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Annual Arts and Humanities Prokhorov Lectures

We host several lectures by world-leading academics and public intellectuals each year.

Our public lectures are part of the University of Sheffield's Global Humanities Initiative. They are open to academics, students, and the general public and are supplemented by lectures by Sheffield staff as well as a range of student-centred activities – such as exhibitions, workshops, and panel debates – facilitated by the Students' Union and the student societies in our arts and humanities departments. The main themes for our upcoming lectures are capitalist markets and their ethics; thinking about the future; and the politics of faith in a multicultural context.



Upcoming lectures

Upcoming lectures


Lionel Shriver, credit Sarah Lee

Literature and freedom of speech – Lionel Shriver

  • 1 November 2018 | 6pm
  • Firth Hall in Firth Court, University of Sheffield

Lionel Shriver will deliver the first 2018-19 Arts and Humanities Prokhorov Lecture on the topic: Literature and freedom of speech.

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About our speaker

Lionel Shriver is a bestselling writer and journalist. Her novels include We Need to Talk about Kevin (2003), which was serialised on BBC 4 Radio and made into a Hollywood film starring Tilda Swinton. Among her other novels is the satirical So Much for That (2010), which explores the flaws of the high-cost American health care system and its often devastating effects on the lives of ordinary people. Lionel Shriver has written for The Guardian as well the Financial Times, The Economist, and The New York Times.



Religion, atheism, and the varieties of the good life – John Gray

  • 19 February 2019 | 7.30pm
  • Sheffield Cathedral

John Gray

About the talk

It is often claimed that atheists can be as moral as practitioners of traditional religions, and this may well be true. However, John Gray suggests that atheists have been promoting a wide variety of conceptions of the good life. Examining the history of atheism, he will argue that atheism has not been a single intellectual movement, but rather a diversity of contending sects adhering to divergent – often even conflicting – values and advancing different ways of life. The question is therefore not whether atheists can be moral, but: which morality should atheists follow?

This talk is part of the God and the Good: Thinking Religion and Ethics lecture series.

About our speaker

John Gray studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Oxford. In 1998, after having held – among other things – a visiting professorship at Harvard and a professorship in politics at Oxford, he became Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics, where he is now Emeritus Professor. Among his recent publications are Seven Types of Atheism (2018), The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Inquiry into Human Freedom (2015), The Silence of Animals: Thoughts on Progress and other Modern Myths (2013), and Gray’s Anatomy: Selected Writings (2009).

He contributes regularly to The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, and the New Statesman, where he is the lead book reviewer. John Gray is a regular guest on radio and television and was one of the main contributors to the ARTE documentary Marx Reloaded, alongside Jacques Rancière, Peter Sloterdijk, and Slavoj Žižek.


The singing Turk: Ottoman power and operatic emotions – Larry Wolff

  • 28 March 2019, from 5pm
  • Humanities Research Institute, University of Sheffield

Leading historian Larry WolffLarry Wolff will deliver the second 2018-19 Arts and Humanities Prokhorov Lecture on the topic: The singing Turk: Ottoman power and operatic emotions.

About the talk

Leading historian Larry Wolff will speak about opera and Turkish subjects in the long eighteenth century, touching also on contemporary issues of Turkey’s relation to Europe and European culture.

About our speaker

Larry Wolff is an intellectual and cultural historian best known for his idea that Eastern Europe was invented, as it were, by eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinkers and travellers who divided Europe into complementary Eastern and Western “cultural spheres”. On this basis, he has explored Western perspectives on Eastern Europe as manifestations of a kind of “Orientalism” (Edward Said). Larry Wolff’s books include The Singing Turk: Ottoman Power and Operatic Emotions on the European Stage from the Siege of Vienna to the Age of Napoleon (2016); Paolina’s Innocence (2012); The Idea of Galicia: History and Fantasy in Habsburg Political Culture (2010); and Child Abuse in Freud’s Vienna (1995). He also wrote the introduction to a new edition of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s classic 1870 novella Venus in Furs. Larry Wolff teaches history at New York University.


Audrey NiffeneggerAudrey Niffenegger

  • Thursday 9 May 2019, 6pm
  • The Diamond, room LT6, University of Sheffield

Audrey Niffenegger will deliver the third 2018-19 Arts and Humanities Prokhorov Lecture in April 2019. More details to follow.

About our speaker

Audrey Niffenegger is the world-famous author of The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003), which in 2009 was made into a Hollywood film starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. Her second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, came out in 2009. A visual artist by training, Audrey Niffenegger has also published several graphic novels. She is currently working on a sequel to The Time Traveler’s Wife, provisionally entitled The Other Husband.



Seeking the welfare of the city: what the church can contribute to the common good – Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield

  • 26 June 2019 | 7.30pm
  • Sheffield Cathedral

About the talk

Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield, will explore how, in pursuit of the common good, the Church has something to offer to policy-making, as well as project-delivery, in what one might call a prophetic – and not merely pastoral – role.

This lecture is part of the God and the Good: Thinking Religion and Ethics lecture series.

About our speaker

The Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox has been ordained for over 30 years and has been Bishop of Sheffield since the summer of 2017, having been the Dean of Liverpool for the previous five years. He trained for the ordained ministry at Ridley Hall in Cambridge, after completing a degree in modern history at Durham.

Theological education and ministerial formation remain key interests for him, along with Bible teaching and expository preaching. He is the author of three books which attempt to make Bible commentary accessible: Living the Dream: Joseph for Today (2007), Walking the Walk: The Rise of King David for Today (2009) and Talking the Talk: The Fall of King David for Today (2011).



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God and the Good lecture series

God and the Good: Thinking Religion and Ethics


A series of lectures by prominent public intellectuals, organised by Robert Stern in the Department of Philosophy.


Sheffield CathedralAre believers better people than atheists? Or does religion breed intolerance and violence? Are our moral concepts inextricably tied up with religious ideas? Do different religious traditions have fundamentally different ethical commitments? This series of talks, intended for a general audience, will consider such questions.

While most ethical traditions have a religious background, the increasing secularisation of modern society has put the connection between ethics and religion in question. Our talks will explore the history of this connection, as well as the questions: can religion illuminate ethical issues, and: can ethical issues illuminate religion?

Talks for the God and the Good series:

  • Religion, atheism, and the varieties of the good life – John Gray: 19 February

  • Seeking the welfare of the city: what the church can contribute to the common good – Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield: 26 June 2019

  • Diatribe, dialogue, and difference – Mona Siddiqui (this talk took place on 2 October 2018)

For more details, see Upcoming lectures.

Lecture highlights

Lecture highlights



John Lanchester. Credit: Amrei-Marie

The crash ten years on: Money, markets, and morals – John Lanchester

John Lanchester gave the second 2017-18 Arts and Humanities Prokhorov Lecture on money, markets, and morals (10 May 2018).

He joined us the next day for a Q&A about his novels and a discussion on the relationship between money, market, and morals.

About our speaker

John Lanchester is one of Britain's leading novelists.

His latest novel, Capital, was made into a three-part BBC television series which starred Toby Jones and won the 2016 International Emmy for best TV movie or mini-series.

He has written for The Guardian, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and Esquire. Described by Michael Lewis as “one of the world’s great explainers of the financial crisis and its aftermath”, John Lanchester is also the author of the New York Times best-selling Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay (published in the US as I.O.U.) as well as How to Speak Money.


Christianity: The big picture – Diarmaid MacCulloch

Oxford historian and BBC presenter Diarmaid MacCulloch gave the first 2017-18 Arts and Humanities Prokhorov Lecture on 22 February 2018. The lecture took place in Sheffield Cathedral and was attended by well over 200 people.

About the talk

Diarmaid MacCulloch refocuses the story of the Christian faith to show what an unexpected product modern Western Christianity is. He emphasises the power of ideas to reshape human affairs, and considers the pasts, the present, and the futures of the world's most widespread faith.

In conversation with Peter Bradley and Diarmaid MacCulloch

In this three-part interview series, the Prokhorov Centre's Henk de Berg interviews Peter Bradley and Diarmaid MacCulloch.

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About our speaker

Diarmaid MacCulloch is known above all for his award-winning studies of Tudor England and his BBC television documentaries on the history of Christianity. His books include Henry VIII: Politics, Policy, and Piety; Thomas Cranmer: A Life; and The Boy King: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation. Among his television documentaries are A History of Christianity; Henry VIII’s Enforcer: The Life and Fall of Thomas Cromwell; and Sex and the Church.

Diarmaid MacCulloch, who in 2012 received a knighthood for services to scholarship, is Professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the British Academy.


Dame Marina Warner

At home in your head – stories in times of displacement

Best-selling novelist, short-story writer, and scholar Dame Marina Warner gave the second 2016-17 Annual Arts and Humanities Prokhorov Lecture on Thursday 23 February 2017.

Marina Warner explored the relationship between the way we tell stories and the refugee crisis, asking: is culture strong enough to help?

In conversation with Dame Marina Warner

Writer and mythographer Marina Warner discusses Jung, Cinderella, the figure of the wicked stepmother, and more with the Prokhorov Centre's Henk de Berg.

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About our speaker

Dame Marina Warner – best-selling novelist, short-story writer, and scholar – is best-known for her work on feminism and myth. Her first book, The Dragon Empress (1972), offers both a study of the Empress Dowager Cixi, or Tz’u-hsi, and a fascinating portrait of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century China, while her second book, Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (1976), which on its publication generated fierce international controversy, now counts as a standard work in feminist cultural criticism.

Since then, she has published a large number of both fiction and non-fiction works, including From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers (1994) and Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors, and Media into the Twenty-First Century (2006). Her many national and international prizes and honorary degrees include The Holberg Prize, the Commendatore dell’Ordine della Stella di Solidareità, the Aby Warburg Prize, and the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.


More lecture highlights

TJ (Jim) Reed

Beginning in their times: Homer, Montaigne, Shakespeare (and some others)
1 December 2016

TJ Reed gave the first 2016-17 Arts and Humanities Prokhorov Lecture on the topic: Beginning in Their Times: Homer, Montaigne, Shakespeare (and Some Others).

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Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht

Annual Prokhorov Lecture 2016: The past and future of the humanities
5 May 2016

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, one of today’s most eminent public intellectuals, gave the Annual Prokhorov Lecture: The past and future of the humanities.

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