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Watson Lecture: The Rhetoric of Chance in Times of Pandemic

Wednesday, April 13, 2022
5:00pm to 6:00pm
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Online and In-Person Event
Jennifer A. Jahner, Professor of English, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Caltech,
  • Public Event

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted not only our daily patterns of life but also our habitual ways of thinking about safety, uncertainty, and risk at the personal and collective scales. While the science we bring to this pandemic is new, the arguments we bring to questions of public health and uncertainty have ancient roots. This talk explores the long history of thinking about chance, from the Goddess Fortune of ancient epic to the modern rhetoric of personal risk.

This lecture will be presented in a hybrid format, allowing for both virtual viewers and in-person attendees. No advanced registration is required for either format.

How to watch online
The lecture can be live streamed on or on Caltech's YouTube channel. Virtual viewers can submit questions for the lecturer through the YouTube chat feed. Select questions will be answered after the lecture, during the audience Q&A.

How to attend in person
Local participants can attend the lecture inside Caltech's Beckman Auditorium. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. In accordance with Caltech's guidelines for on-campus events, proof of vaccination* and accompanying ID must be shown for entry into Beckman Auditorium. Masks are not required inside Beckman Auditorium but are encouraged. In-person attendees can ask questions during the audience Q&A immediately following the program.

*Proof of a negative viral test result from within 72 hours prior to the event will be accepted only for those individuals who have an exemption from the Caltech vaccination requirement. Learn more.

About the Series

Since 1922, The Earnest C. Watson Lecture Series has brought Caltech's most innovative scientific research to the public. The series is named for Earnest C. Watson, a professor of physics at Caltech from 1919 until 1959. Spotlighting a small selection of the pioneering research Caltech's faculty is currently conducting, the Watson Lectures are geared toward a general audience, as part of the Institute's ongoing commitment to benefiting the local community through education and outreach.

Many past Watson Lectures are available in a playlist on YouTube.

For more information, please contact The Caltech Ticket Office by email at [email protected].