Marc Hertzman is Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies for History.
What am I reading right now? Baby books to my son, class material, and a few primary and secondary sources for research. Beyond that I’m stuck in a familiar purgatory of seemingly endless, unfinished New Yorker articles, with no good books in sight. Fortunately, on March 30th the History Department will be holding its Third Annual Soapbox, a raucous event sure to inspire anyone out of the reading doldrums. During the Soapbox, faculty, students (grad and undergrad), and staff compete to make the best case in six minutes or less for why one single book changed everything. The incomparable Carol Symes won the first competition with a mesmerizing performance punctuated with the literary equivalent of a mic drop—she concluded by slamming her book shut. What book did she argue changed everything? The Justinian’s Law Code, a smart choice since most people consider it to be the world’s first, um… book! Last year, our amazing chair Clare Crowston won with a somewhat more controversial selection, Marquis de Sade’s Philosophy in the Bedroom. This year’s contestants will bring arguments for a new and truly inspiring list of books, some of which you have surely heard of – The Communist Manifesto, presented on the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, George Orwell’s 1984, Virgil’s Aeneid – and others that you may well not have: for example, Gustavo Gutierrez’s Teología de liberación (Liberation Theology) and one of our boldest entries yet: The English Football Association’s 1863 Rules of Association Football.
On March 30th, the Soapbox will begin at 7:00 PM in 210 Illini Union (General Lounge) and conclude only once a winner has been declared. Please join us to be inspired, to debate, and to propel your favorite book to victory in the Audience Favorite category. Hope to see you there!