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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


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

  • 19 February 2019 | 7.30pm
  • Sheffield Cathedral

John GrayAbout 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

Bishop Pete WilcoxAbout 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



Diatribe, dialogue, and difference – Mona Siddiqui

Mona Siddiqui OBE gave a lecture on 'Diatribe, dialogue, and difference: Reflections on Christian-Muslim relations' (2 October 2018, Sheffield Cathedral).

Watch lecture and interview

Money, markets, and morals – John Lanchester

John Lanchester gave the second 2017-18 Arts and Humanities Prokhorov Lecture: 'The crash ten years on – Money, markets, and morals' (10 May 2018).

Watch lecture and interview

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