With the Boston College Arts Festival set to begin this Thursday, April 26th, the Burns Library is celebrating the humanities with a new set of images on Flickr. We honor the great tradition of humanities lectures and explorations during the history of Boston College. In 1957, a young Jesuit, Francis W. Sweeney, professor of English here at BC since 1951, inaugurated a series of lectures with a visit from celebrated American poet Robert Frost. These lectures continue to this day as the Lowell Humanities Series, which during their history have brought to Boston College such luminaries as T. S. Eliot, Maya Angelou, Margaret Mead, Seamus Heaney, Sean O’Faoloain, among others, to give lectures, read from their works and interact with the audience about artistic expression and important themes in humanistic study.
Father Sweeney canvassed widely for candidates for the Humanities Series. Some of his invitations were declined, as when, in the 1960s, he extended his reach as far as the likes of President Eisenhower. But his early contact and persistence with such figures as T. S. Eliot, Frost, W. H. Auden and Hans Küng garnered a substantial reputation for the Series and marshaled the necessary momentum for its notoriety. In his History of Boston College: From the Beginnings to 1990, Fr. Donovan described the Humanities Series as “enormously successful”, “perhaps the most enduring, popular, and high-quality lecture and artistic series on campus”, which drew an “appreciative and discerning audience from the academic and artistic community in the Boston area.” (p. 242)
This set of images on the Burns Library’s Flickr Photostream demonstrates some of the breadth and depth of the Humanities Series during its forty-one year life under Father Sweeney’s direction. The Humanities Series set documents some of the main figures from the history of the Series. It also seeks to convey the importance of this Series for the development of the university and the vitality of its intellectual and cultural life. Throughout, these images highlight the role that Father Sweeney’s gregarious and unassuming personality played in the success of the Series, as well as how the Series evidences the transformation of Boston College over the years. If these images inspire you to learn more about Father Sweeney and his role as Director of the Humanities Series, please visit the Reading Room to look at the collection from which these photos are drawn – the Humanities Series-Director’s Records. If you have any questions, please contact the Burns Library Reference Department at 617-552-4861 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Justine Sundaram, Reference Librarian, John J. Burns Library
- James Daryn Henry, Burns Library Reading Room Student Assistant & Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Theology