-be Pharaoh Ptolemy, and win for her the throne of Egypt. Live performances of excerpts from the opera will bring alive this fabled love affair as viewed with Eighteenth-Century eyes. Introduced by Clifford (Kip) Cranna (SF Opera). Sara Duchovnay (soprano) and Mariya Kaganskaya (mezzo-soprano), accompanied by Steven Harmon (french horn) and Andrew Wang (piano).

Saturday, May 6, 10:00 am – noon and 1:30 – 4:00 pm

Cleopatra’s Alexandria / Grant Parker (Classics, Stanford). When she wasn’t being Caesar’s mistress or Antony’s wife, Cleopatra ruled Egypt for twenty-one years. She headed an enormous imperial bureaucracy that received and sent ambassadors from as far away as India, levied taxes, oversaw the harvest, sales, and distribution of cereal crops, built temples, and acted as high priestess in the sacred rituals of the Egyptians. Her capital city was Alexandria, the first city of the Mediterranean until the rise of Rome; the greatest center of learning (including mathematics and medicine) in the Western world; an entrepot for trade with India, Africa, the Levant and with Greece, Italy, Sicily and Spain. Ancient documents (one of which may even contain her signature) provide insights into how she negotiated the last years of her country’s independence.  

Cleopatra’s Mark on Rome / Lisa Pieraccini (Classics, UC Berkeley)The name Cleopatra conjures up much in the popular imagination today–a powerful Egyptian queen who was the lover and wife of two of Rome’s most famous leading men. She is known as the ruler of the east who combined her personal and public affairs with the west. But what do we really know about her relationships with Caesar, Mark Antony and the city of Rome? What happened to her children by both Caesar and Mark Antony? What artistic mark did she leave in Rome – the city that celebrated both her visit during the time of Julius Caesar as well as her death after the battle of Actium?

 Performance: Mark Antony and Cleopatra: A Chamber Cantata by Antonio Scarlatti. Among the countless composers who were attracted to the story of Cleopatra was the great master of the Italian Baroque Antonio Scarlatti (1660-1725). His brief chamber cantata Marc Antonio e Cleopatra gives us a glimpse of two famous rulers torn between their loving devotion and the call to battle to defeat their enemies. Tender sentiments mix with vocal acrobatics in this gem of a chamber duet inspired by history — and legend. Introduced by Kip Cranna. Two vocalists: Mariya Kaganskaya (mezzo-soprano), Sara Duchovnay (soprano), and Andrew Wang (piano).

Death Becomes Her: The Suicide of Cleopatra in Western Culture / Robert Gurval (Classics, UCLA) The suicide of Cleopatra has bequeathed to western culture one of the most famous and memorable death scenes in literature, drama and the visual arts of painting, sculpture and film. The traditional story derives chiefly from the rich narrative of Plutarch’s biography of Mark Antony. Its action is driven by multiple themes of deception, deliberation, and death. The climactic moment, of course, is the bite of the asp. Surveying the literary and visual representations of Cleopatra’s dramatic death, from Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women to the mini-series HBO Rome in the 21st century, this illustrated lecture will explore the potent symbolism of the suicide in classical antiquity and subsequent eras. It will try to answer the question whether her final act of dying by the serpent’s bite redeems Cleopatra and Death becomes Her.

Panel discussion with the lecturers

Download the postcard here: HW Cleopatra Postcard FINAL


Wanderlust: Viking Raiders, Traders, Neighbors

From the sacking of Lindisfarne Abbey in 793 until the end of the 11th century, voyaging Scandinavian traders and warriors played a decisive role in the formation of European culture. Not merely fearsome sackers of coastal farming communities, these fearless travelers spread their cultural influence (and genes) from Newfoundland to Russia and from Portugal to Byzantium, Baghdad and Sicily. The Vikings excelled in the commerce of gold, silver and slaves. They advanced nautical knowledge and crafted elaborate decorative arts. Their legendary exploits are vividly reimagined in the remarkable Old Norse sagas.

They journeyed boldly; / Went far for gold, / Fed the eagle /Out in the east, /And died in the south / In Saracenland

–Gripshold Rune-Stone (c. 1050) reprinted in March 2014 p 46.

Friday, February 24, 2017, 7:30 to 9:35 pm

On seeing the Vikings through the lens of Mediterranean Studies / Moderator, Fred Astren (SFSU)

Viking Legacies / Patrick Hunt (CMEMS Associate, Stanford). Biased chronicles depicting the shock and awe of Vikings raids have long held sway in public opinion. Yet archeologist Christian Jürgensen Thomsen’s seminal mid-19th century work in Copenhagen not only pioneered more precise artifact studies of Scandinavian antiquities and Viking ethnography in particular but also highlighted the differences in distinct human material phases. The discovery and conservation of the buried well-built lapstrake Viking longships at Oseberg and Gokstad underscored the viability of long distance seafaring coupled with navigational skills and other finds that were obscure until recently. However maligned the “Norsemen” might have been in hyperbolic clerical accounts of “raiders” (or traders), the rich Viking contributions to European cultural life and language from runestones to Danelaw are only now becoming better understood.

Performance: Norse Myth, Poetry, Music / Tim Rayborn delves into the ancient spiritual and cultural traditions of Northern Europe to present both reconstructed works and surviving musical fragments from the Viking Age. The Vikings were far more than barbarians and marauders. They were traders, explorers, poets, and masters of sailing. Their literature is remarkable; the Icelandic Sagas are prototypes of the European novel, and the Poetic Edda contains masterpieces of alliterative poetry. Their cosmology was as rich as those of the Greeks or Egyptians, and as explorers they were unmatched, traveling from Scandinavia to as far as North America and Baghdad. This program includes excerpts from the Edda and the Sagas, among other works, and offers both early medieval and traditional melodies from areas as diverse as Iceland, Norway, Shetland, and more. Tim brings to life this heroic era in a stunning one-man performance. Featuring voice, Saami drum, deerskin rattle, Baltic overtone flute, Nordic lyre, and bone flute.

Saturday, February 25, 2017, 10:00 am – noon and 1:30-4:00 pm:

Viking Language and Archaeology in Iceland: The Mosfell Archaeological Project Jesse Byock (Old Norse and Medieval Scandinavian Studies, UCLA). Archeologist Jesse Byock considers two issues: Old Norse language and identity, and recent findings of the Mosfell Archaeological Project (MAP) in Iceland. He focuses on excavations at Hrísbrú, the farm of the Mosfell Chieftains, in Iceland’s Mosfell Valley. An interdisciplinary research project employing the tools of archaeology, history, anthropology, forensics, environmental sciences, saga studies, and landscape analysis, MAP is researching the many Viking-age remains in and around the Mosfell, treating this large area as a “Valley System.” MAP’s research at Hrísbrú has led to the discovery of a Viking chieftain’s farmstead with many core features of Viking-age life. The finds include a large longhouse from Iceland’s early settlement period, a pagan cremation grave, a conversion-era stave church, and an early Christian graveyard with pagan features. The finds provide a wealth of new evidence about life in Viking Age Iceland, and tell us a good deal about the Icelandic sagas.

From Frankish Altars to Scottish Fields: Trading, Raiding, and Gift-Giving in the Viking Age / Daniel Melleno (Classics, UC Berkeley)In September of 2014 an amateur treasure hunter in Scotland uncovered an astonishing trove. The Dumfriesshire Hoard contained more than 100 items, including jewelry and coins held in a silver gilded vessel originally used as a communion cup. While the hoard itself dates from the 10th century, the cup is of late 8th or early 9th century origin. How did an 8th century French cup end up filled with silver and buried in a Scottish field? The answer is simple: Vikings. We’re all familiar with the popular image of the Vikings, raiders arriving without warning in their longboats to burn, kill, steal. But the origins of our treasure hoard may not be so simple after all. Daniel Melleno will highlight the variety of ways in which treasures great and small changed hands and what this tells us about peace and war in the Viking Age.

Serpents and Dragons: Motifs and Meanings in Norwegian Designs / Deborah Loft (Art History, College of Marin)The visual creations of the Viking era fused beauty with function; decoration with symbolism. The skills which made the ships and their carvings were also realized in the impressive stave churches, with their exuberant interlace ornament. The motifs of interlaced serpents, dragons, and vines will be traced to their ancient origins, which shed light on their possible meanings. These productions offer an opportunity to consider the interactions of the Vikings with other cultures.  While full of meaning for the people who used them, the surviving examples rarely focused on human narrative.  This is one likely explanation for their obscure status in the art historical “canon”. It is time to reconsider their place in the history of art and culture.

The Lives and Deaths of the Norse Gods / Jonas Wellendorf (Old Norse Studies, UC Berkeley). The mythology of the North contains some bright and happy moments, but in comparison with its Classical counterparts, Scandinavian mythology is distinctively dark and gloomy. The Norse gods and their creation, our world, are bound to perish in the great battle at the end of times (Ragnarök). There is a promise of rebirth after the destruction, but the new world will have no room for the likes of Odin and Thor. Who were the Scandinavian gods, how do we know them? Why did such a terrible end await them? And which gods would survive Ragnarök? This talk will consider the emergence of the grand story of the lives and deaths of the Norse gods and seek to provide answers to these questions.

Panel Discussion with the presenters, moderated by Fred Astren

Download this program’s postcard: Vikings Postcard


Vienna on the Verge (1890-1918) | November 4-5, 2016

Under a well-meaning but conflict-ridden imperial government, a deep fault line had emerged in Central Europe’s capital by the end of the 19th century. The public life of Vienna—its demographics and politics—had changed profoundly, and its cultural life—architecture, music, visual arts, and literature—both reflected and contributed to the upheaval. By 1900, the clash of polarities between tradition and the new had transformed Vienna from a proud and open metropolis to a city psychically troubled. Humanities West explores the modernist side of Vienna’s split personality, when a conflicted Vienna gave birth to emergent modernism and some of Europe’s greatest artistic treasures.

“Vienna, that scrollworked bastion, smoldered with more demons of the future than the most forward-minded cities of the West.” Frederick Morton, A Nervous Splendor

Friday, November 4, 2016, 7:30 to 9:30 pm.

Late Imperial Vienna: A metropolis of contrasts and conflicts / Gary Cohen (History, U Minnesota Twin Cities). We see Vienna around 1900 as a major cradle of twentieth-century modernist Western culture. Other major cities also gave birth to modernist breakthroughs, but Vienna produced a particularly rich concentration of innovators in psychology, philosophy, economics, architecture, art, music, and literature. The stark contrasts and conflicts of life in Vienna 1900 gave impetus to modernist innovations. The city enjoyed a rich cultural heritage, and its two million residents came from all over the multinational Habsburg Empire. The belated development of modern finance, industry, and commerce left small farmers, craftsmen, and shopkeepers reeling. The old pillars of Austrian society—the Habsburg dynasty, the aristocracy, and the Catholic Church—remained, but the democratizing forces of socialism, populist radical nationalism, and Christian Social politics challenged them. Many enjoyed the comforts of Viennese cafes and walks in the Vienna woods, but reports of labor protests, nationalist demonstrations, and mayhem in parliament filled the newspapers long before the catastrophe of World War I.

Lecture/Performance: City of Musics: The Twilight of Tonality / Bruce Lamott (Philharmonia Baroque). Vienna, the City of Music, became a City of Musics when the classicism of Brahms, the futurism of Wagner, the expressionism of an audacious new generation, and the nostalgia of operetta collided at the end of the 19th century. Viennese audiences could suit their taste with an unprecedented variety of musical styles, but often defended their choices with spirited and sometimes amusing fervor. Featuring chamber music by Johannes Brahms, Richard Strauss, Anton Webern, and Oscar Straus, with Helene Zindarsian (soprano), Robert Howard (cello), Keisuke Nakagoshi (piano). 

Saturday, November 5, 2016, 10:00 am to noon and 1:30 – 4:00 pm 

Literary Modernism in Austria / David Luft (Humanities, Oregon State U). The discussion of Vienna 1900 has been powerfully shaped by Carl Schorske’s analysis of the liberal era in Vienna and by his strong interests in music and the visual arts, as well as psychoanalysis. Professor Luft shifts the emphasis away from the aestheticism and decadence of the fin-de-siècle to the early 20th century, especially “the generation of 1905.” He underscores the powerful role of literary modernism in this generation and points to the broader context of Viennese intellectual life in Austria, positing an ethical vision of literature and its possibilities for transforming modern life. He emphasizes the roles of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche in Austrian intellectual life after 1900—not only for the novelists, but for Wittgenstein and Freud as well. The essayists and novelists of early twentieth-century Austria represent a highpoint of the German language and one of the great moments of world literature.

Change from the Margins: Women, Jews, and Everyday Life in fin-de-siècle Vienna / Lisa Silverman (History, U of Wisconsin Milwaukee). Although best known for its world-renowned innovations in music, art, science, literature, fin de siècle Vienna was also shaped by the everyday lives of those who developed and sustained its social, cultural, and intellectual currents. Professor Silverman examines the ways in which cultural motifs shaped how Austrians articulated their responses to society’s changing conditions. Often, those without power, including women and Jews, successfully adapted to or resisted on a daily basis the rapidly changing ideologies around them. An examination of their experiences reveals that everyday life can be a fascinating and important basis for understanding social change.

Passion, Obsession and Betrayal: The Art of Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoshka / Kayleen Asbo (Psychology and Music, SF Conservatory of Music). While on the surface the works of the two most scandalous painters of fin-de-siècle Vienna could not be more different in technique and style, Symbolist Gustav Klimt and Expressionist Oskar Kokoshka both were driven to depict Eros and Tod (death), the twin drives that Freud was to famously posit as the basis for civilization. Both men also shared an obsessive fascination with Alma Mahler, who became the muse for their creations as well as the cause of their most infamous behavior. From the glittering mosaics of golden women to the raw and blistering Bride of the Wind, the intensely erotic portraits of the feminine by both artists were laced with symbols of death, doom and despair.

The Question of Art in Viennese Architecture / Mitchell Schwarzer (California College of the Arts). At the turn of the twentieth century, several Viennese architects proclaimed that the status of art within architecture had reached a point of crisis. Among them, Otto Wagner, Josef Hoffmann, and Adolf Loos agreed that the transformations of industrial culture—rail transportation, factory production, urban commerce, and middle-class social dynamics—demanded artistic responses from architects that went far beyond the surfacing of buildings in costumes of historical ornament. But how could art’s role in building design be reinvented? This lecture explores three astonishingly different solutions to this question: Wagner’s aim to develop ornamental responses in parallel with iron technology; Hoffmann’s proposal to harmonize aesthetically all aspects of building and life; and, finally, Loos’s manifesto to banish art from architecture.

Panel Discussion. Q&A with the presenters

Download this program’s postcard: HW Vienna Postcard FINAL