North Central College - Naperville, IL

Keynote Speaker

The 2006 Keynote Address

Living in the Movies and Learning in College:  On Gladiator and the Politics of Film

will be given by Dr. Danielle Allen,
Dean, Division of Humanities, University of Chicago
Professor, Depts. of Classics, Political Science, Comm. On
Social Thought, University of Chicago

Danielle Allen is a scholar whose intellectual scope spans the fields of the classics, philosophy, and political theory.  She has demonstrated that the legal foundations of punishment in ancient Athens were deeply rooted in classical attitudes towards anger and revenge, an observation that carries contemporary relevance.  Allen combines the classicist's careful attention to texts and language with the political theorist's sophisticated and informed engagement.  Additionally, she merges the skills of the ancient historian with the acuity of the philosopher.

Her book, The World of Prometheus, examines the theory and practice of punishment in classical Athens as it affected both the intellectual elite and ordinary citizens, always attentive to the differences between ancient and contemporary institutions and conceptions of punishment.  Allen weaves evidence from legal statutes and court speeches with contemporaneous literary and philosophical documents to explore the challenges posed by punishment to democratic Athenian politics and society.

“Don’t talk to strangers” is the advice long given to children by parents of all classes and races.  Today it has blossomed into a fundamental precept of civic education, reflecting interracial distrust, personal and political alienation, and a profound suspicion of others.  In Talking to Strangers: anxieties of citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education (Sep. 2004), Allen takes this maxim back to Little Rock, rooting out the seeds of distrust to replace them with “a citizenship of political friendship.”  By combining brief readings of philosophers and political theorists with personal reflections on race politics in Chicago, Allen proposes strikingly practical techniques of citizenship.  These tools of political friendship, Allen contends, can help us become more trustworthy to others and overcome the fossilized distrust among us.

Originally trained in the classics, Allen recently received a second doctorate in political science, providing a still stronger basis for her boundary-crossing investigations into the essential philosophical, literary, and cultural threads of the social fabric.  Allen's work contributes new perspectives to discussions of race and politics that go well beyond the confines of traditional and canonical scholarship.


Danielle Allen received a B.A. (1993) from Princeton University, an M.A. (1998) and Ph.D. (2001) from Harvard University, and an M.Phil. (1994) and Ph.D. (1996) from the University of Cambridge.  She has been affiliated with the University of Chicago since 1997.  She is the author of The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens (2000) and Talking to Strangers: anxieties of citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education (2004) and numerous articles on topics ranging from ancient poetry to Plato to bees to Ralph Ellison and September 11th.  Allen is a 2001 recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.


Dr. Danielle Allen, Dean of Humanities, University of Chicago

photo by Brad Baskin