Historian Jill Lepore to present IU Patten lectures on relationship between evidence and privacy

  • March 22, 2016


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Historian and author Jill Lepore will present two Patten lectures this month at Indiana University Bloomington. The lectures will consider the relationship between evidence and privacy.

Lepore serves as the David Wood Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University and as a staff writer for The New Yorker.

Lepore’s publications are lauded for their revolutionary questioning of official historical narratives. Empowering lost voices, Lepore’s works often feature forgotten characters such as Benjamin Franklin’s sister or the New York slaves who were burned at the stake following a series of 1741 Manhattan fires.

Her Patten lectures are free and open to the public. Both will take place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in Presidents Hall at Franklin Hall. Topics are:

In “Unseen,” Lepore will explore the evolution from mystery to society’s obsession with privacy. She will analyze episodes in American politics, law and literature to demonstrate the transformation from mystery, a medieval religious concept, to secrecy, a modern divide between what the government knows and the people do not. After considering the historical and political development of privacy, Lepore will grapple with contemporary questions of surveillance.

In “Unknown,” Lepore will trace the transformation from emphasis on facts, or established truth, to data, a collection of information. This lecture will build from “Unseen” and will consider how contemporary questions about evidence and truth are affected by data, mystery and privacy.

Lepore is the author of several books including "Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin," a Times magazine best nonfiction book of the year and winner of the Mark Lynton Prize; and "The Secret History of Wonder Woman," which explores the influence of early feminism on the comic book heroine and her male creator. Her next book, “Joe Gould’s Teeth,” will be published later this year.

In addition to The New Yorker, Lepore also is a regular contributor at The New York Times, the Times Literary Supplement, American Scholar, the Yale Law Journal, Foreign Affairs and American Quarterly. She also writes for Common-place, an online journal she co-founded.

Lepore has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Pew Foundation, the Gilder Lehrman Institute, the Charles Warren Center and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.

The William T. Patten Foundation

The William T. Patten Foundation provides funds to bring distinguished scholars or practitioners in the sciences, the humanities and the arts to the Bloomington campus for a week. The foundation has brought over 150 scholars of extraordinary national and international distinction since 1937, making it the oldest lecture series at Indiana University. Lecturers are chosen by a campus-wide faculty committee.

William T. Patten graduated in 1893 with a Bachelor of Arts in history from IU. He then moved to Indianapolis and led a successful career in real estate and politics. He created an endowment for the university in 1931, with the purpose of bringing renowned leaders to the Bloomington campus.

For more information about Lepore or her lectures, visit the Patten Foundation website or contact

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