The Josephine Gessner Ferguson Lecture

The Josephine Gessner Ferguson Lecture is a cherished springtime tradition for students, local alumni, and faculty of the English Department at Tulane University. The lecture series annually brings an outstanding literary scholar to Tulane’s campus to speak about a topic of general interest pertaining to their research.

The Ferguson Lecture series was established in 1990 by Charles A. Ferguson Jr. (Tulane College Class of 1958; Tulane Law Class of 1961) and Barbara Ferguson Ginsberg (Newcomb College Class of 1951) in honor of their mother, Josephine Gessner Ferguson, a Class of 1924 graduate of Newcomb College who maintained a lifelong interest in English literature and especially in nineteenth-century English literature. Barbara Ginsberg sadly passed away in 2020, and is remembered by her husband, Howard Ginsberg; her brother, Charles Ferguson, and his wife, Jane Ferguson (Newcomb College Class of 1959); and by the Ferguson and Ginsberg families.

Because of Josephine Gessner Ferguson’s love of nineteenth-century English literature, many of the Ferguson lectures have addressed topics pertaining to the English Nineteenth Century. But from the beginning and increasingly over time, Ferguson lectures have also discussed subjects beyond English literature and the Nineteenth Century. We are grateful to Charles Ferguson and the Ferguson family for their generosity in making the Ferguson Lecture possible every year. And we are grateful for their sustained commitment to publicizing the importance of literature and literary scholarship.

Upcoming Lecture

April 18, 2024

Devoney Looser-Arizona State University

"The Making of Jane Austen"

Past Lectures

October 26, 2023

James Shapiro-Columbia University

"Macbeth in Harlem: The Making of the Federal Theatre's Greatest Hits"


Nina Auerbach- University of Pennsylvania

“Ectoplasm and Evil: Women’s Ghosts”


Daniel Schwarz- Cornell University

“Spirituality Inquisitive Images: The Influence of Modern Painting on Wallace Stevens”


Patrick Brantlinger- Indiana University

“The Case of the Poisonous Book: Mass Literacy as Threat in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction”


Helena Michie- Rice University

“Failed Victorian Honeymoons”


Jay Clayton- Vanderbilt University

“Is Pip Postmodern? Or Dickens at the End of the Twentieth Century”


Catherine Gallagher- University of California, Berkeley

“Melancholy Madness and the Dismal Science in Dickens’s Hard Times


David Grylls- Oxford University

“The Victorian Novel: Forms, Themes, and Literary Techniques”


Stephen Gill- Oxford University

“Spontaneous Number: Wordsworth and Poetic Composition”


Christopher Ricks- Boston University

“A.E. Housman: No More Poetical Than Anagrams”


Dame Gillian Beer- Cambridge University

“Talk and Tactics: The Alice Books”


Stephen Greenblatt- Harvard University

“Hamlet in Purgatory”


Valentine Cunningham- Oxford University

“Flesh and the Victorians”


Helen Cooper- Oxford University

“Desirable Desire: The Familiar Middle Ages”


Geoffrey Galt Harpham- Tulane University

“Beyond Mastery: The Future of Conrad’s Beginnings”


J. Hillis Miller- University of California, Irvine

“Victorian Multi-plotted Novels as Models of Community: The Example of Anthony Trollope”


Claudia L. Johnson- Princeton University

“Jane Austen and War”


U.C. Knoepflmacher- Princeton University

“Male Voices in the Brontë Fictions”


Christopher Lane- Northwestern University

“The Ache of Modernism: The Victorians’ Failing Gods”


Robert J.C. Young- New York University

“The Idea of English Ethnicity”


Frances Ferguson- John Hopkins University

“Trust and What Literature Has to Say About It: The Case of Robinson Crusoe”


Nigel Smith- Princeton University

“Are We Still Mystics? Talking with God in Literature After the Middle Ages”


Ian Baucom- Duke University

“Never Let Me Go: The Humanities in the Age of Natural Science”


Joseph Bristow- University of California, Los Angeles

“Oscar Wilde in New Orleans”


Mark Samuels Lasner- University of Delaware

“Useful and Beautiful: The Books of William Morris”


David Lawton- Washington University, St. Louis

“On Nightingales: Voice, Pain, and Literature”


Lisa Ruddick- The University of Chicago

“Poetry, Psychoanalysis, and the Self”


James Shapiro- Columbia University

“Shakespeare in America”


Christina von Nolcken- The University of Chicago

Two Professors ‘Busting’ the German Code, and a Landmark Edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales


Ted Underwood- The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

“Digital Perspectives on the Long Arc of Literary History”


Toril Moi- Duke University

“Never Treat Characters as if They Were Real People: On the Origins and Future of a Taboo”

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, The Ferguson Lecture Did Not Take Place in 2020 and 2021


Barry McCrea- The University of Notre Dame

“Neighbors on the Seine: Joyce and Proust in Paris, 1922”


Julia Reinhard Lupton- University of California, Irvine

"Couples, Couplets, and Conversation: Shakespeare and the Art of Love"