This session looks back at great art accomplished under extreme duress. The presenters will discuss and then perform the final musical work for stage by Viktor Ullmann entitled “The Chronicle of Love and Death of the Flag Bearer Christoph Rilke.” Based on Rainer Maria Rilke’s great prose-poem about the futility and finality of war, the “Chronicle” was conceived for dramatic speaker and piano as a Liebestod, in which love as an external force conquers death. Ullmann composed these musical sketches during autumn 1944 when he was in the Terezín concentration camp before being deported and murdered at Auschwitz. They weave the haunting music into a discussion about themes of exile and diaspora in modern Jewish history.
Presenter: Edgar Garcia
In these times of social and epidemiological crisis, it is crucial to consider how our historical antecedents faced emergency. In this lecture, Edgar Garcia examines how the indigenous K’iche’ Maya story of creation the Popol Vuh—written in a time of colonial devastation—helps its readers to rethink the current crisis and the repercussions of the colonialism crisis. The Popol Vuh not only gives critical resonance to our present emergency, it also wishes to show its readers how to reframe emergency as a source of possible (social, political, and intellectual) emergence; how to meet crisis with creativity; and, indeed, how to remember the work of creation that has long confronted the devastation of colonial order. This presentation will be split into a lecture and reading from Garcia’s new collection of essays on the Popol Vuh, to be followed by 15 minutes of Q&A.
Presenter: Martha C. Nussbaum
In these days of horrible mistreatment of animals, the poaching of elephants and rhinos, and the devastation of their natural habitat through climate change, we need both an ethical revolution and new laws to protect animals. But how do we create a wholly new approach to protect diverse animals? This session examines an approach that the presenter has long put forward, known as the Capabilities Approach, that we share the world with other species, and that what they are able to do and be matters greatly to all of us.
Presenter: Eric Slauter, Tom Ginsburg, William Howell, Tracey Meares, David W. Oxtoby, Susan Stokes, Diane P. Wood
What can we do to address the prevailing sense of crisis in 21st century American civic and political life? From declining trust in government to increasing economic inequality to the rise of social media, the threats to our democracy seem to multiply, requiring nothing less than a fundamental reassessment of U.S. political institutions, civil society ecosystems, and civic norms. In anticipation of the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences recently released “Our Common Purpose”—a series of recommendations to strengthen our institutions, heal our civic culture, and achieve empowerment for all. With that report as a backdrop, this session will examine the root causes of these crises and discuss the bold steps necessary to build a more resilient democracy for the 21st century.
Presenter: Veronica Vegna
What role do women play within Sicilian mafia? How has this role recently been represented in Italian films? Like a two-headed Janus, women contribute to the existence and continuity of the mafia but can also become a threat to it. Drawing on sociological studies on women and organized crime, this lecture discusses filmic representations of the complex and conflicting relationship of women with Sicilian mafia.
Presenter: Larry Norman, Richard T. Neer
Does art have rules? Can it be—should it be—taught, assessed, graded? These questions are very old, but they are more urgent than ever. Although modern art is sometimes seen as a revolt against academic norms, recent years have witnessed tremendous growth in arts instruction on university campuses around the country—including here at UChicago. In this session, a historian of literature and a historian of art will team up to discuss the deep history of this phenomenon: the emergence of state-sponsored academies of art and literature in seventeenth-century Paris. Why did academic art seem like a good idea at the time, what were the pitfalls, and what lessons can we draw for thinking about arts and institutions today?
Presenter: Srikanth Reddy, Will Boast, Suzanne Buffam, Mitchell S. Jackson, Daniel Raeburn, Stephanie Soileau
This panel gathers poets, nonfiction writers, and novelists on UChicago's Creative Writing faculty to discuss their ongoing projects to re-imagine communities—historical, contemporary, and for the future—in their writing and teaching. What resources do the past and present offer for thinking of literary communities in the classroom, in literature, and in society?