Syracuse University’s Tolley Humanities Forum will focus on memory
Syracuse University’s Tolley Humanities Forum will focus on memory October 09, 2008Judy Holmesjlholmes@syr.edu
Syracuse University’s Fall 2008 Tolley Humanities Forum on the general topic of Being Human/Human Being will continue with “Memory-Humans Are Beings Who Remember” Tuesday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m. in the Shaffer Art Building’s Shemin Auditorium. Speaking at the forum will be associate professor of psychology Martin Sliwinski and associate professor Christopher Kennedy, director of the Creative Writing Program in The College of Arts and Sciences. Presented by the William P. Tolley Distinguished Teaching Professorship in the Humanities, the forum is free and open to the public.
Kennedy will read from a manuscript-in-progress that deals with his mother’s memory loss from Alzheimer’s. The manuscript is a “poetic memoir” that illustrates the ways communication both breaks down and becomes more transparent, and at times more revealing.
“As a writer, I’ve always been interested in the role of memory in my work, and as I see my mother’s memories erode, I’m struck by what remains of her personality and what’s been lost,” Kennedy says. “While I believe that memory is a type of fiction, an imperfect repository for subjective experience, it’s how we remember things that ultimately shapes our experience of the world. Seeing my mother cope with memory loss has made me aware of who she is on a very fundamental level. It’s been a difficult but enlightening process.”
Sliwinski will discuss the distinction between episodic memories (our memory about things that have happened to us) and semantic memory (our knowledge of facts about the world and ourselves).
“I’ll try to link these concepts to how people describe and view themselves, distinguishing our beliefs about who we are from our knowledge of what we do (and have done),” Sliwinski says.
Kennedy is author of three collections of poetry: “Encouragement for a Man Falling to His Death” (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2007), which received the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award in 2007; “Trouble with the Machine” (Low Fidelity Press, 2003); and “Nietzsche’s Horse” (Mitki/Mitki Press, 2001). His work has appeared in numerous print and online journals and magazines, including Ploughshares, The Threepenny Review, Slope, Mississippi Review and Double Room.
Sliwinski’s research focuses on the relationships among cognition, health and affect across the adult lifespan. One project examines change and variability in health, emotion, and cognition in older adults. A second project examines how stress relates to health, emotional well-being and cognitive function across the adult lifespan. A third project involves collaboration with the longitudinal Einstein Aging Studies (EAS) and focuses on a longitudinal analysis of cognitive, physiological and health markers of preclinical dementia.
The William P. Tolley Distinguished Teaching Professorship in the Humanities was created with the generous support of many individual donors and the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is a rotating professorship designed to support the Humanities Division’s finest teachers in their efforts to stimulate curricular and instructional improvement in the humanities at Syracuse University. The chair was named to honor Chancellor Emeritus William P. Tolley.