October 9, 2008
Vol. 28 No. 2

current issue
archive / search
Chronicle RSS Feed

    Humanities Day provides new opportunities for discovery

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    Was Shakespeare Catholic? Who really authored the Dead Sea Scrolls? How did the Chicago Renaissance differ from the more famous Harlem Renaissance? And what has happened to Iraq’s archaeological heritage since the 2003 sacking of the country’s national museum?

    Faculty members in the Division of the Humanities have asked these questions and others like them in the course of their scholarly pursuits. University scholars will share some of the clues they uncovered and the answers they have discovered on Saturday, Oct. 25, when the University celebrates its 30th annual Humanities Day.


    The oldest event of its kind in Chicago and the inspiration for the citywide Chicago Humanities Festival, this year’s University Humanities Day will not only feature leading Chicago faculty members presenting lectures and leading discussions, but it also will offer film screenings, exhibition tours and unique opportunities to tour University facilities.

    Free and open to the public, this year’s Humanities Day is organized in three sessions, beginning at 9:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., and taking place at venues throughout campus.

    Jacqueline Goldsby, Associate Professor in English Language & Literature, a specialist in 19th and early-20th century American and African-American literature, will deliver the event’s keynote address: “A Salon for the Masses: Black Chicago’s Book Review and Lecture Forum, 1933-53.” Goldsby will lecture in Mandel Hall from 11 a.m. to noon. (Please see related story on Goldsby’s speech.)


    Other highlights of the more than 20 Humanities Day events:

    Norman Golb, the Ludwig Rosenberger Professor of Jewish History and Civilization in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations and the College, will examine one of the world’s great archaeological debates. In his lecture, Golb will present the competing theories concerning the provenance of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The roughly 1,000 scrolls, written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek on papyrus or parchment paper, are of enormous religious and historical significance, as they include practically the only known surviving copies of biblical documents made before 100 A.D. One of the world’s leading authorities on the scrolls’ origins, Golb has directed the Oriental Institute’s Dead Sea Scrolls Project since its creation in 1991. Golb will speak from 2 to 3 p.m. in Breasted Hall, 1155 E. 58th St.

    An expert on William Shakespeare, David Bevington, the Phyllis Fay Horton Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, will address one of the more vexing questions in the world of Shakespeare studies. Shakespeare lived in a time of religious controversy, and recent attempts have been made to suggest that he was a Catholic, or at least a Catholic sympathizer, and that Catholicism ran in his family. Yet there are no essays written by Shakespeare on the subject. In “Shakespeare on Religion,” Bevington will look at his body of work. What do his plays and poems suggest? How does Shakespeare speak to his audience about the religion of his days, such as anti-Semitism and the debate about Puritanism? Bevington will lecture from 2 to 3 p.m. in Harper 140, 1116 E. 59th St.

    Larry Rothfield, Associate Professor in English Language & Literature and the College, and Director of the Cultural Policy Center, will discuss the aftermath of the looting of the Iraq National Museum. Reports of thieves pillaging one of the world’s most important archaeological collections in the wake of the American invasion of April 2003 shocked the world. But what has happened to Iraq’s archaeological heritage since 2003? In “Nobody Thought About Culture,” Rothfield, who edited the recently released collection Antiquities Under Siege: Cultural Heritage Protection after the Iraq War, will discuss what should be done to help Iraq protect what remains of its patrimony. Rothfield also will look broadly at how lessons from Iraq can be used to protect cultural treasures from harm in future conflicts. His talk is scheduled from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. in Harper 130, 1116 E. 59th St.

    Bill Brown, the Edward Carson Waller Distinguished Service Professor in English Language & Literature and the College, will focus on the sculpture of the contemporary Native American artist Brian Jungen to begin his lecture, “Objects, Other and Us.” In his presentation, Brown will examine a question at the heart of his current research: How do works of art teach us about our object culture—about the ways that human subjects and inanimate objects define one another? Brown will concentrate on the artist’s re-fabrications—his use of baseball bats and sneakers, leather sofas and plastic chairs, the bits and pieces of consumer culture that become, in his hands, “authentic” native artifacts. Brown will lecture from 2 to 3 p.m. in Harper 130, 1116 E. 59th St.

    Philip Gossett, the Robert W. Reneker Distinguished Service Professor in Music and the College, will discuss a debate that surrounds the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. It is well known that Verdi was interested in writing an opera based on Shakespeare’s King Lear, but scholars are divided as to whether he actually composed music for this project. Gossett, widely regarded as the world’s leading authority on 19th-century Italian opera, will reconsider the matter based on new information about the way Verdi interacted with his librettists, and will draw important examples from two operas the composer did prepare: “Un ballo in maschera” and “La forza del destino.” Gossett will give his presentation from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. in Fulton Hall, 5845 S. Ellis Ave.

    Daisy Delogu, Assistant Professor of French in Romance Languages & Literatures and the College, and Aden Kumler, Assistant Professor in Art History and the College, will collaborate on a lecture, titled “Love’s Looks, Love Books,” about one of the library’s most prized holdings: the 14th-century manuscript of “Le Roman de la Rose,” or “The Romance of the Rose.” It was arguably the single most influential text of the later Middle Ages, one that also inspired extensive programs of illumination designed to visually identify, explicate and at times re-inflect the columns of verse in which they were painted. Delogu and Kumler will address both textual and visual aspects of this work, using the University’s 1365 manuscript as a point of reference. Their talk is scheduled from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. in the Special Collections Research Center at the Joseph Regenstein Library, 1100 E. 57th St.

    Other presenters this year include Ted Cohen, Professor in Philosophy and the College, who will give the lecture titled “The Mystery of the Metaphor.” Shulamit Ran, the Andrew MacLeish Distinguished Service Professor in Music and a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, will discuss her challenges in composing a multi-movement Mass at the invitation of Chanticleer, the acclaimed 12-men vocal ensemble.

    Lisa Ruddick, Associate Professor in English Language & Literature and the College, will explore the role editors played in shaping Shakespeare’s work, with specific attention to King Lear. Christina von Nolcken, Associate Professor in English Language & Literature and the College, will look at an often overlooked aspect of Beowulf—its many allusions to historical events involving pre-English peoples still living in their continental Germanic homelands. In the lecture, “Who Was Socrates and What Did He Do?,” Herman Sinaiko, Professor in the Humanities and the College, will explore Socrates’ ambiguous relationship to the Sophists, and how this relationship raises questions about his interest in earlier pre-Socratic thinkers such as Parmenides.

    Robert Buch, Assistant Professor of Germanic Studies and the College, Thomas Pavel, Gordon J. Laing Distinguished Service Professor in Romance Languages & Literatures and the College, and Rana Choi, a graduate student in the Divinity School, will discuss the central arguments in German philologist and critic Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis (1946), one of the most important critical works written in the 20th century.

    Michael Raine, Assistant Professor in East Asian Languages & Civilizations, and the College, will present his work using computer-based tools to support film studies pedagogy and research—an approach to film that is in some ways analogous to the “distant reading” strategy of Franco Moretti.

    In addition to the lectures, guides will provide tours of the University’s Phonology Laboratory in the Karen Landahl Center for Linguistics Research, in the basement of the Social Sciences Research Building; the Oriental Institute’s exhibition, “Catastrophe: The Looting and Destruction of Iraq’s Past;” and the Smart Museum of Art’s exhibition, “Displacement: The Three Gorges Dam and Contemporary Chinese Art.”
    The Committee on Creative Writing will present the work of three faculty members, representing different genres of the program, and the Film Studies Center will screen two films, Hands and Borderline, from the late silent period, which examine race and gender relations through the lens of formal experimentation and modernist sensibility.

    The University’s Civic Knowledge Project will present a panel discussion that explores its mission of civic engagement, and it will screen the “The Civic Knowledge Project Remembers,” a documentary that captures the early history of the Congress of Racial Equality, which met for the first time on the South Side of Chicago in 1942.

    For a complete list of the events and times, visit http://humanities.uchicago.edu/humanitiesday. Seating is limited, and advanced registration is required.