October 21, 2004
Vol. 24 No. 3

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    25th annual Humanities Open House: Division shares humanistic knowledge, offering aural, visual delights

    By Jennifer Carnig
    News Office


    What do a 40-ton sculpture of a human-headed winged bull, the world’s second-largest musical instrument and Queen Elizabeth I’s sex life have in common? They are all part of the 25th annual Humanities Open House, presented by the University’s Division of the Humanities, taking place from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23.

    This year’s program will feature more than 45 presentations by faculty in Art History, Music, English Language & Literature, Linguistics and many other disciplines that celebrate the achievements of the human mind. The free, day-long event, full of lectures, symposia and performances, will provide the occasion for around 900 visitors to spend the day on the University campus and learn from many of its most distinguished scholars.

    Wendy Doniger, the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions in the Divinity School and Director of the Martin Marty Center, will give the keynote address on the topic “Magic Rings in Mythic Narratives.” From the biblical tale of Tamar and Judah in Genesis 38, to the ancient Indian tale of Shakuntala, to Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, the ring plays a vital and often magical role. A comparison of these rings, Doniger said, reveals the ways in which storytellers throughout history have reached for rings as alibis when they find themselves trapped in a moral quandary.

    “The ring pops up in various stories, from various times and all over the world,” she said. “I’m interested in the relevance of these stories to the way we think, judge knowledge, persuade people and even justify ourselves.”

    Those who attend Doniger’s lecture will get a sneak peek at her latest work, as her presentation is based on research she is doing for a future, still untitled book.

    The following are some of the other notable presentations this year. The Motet Choir, a distinguished group of undergraduate and graduate students, will perform musical selections from the Renaissance up to the present day.

    Janel Mueller, the William Rainey Harper Distinguished Service Professor in the College and English Language & Literature, will explore the motives behind Elizabeth I’s controversial choice of identifying herself as the “virgin queen” of England.

    Fran¨oise Meltzer, the Mabel Greene Meyers Professor in Comparative Literature and the College, will offer her thoughts about the failed French revolution of 1848 and why, if it failed, it continues to fascinate contemporary theorists.

    Instructors Susan Fromberg-Schaeffer, Achy Obejas and Alane Rollings will offer readings from their latest works of fiction and poetry. Fromberg-Schaeffer is best known for her book of poetry Granite Lady, which was nominated for the National Book Award. Obejas, a former Chicago Tribune journalist, most recently published the novels Days of Awe and Memory Mambo, and Rollings just released her fifth collection of poems, To Be in This Number.

    Some of the interactive events on the schedule include a chance to tour the Oriental Institute’s Mesopotamian gallery, which features one of the world’s greatest collections of art and artifacts from ancient Iraq (including a recreation of an ancient palace courtyard dominated by a monstrous, 16-foot-tall bull statue); a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1909 Frederick C. Robie House, considered by many to be the cornerstone of modern architecture; and a tour of the world’s second-largest musical instrument, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon, a spectacular piece of equipment made of 72 bells.

    The Humanities Open House, the city’s oldest festival of humanities and the arts, is free and open to the public. For more information and a complete list of the day’s program, visit http://humanities.uchicago.edu/openhouse/, call (773) 702-3175 or email tableau@uchicago.edu.

    Participants are encouraged to visit the Web site and register in advance, or call for mail-in registration materials. Limited on-site registration is available on the day of the event at Swift Hall, 1025 E. 58th St.