Soros Lectures in New York, NY, December 2016 – Fall 2017

  • Tivadar Soros and the International Language Esperanto: 12/16/2017
  • The Einstein Language: Finding and Losing Gloro: 2/10/2017
  • Conversations in the Socialist Future: Esperantist Delegations to the Early Soviet Union: 3/10/2017
  • Is Esperanto dangerous?: 4/27/2017
  • Fall 2017 (Location and dates TBD)

More info:

SESSION 1: Tivadar Soros and the International Language Esperanto

12/16/2017, 4:00pm-6:00pm
The Graduate Center, CUNY, Room C198

INTRODUCTION: Tivadar Soros: Writer, Survivor, Internationalist
by Humphrey Tonkin

As an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army, Tivadar Soros spent most of World War I in prison camp in Siberia. As a Hungarian Jew he spent World War II working to assure the survival of his family. He wrote about these experiences in his two autobiographical works. Along the way he learned Esperanto (and wrote in that language) and imbued in his two sons, Paul and George Soros, an enduring and immensely influential sense of internationalism. This lecture series is dedicated to his memory.

Humphrey Tonkin (MA Cambridge, PhD Harvard), translator of Soros’s two books into English (Masquerade 2000, Crusoes in Siberia 2010), is University Professor of Humanities and President Emeritus at the University of Hartford. He is also translator of Ulrich Lins’s forthcoming Dangerous Language.

How (not) to Plan a Language: The Endurance of Esperanto

Speaker: Esther Schor

Esther Schor will discuss her new book, Bridge of Words: Esperanto and the Dream of a Universal Language, which argues that while Esperanto is known as a “planned” language, Zamenhof deliberately resisted the exhaustive planning of the language, leaving the users of the language to create it over time. Her book surveys the results of his canny choice both in the subsequent history of the movement, and in the conversations that continue to the present day.

Esther Schor, Professor of English at Princeton University, is the author of Emma Lazarus, which received a 2006 National Jewish Book Award, and Bearing the Dead: The British Culture of Mourning from the Enlightenment to Victoria. Her essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement, and The New Republic,among other publications.


The Einstein Language: Finding and Losing Gloro
2/10/2017, 4:00pm-6:00pm
The Graduate Center, CUNY, Room 9205
Speaker: Michael Gordin

Max Talmey was one of the most persistent artificers of “model languages” in the early twentieth century, fashioning his final creation, “Gloro”, in part to enable better comprehension of Albert Einstein’s physics. The linkages between Einstein and Talmey illuminate surprising aspects of the revolutions in physics and interlinguistics.

Michael D. Gordin is Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at Princeton University, where he specializes in the history of modern science. He has published extensively on the history of Russian and Soviet science, and the history of nuclear weapons. His most recent book is Scientific Babel: How Science Was Done before and after Global English (2015).


Conversations in the Socialist Future: Esperantist Delegations to the Early Soviet Union
3/10/2017, 4:00pm-6:00pm
The Graduate Center, CUNY, Room 9205
Speaker: Brigid O’Keeffe

In the 1920s, the Soviet Union welcomed foreign Esperantists to visit the socialist future-in-the-making. As grateful tourists, these guests were expected to spread the good word about Soviet socialism in Esperanto and their national languages. This lecture explores the triumphs and disappointments of this Soviet experiment in Esperantist citizen diplomacy.

Brigid O’Keeffe is an associate professor of history at Brooklyn College (CUNY) and the author of New Soviet Gypsies: Nationality, Performance, and Selfhood in the Early Soviet Union. She is currently at work on a book project about Esperanto and internationalism in late imperial Russia and the interwar Soviet Union.


Is Esperanto dangerous?
4/27/2017, 4:00pm-6:00pm
777 UN Plaza, Second Floor
Speaker: Ulrich Lins

As speakers of a ‘dangerous language’, the adepts of Esperanto were harassed and persecuted. The fate of Esperanto can be seen as a barometer to measure the degree to which regimes tolerate the desire for direct person-to-person international communication. After the fall of Fascism and Stalinism, conditions were becoming favourable for Esperanto. But the language still is in a very weak position compared to national languages, because it relies on a sentiment that is itself weak: spontaneous internationalism.

Ulrich Lins received his doctorate at the University of Cologne, Germany, with a dissertation on Japanese nationalism. For thirty years he worked for the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). His book Dangerous Language (2016), written originally in Esperanto, has also appeared in German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Lithuanian translation.

SESSION 5 and 6:

Fall 2017 (Location and dates TBD):

Nico Israel (Hunter College) on James Joyce & Esperanto.
Ulrich Becker (Mondial) on Esperanto as a Language of Culture.

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