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Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities


Donald Benson Memorial Lecture Fund for
Literature, Science and the Arts


This annual lecture fund honors Donald Benson, a former ISU English Professor, who had long-term interest in the relationships among the three intellectual disciplines of literature, science and the arts.

The call for the Spring 2015 lecture will be in the fall of 2014.


Donald R. Benson

March 30, 1927 - March 30, 1998

Professor Donald Benson came to Iowa State University's Department of English in 1958 and was Chairman of the department from 1972 to 1978. He remained teaching until 1993 and died, after struggling with Lou Gehrig's Disease, in 1998.

Over the years he taught a wide range of courses from Freshman English through Chaucer, to British Literature of the Renaissance to Milton, on to Modern Fiction and Technical Writing. He eventually became interested in the interconnections between Literature and Science and the Visual Arts. With his colleague, Karl Guiasda, he developed and taught a two semester graduate course called "Science and Literary Imagination." Students responded enthusiastically saying that it was the most challenging experience in their graduate work.

He began publishing with a ground breaking article on the novelist, Joseph Conrad, "Constructing an Ethereal Cosmos: Late Classical Physics and Conrad's Lord Jim." He prepared and published a paper entitled "The Reconstruction of Space in Kandinsky's Aesthetics Theory," for the very first Symposium on Literature and Science, and later for the same organization, "The Spatial Paradigm: Teaching Students to Read Literature and Science."

This Lecture Series hopes to continue the study of these intriguing connections.



Previous Speakers


Spring 2013 - Ann Taves, V. Cordano Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara

Spring 2012 - Elliott West, Distinguished Professor, Alumni Distinguished Professor, History - American West, American Indian at the University of Arkansas