Full text of article by Gareth Stedman Jones posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 6, pp. 187-206, posted 30 July 2018
A bequest from Miss Henriette Hertz (d. 1913) established a fund that was intended both to support three lecture series, and more generally to enable the Academy to support scholarly research and publication. The Master-Mind Lectures were one of the lecture series. Each lecture is intended to be an appreciation of an individual of ‘genius’, connected with any of the disciplines of the Academy. The lecture was first delivered in 1916.
Master-Mind Lecture, delivered by Professor Terence Cave FBA, on 24 September 2004. Montaigne is often said to be distinctively 'early modern' in the sense that his Essais appear to anticipate many of the features we would regard as belonging to the modern period: in particular, a relativistic or sceptical habit of thought and a deep and abiding preoccupation with what we would call 'the self'. His book thus appears to mark a threshold, the point at which the ways of writing and thinking of another age begin to resemble our own. How should we interpret these signs of the 'early modern' in the Essais? The question is in a sense anticipated by the Essais themselves. When Montaigne describes his painstaking attempt to track and record the activities of the mind, he gives us an uncannily powerful model of the difficulty of a history turned towards the inner world, the world of mental conceptions and feelings as they were experienced at a given moment and in a given context, in all their ephemerality. This year's Master-Mind Lecture will argue that Montaigne's claim to be ranked as an early modern Master Mind rests primarily on his ability to imagine this world for us and give it linguistic substance. Using an approach which is at once literary and historical, it will analyse the syntactic and rhetorical fabric of a series of individual sentences in order to recover from them features of a mental landscape which looks familiar but which is not yet our own.
Master-Mind Lecture, delivered by Professor Toril Moi, on 20 March 2014 (venue: The British Academy). Professor Moi discusses Simone de Beauvoir, a 'Master-Mind' in feminist theory. Author of The Second Sex - one of the greatest works of feminist theory ever written - Simone de Beavoir's writing and work demonstrate that literature and philosophy provide indispensable understanding of human existance and the role of woman in society. Beauvoir's vindication of the knowledge produced by the arts and the humanities is more significant than ever before.
Master-Mind Lecture, by Sir Noel Malcom FBA, delivered on 15 October 2014 (venue: The British Academy). Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651) has long been seen as a deeply illiberal work. Hobbes defended absolute sovereignty (and, indeed, absolute monarchy); he was scornful of any attempt to show that sovereign authority must be subject to legal controls. But at the same time he set out some principles, such as individualism and the dependence of all political authority on consent, which we associate with the origins of the modern liberal tradition. There may even be some of the building-blocks of constitutionalism in his anti-constitutionalist theory. This lecture explores the liberal elements in the classic work of an illiberal thinker.