Keynote Address

11 A.M.–Noon

Presenter: Larry F. Norman

Classicisms: Varieties of an Aesthetic Experience

Presenter

What is classicism? As an aesthetic ideal, the “classical” is often identified with timeless notions such as order, reason, and clarity. The wide variety of its incarnations across time and place, however, reveal a richly multifaceted and metamorphic concept.  The case of the French Classical Age of Louis XIV will open a comparative study placing in dialogue diverse historical periods, artistic media, and literary forms.

Session 1

9:30–10:30 A.M.

Presenter: Claudia Brittenham

Hidden in Plain Sight: Carving on the Undersides of Aztec Sculpture

Presenter

What lies underneath Aztec sculpture? A surprising number of monuments are carved on all available surfaces—even the undersides, which are would be impossible to see when the sculpture was in place. We often assume that art is made to be seen, even to be displayed in a context much like a modern museum. But the Aztec examples argue for a different philosophy of artistic creation in the premodern world.

Presenter: Margareta Ingrid Christian

Aerial Aesthetics: Artworks and their Environments around 1900

How can we think about the space of an artwork? How do artworks create their own environments and how are they co-constituted by the spaces environing them? This talk explores how at the beginning of the twentieth century the environment of an artwork was conceptualized as a "material articulation of space," specifically, as air and atmosphere. I will trace the transfer of knowledge between notions of “environment” in biology and physics and the literature of art history in the period.

Presenter: Robert L. Kendrick

Commemorating the Reformation—in 1617

Presenter

Although worldwide events this year commemorate Martin Luther's 95 Theses of 1517, the actual celebrations began across Germany on the 100th anniversary, in 1617, at a time when Europe was largely in a fragile—and soon to be shattered—peace. This talk looks at those events and music composed for them by Michael Altenburg and Heinrich Schutz, among others.

Presenter: Deborah Nelson

Tough Enough: Arbus, Arendt, Didion, McCarthy, Sontag, Weil

Presenter

We hear a lot these days about how important empathy is not only in national politics but also in the workplace and school, between friends and strangers. But what if we are wrong? What if empathy isn’t what we need, but unsentimentality? This talk draws from my new book, which explores the unsentimental aesthetic, political, and ethical practices developed and defended by some of the late 20th century’s most influential women writers.  

**This presentation is full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email us at humanities@uchicago.edu**

Presenter: Martha T. Roth

"An Eye for an Eye": Crime and Violence in Ancient Mesopotamia

Presenter

King Hammurabi of Babylonia (r. 1792-50 BC) set up the famous stelae inscribed with his laws to make a public statement about his authority and his selection by the gods as the shepherd of the people “in order that the mighty not wrong the weak, to provide just ways for the waif and widow, … to provide just ways for the wronged.”  To fulfill this mandate, the state employs what Walter Benjamin termed “law-preserving violence”: violence perpetuated by the state upon its own members in order to reify the state’s authority and position. We see this in ancient Mesopotamia most obviously in the form of dramatic public punishments (including talionic punishments such as an “eye for an eye,” impaling, flogging, etc.) and in the appropriation by the state of the exclusive right to kill its citizens thereby curbing feuds and self-help.

Presenter: Bart Schultz

Classical Utilitarianism Revisited

Presenter

"Classical Utilitarianism," which is best known for arguing that "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong," was developed by the radical philosophers, critics, and social reformers William Godwin, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart and Harriet Taylor Mill, and Henry Sidgwick. Together, they had a profound influence on nineteenth-century reforms, in areas ranging from law, politics, and economics to morals, education, and women's rights, and key elements of their views are today being revived by some of the world's leading philosophers and economists, notably Peter Singer. This talk, based on my recent book, will highlight a number of the reasons why the views of the classical utilitarians are being revisited and redeployed to address some of the world's most pressing ethical problems.

**This presentation is full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email us at humanities@uchicago.edu**

Presenter: Christina von Nolcken

Beowulf and Its World

As is now well known from films, graphic novels, and other popular adaptations, Beowulf, our most important Old English poem, treats a super-hero's fights against monsters. Often overlooked, however, are its many allusions to events involving pre-English peoples still living in their continental Germanic homelands. We will consider how these allusions contribute to the poem’s meaning. Man can sometimes defeat the monsters, the poem seems to tell us, but his is also a terrifyingly unstable world.

Presenter: University Staff

Guided Tour of Jennifer Packer: Tenderheaded at the Renaissance Society

Presenter

Join the Renaissance Society for a guided tour of Tenderheaded—the first solo institutional exhibition by NY-based artist Jennifer Packer. Tenderheaded is a contemplative and intimate look at memory, improvisation and observations through portraiture and funerary bouquets.

For more information on this exhibit, visit the Renaissance Society site.

Guided Tour of Mansueto Library

Presenter

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the University of Chicago’s 55-foot-deep library with over 3.5 million volumes, and learn how the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library uses robotic cranes to deliver books to its users.

**This tour is full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email us at humanities@uchicago.edu**

Guided Tour of Revolution Every Day at the Smart Museum of Art

Presenter

Presented on the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, this exhibition immerses visitors in the distinct textures and speeds of everyday life that arose—and have lingered stubbornly—in the wake of revolutionary upheaval. 

For more information visit the exhibition's Smart Museum of Art site.

Lunchtime Tours

Noon-2:00 p.m.

Presenter: William Nickell

Guided Tour of Red Press: Radical Print Culture from St. Petersburg to Chicago at Special Collections Research Center (12–1 pm)

Presenter

Trace the worldwide spread of revolutionary and anti-revolutionary media and ideas through rare printed sources. Professor and co-curator William Nickel leads a tour of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 as it was waged through broadsides, pamphlets, periodicals, and posters. For more information on the exhbit, visit the Special Collections Research Center site.

**This tour is full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email us at humanities@uchicago.edu**

Presenter: Foy Scalf

Guided Tour of The Book of the Dead at the Oriental Institute (12–1 pm)

Presenter

Join curator Foy Scalf for a tour of the newest research on the Book of the Dead and explore how through text and elaborate imagery Ancient Egyptians sought to live forever as gods. For more information on this exhibition visit the Oriental Institute Museum website

**This tour is full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email us at humanities@uchicago.edu**

Guided Tour of The Book of the Dead at the Oriental Institute (1–2pm)

Presenter

Join curator Foy Scalf for a tour of the newest research on the Book of the Dead and explore how through text and elaborate imagery Ancient Egyptians sought to live forever as gods. For more information on this exhibition visit the Oriental Institute Museum website.

**This tour is full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email us at humanities@uchicago.edu**

Presenter: University Staff

Guided Tour of Cinthia Marcelle & Tiago Mata Machado: Divine Violence at Logan Center Exhibitions (1–2 pm)

Presenter

Join Logan Center Exhibitions on a tour of Brazilian artist Cinthia Marcelle and filmmaker Tiago Mata Machado’s first collaborative exhibit in the United States. This exhibit uses staged and abstract scenes of order and chaos to reflect on violence, law, power, and capital.

For more information on this exhbit, visit the Logan Center Exhibitions site.

**This tour is full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email us at humanities@uchicago.edu**

Guided Tour of Reynolds Club Bell Tower (12–1 pm)

Presenter

Change Ringing is a team sport, a musical performance, an antique art, and a demanding pattern-based exercise all at once! Come learn about the precision required to make music with these swinging bells. The tour will meet at the fireplace in Hutchinson Commons.

**This tour is full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email us at humanities@uchicago.edu**

Guided Tour of Reynolds Club Bell Tower (1–2 pm)

Presenter

Change Ringing is a team sport, a musical performance, an antique art, and a demanding pattern-based exercise all at once! Come learn about the precision required to make music with these swinging bells. The tour will depart from the University seal, located on the floor of the main lobby in the Reynolds Club.

**This tour is full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email us at humanities@uchicago.edu**

Guided Tour of Terence Gower: Havana Case Study at Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society (12–1 pm)

Presenter

Join the Neubauer Collegium Exibitions for a guided tour of Havana Case Study, a new installation by New York-based Canadian artist Terence Gower. Havana Case Study is the second in a series of installations by Gower that uses American diplomatic architecture as a lens through which to analyze US international relations.

For more information on this exhibit, visit the Neubauer Collegium Exhibitions website.

**This tour is full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email us at humanities@uchicago.edu**

Session 2

2–3 P.M.

Presenter: Jessica Baker

Can Music be Too Fast? Tempo Perception and Carnival Music in the Postcolonial Caribbean

Presenter

How does history shape our perception of tempo? What does it mean for music to be too fast? Considering the colonial history of the small islands of the Eastern Caribbean, this presentation interrogates the notion that someone or something may sound or be “too fast,” and highlights the connections between the legacy of colonization, carnival celebrations, and how we talk about what we hear.

Presenter: Adrienne Brown

The Black Skyscraper: Architecture and the Perception of Race

Presenter

This talk recovers the skyscraper’s drastic effects not only on the shape of the city but the racial sensorium of its residents at the turn of the 20th century. The widened scale, fragmented sightlines, increasing density, and multiplying vantage points engendered by this new architectural form were understood by writers, painters, architects, planners, and journalists in the period to alter how race was seen, felt, and experienced in growing American cities.

**This presentation is full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email us at humanities@uchicago.edu**

Presenter: Thomas Christensen

Conflicting Signs: Ethnic and Gender Representations in the Musical South Pacific

Presenter

South Pacific (1949) has often been lauded as one of the most progressive musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein, particularly for its frank treatment of ethnic prejudice in a genre that typically eschewed such sensitive social topics. But a close analysis of some musical scenes in the score (particularly in the 1958 film version) reveals a strong undertow to this received picture. This talk will suggest that the mixed messages of the musical are a reflection of competing social currents of American society in the wake of the Pacific War, a growing red scare, and the first stirrings of the civil rights movement.

Presenter: Steven Collins

Buddhist Wisdom Stories

Presenter

It is often said that Buddhist stories are simply ways to present Buddhist doctrine in a simple, popular form. This is wrong. Narratives can do things that systematic thought cannot: for example, explore moral problems rather than try to resolve them, and entertain rather than proselytize. Educated people like to read stories too, and not all Buddhist texts have something to sell. If systematic thought tries to solve problems, stores often like to state them.

Presenter: Virginio Ferrari, Laura Steward

Virginio Ferrari: Full Circle, 1957–2017

Join acclaimed sculptor and former UChicago faculty member Virginio Ferrari for the official release of Virginio Ferrari: Full Circle, 1957–2017, a limited-edition art book on Ferrari’s life’s work. Virginio Ferrari covers all of his major artworks from the last 60 years, including Dialogo (1971), perhaps his most well-known sculpture on UChicago’s Hyde Park campus. Moderating the discussion with Ferrari will be Laura Steward, Curator of Public Art at the University of Chicago, and Virginio’s son, Marco, a practicing artist who also served as editor of the book.

This special presentation is a collaboration between Humanities Day, Seminary Co-op Bookstores, the Smart Museum, UChicago Urban, and UChicago Arts, and is part of the 2017-18 Urban Readers Series.

Presenter: Paola Iovene

Literature and Media Censorship in China, July 2017

Presenter

In China as elsewhere, censorship does not simply mean the regulations and bans imposed by an authoritarian government. Rather, it is a collaborative activity involving individuals and groups with diverse agendas, in which self-censorship plays a central role. This talk will focus on three cases I learned about during my stay in Beijing this past July: a novel that was banned, a novel that was not banned, and social media reactions to the death of the dissident Liu Xiaobo. 

Presenter: Diana Palenzuela

Spreading the Mystery: The Fall and International Revival of the Basque Language

Presenter

Straddling the border of southern France and northern Spain, the land of the Basques has long been home to a people who had no country of their own but have always viewed themselves as a nation. Their roots remain mysterious, and their peculiar language is not related to any other in the world, but Basques have managed to keep their identity alive, even as other civilizations tried to blot it out.

Presenter: Srikanth "Chicu" Reddy, Augustus Rose, Lynn Xu, Rachel Cohen

Research and the Literary Imagination: Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction

This panel will focus on the role of research in literary production, featuring faculty writers working in the genres of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. We will discuss questions of historical documentation and creative freedom, poetic experimentation with archives, and the problem of making research material come to life through narrative techniques such as plot and characterization. Participants will include Gus Rose (author of the novel The Readymade Thief), Lynn Xu (author the poetry collection Debts and Lessons), and Rachel Cohen (author of the critical biography Bernard Berenson: A Life in the Picture Trade). Moderated by Srikanth Reddy, interim chair of the Program in Creative Writing.

Presenter: John Wee

The Royal Game of Ur from Ancient Mesopotamia

Presenter

Mesopotamia’s “Royal Game of Ur” and similar game boards have been discovered from Iran to Crete over millennia of antiquity. Within Mesopotamia, the game’s title, board design, movable tokens, knucklebone-die, and use of recited verses as part of game rules evolved over time. From the fixed forms of artifacts and cuneiform texts, this talk imagines the dynamic event of game play, and explores how ancient thinkers adopted its imagery to express meanings in divination and astronomy. 

Presenter: Jennifer Wild

The Flesh of the Image’s Flesh, or History in the Image

Presenter

In a famous sequence from Jean Vigo’s L’Atalante (1934), Michel Simon’s character, le Père Jules, disrobes before Juliette (Dita Parlo), and in effect makes his tattoos perform for her when he inserts a cigarette into his navel which itself is surrounded by a tattooed face. In this moment, the image of Simon’s body becomes a double inscription of the body, whereby Vigo’s cinema, “reveals itself under the sign of the flesh.”

In what way are these tattoos visible markers of Père Jules’ own history, one that remains otherwise absent in the film narrative? And how and what did his tattoos signify to film spectators in 1934? This talk explores how the cinematographic image can function as a both a multi-faceted repository for human history and an anthropological network of visual and cultural relations. These give voice to muted histories of the French nation including its colonial and penal practices that, in the case of Père Jules, reveal themselves under the sign of his flesh.

Session 3

3:30–4:30 P.M.

Presenter: Benjamin Callard

Why is it Good to be Free?

Presenter

On one very familiar and plausible understanding of freedom, we are free inasmuch as the actions we perform are surrounded by a halo of other actions we might have performed but didn't. Freedom in this sense is very highly valued by almost everyone—and yet it is not easy to say why. This talk explores this issue and suggests an account of why it is good to have options.

**This presentation is full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email us at humanities@uchicago.edu**

Presenter: Philippe Desan

Montaigne: A Life in Politics and Letters

Presenter

Creator of the essay as a literary form, Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) served as a bridge between what we call the Early Modern period and Modernity. If his literary and philosophical achievements have received much attention, scholars have underplayed his public life. This talk will discuss his Essays in relation to Montaigne’s political activities, notably in the parliamentary, diplomatic, and administrative milieus of Bordeaux, without forgetting Montaigne’s accession to the middle-level nobility of Guyenne, the outcome of the Eyquem family’s long social ascent. 

Presenter: Jennifer Iverson

Electronic Music in the Cold War Era

Presenter

Electronic music––made with sine-tone and white-noise generators, filters, and reel-to-reel magnetic tape—exploded in West Germany (and elsewhere) in the 1950s. Electronic studios were vibrant meeting points for scientists, composers, technicians, and performers. Together, these collaborators reclaimed wartime discourses and technologies, creating social and artistic “progress” by composing avant-garde electronic music.

Presenter: Joya John, Mannat Johal, Sneha Annavarapu

Materials, Objects and Technology: Ways of Knowing South Asia

What can an anthropologist, a literary scholar, and a sociologist tell us about material culture and technology in India? This panel of three advanced PhD students will discuss how everyday objects like cars, ceramics, or literary texts are not simply markers of culture but determine and shape how we view India’s past and contemporary life in India. Learn how archaeologists and philologists read the remains of ceramic wares, how modern India’s energy needs inform popular culture, and about the fascinating relations people have with their automobiles.

This panel is cosponsored by PATHS (Professional Advancement and Training for Humanities Scholars), an NEH-funded initiative to prepare UChicago Ph.D. students in the humanities for careers that make an impact in the world.

Presenter: Chrysanthi Koutsiviti

The Greek Civil War 1946–1949 and the American Intervention: A Greek Drama without Deus ex Machina

After World War II ended, people tried to find their ordinary life again through the ruins. The Greeks, however, continued the war, and this time the enemy was in the same country. What made the United States intervene in this remote country? This presentation follows briefly the events and focuses on the American intervention and the outcomes for Greece until 1974, when democracy was finally established in the country that gave birth to it.

Presenter: William Nickell

Media and Power in the Age of Putin and Trump

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For the past year we've been transfixed by the news—but also by the way the news has been reported. Longstanding practices have been questioned or abandoned as our media have grappled with how to cover a changing political landscape.  A similar situation unfolded in late and post-Soviet Russia, where regime change was accompanied, but also anticipated, by radical questioning of the validity of the news. 

**This presentation is full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email us at humanities@uchicago.edu**

Presenter: Susanne Paulus

Fake! Ancient and Modern Forgeries

Presenter

Living in a world of fake news and counterfeit documents, it is fascinating to see that forgeries existed already long before our time. This talk will discuss how people protected themselves from forgery and identity theft more than 3000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). I will show the methods scholars use nowadays to discover antique and modern forgeries of cuneiform tablets.

Presenter: Vu Tran, Rachel DeWoskin, Rachel Galvin, Will Boast, Augustus Rose

New Publications in Creative Writing

From fiction to poetry, from the ghettos of Shanghai during World War II to the homeless underground in contemporary Philadelphia, from Marcel Duchamp conspiracies to rare medical conditions to poems about war reporting and natural disasters: Creative Writing faculty Rachel DeWoskin, Rachel Galvin, Will Boast, and Augustus Rose will read from and discuss their fascinating new books. Moderated by novelist Vu Tran, the panel will also consider the balance between teaching and pursuing creative work and how these two aspects of a writer's career complement and complicate each other.

Presenter: Youqin Wang

1000 Victims of the Chinese Cultural Revolution: An Unreported History of Persecution, Imprisonment, and Murder (1966-1976)

Presenter

Over the last 30 years, I have interviewed hundreds of survivors of the Cultural Revolution in order to uncover the victims who have been systematically neglected in China’s historical literature. Violent attacks were particularly common against teachers and occurred in every school without exception, for example, 14 Chinese scholars who studied at the University Chicago between 1913 to 1950 were tortured to death. Though these narratives come from Chinese history, I believe the injustice and death that the Cultural Revolution caused can serve as a lesson for the world beyond China. 

Presenter: David Wellbery

Illustration as Interpretation: Cornelius and Delacroix on Goethe's Faust

Presenter

The Smart Museum has two masterpieces of illustration in its collection, one by the German artist Peter Cornelius, one by the great French romantic artist Eugene Delacroix. Both are devoted to Goethe's greatest play, his Faust. In this lecture from one of the world's leading scholars on Faust, learn how the illustrations illuminate the play by providing a unique visual rendering of key scenes. Both prove to be interpreters of keen insight and their contrasting styles of depiction enrich our understanding of the drama. 

Presenter: University Staff

Guided Tour of Public Art on Campus

Presenter

Join the staff of UChicago Arts for a tour of public art on the campus of the University of Chicago. Beginning at Black Sphere and featuring some of the highlights of the public art on campus, including Earth, Water, SkyNuclear EnergyConcrete Traffic, and Bench and Table, the tour will emphasize the accessibility and tangibility of some of the most challenging artworks on the UChicago campus.