Keynote Address

11 A.M.–Noon

Presenter: Christopher Kennedy


We are warned with increasing urgency that we are becoming a “post-truth” society. But what is truth? What role does it play in thought and communications? And why should we care about it?

Session 1

9:30–10:30 A.M.

Presenter: Theo van den Hout

Context Without Provenance? A New Reading of a Hittite Silver Vessel


The Metropolitan Museum in New York has one of the most elaborate objects of Hittite art. It is a silver vessel in the shape of a kneeling deer. Around its body, it carries a frieze with an adoration scene of two deities by three individuals. Because the object has no secure provenance, it has no context. Some information may be contained in two small gold medallions with hieroglyphic signs on the frieze. This lecture will propose a partial new reading and a new overall interpretation of the vessel.

Presenter: Sarah Nooter

Does the Heart Beat? Rhythm, Bodies, and Time in Archaic Greek Poetry


Where does “rhythm” come from? The word derives from the ancient Greek word rhythmos. But is it continuity or difference that we find when we investigate ancient Greek conceptions of embodiment and poetry? How do our senses of measure and meter relate to heartbeat, breath, footfall, and dance? This talk seeks answers to these questions, while focusing on passages from ancient Greek poetry and modern writers on language and embodiment.

Presenter: Sascha Ebeling

For Profit: Why the Humanities Are Essential for Business


An increasing number of studies show that classic management education, with its focus on quantitative analysis, and functional and technical skills, is no longer sufficient for the complexities of our 21st-century global world. Currently, business leaders face human-created problems from conflict and terrorism, to inequality and climate change, which affect their businesses and require new forms of leading and managing. This talk will explore how the humanities can bring value to business today.

Presenter: Michael Dango

Minimalism: From Art Style to Lifestyle


From how-to guides on de-cluttering your home, to sleek office furniture and simple, elegantly cut clothing, minimalism is a leading lifestyle philosophy of the 21st century. But before it was everywhere, minimalism was the name for avant-garde art and music that emerged in the 1960s. This talk will look at 50 years of minimalism as it moved from its experimental origins, through the architecture and literature of the 1980s, and into the present.

Presenter: James Osborne

Monument Destruction in the Past and Present


The shifting role of monuments in our public spaces has recently consumed public debate across the country. What are we to do with hundreds of statues of slave-owning Confederate generals or native-conquering Christopher Columbus, for example? The answers are rarely clear-cut, and opinions are strong. What few people realize is that these debates are hardly new. Today’s headlines are merely the latest manifestation of a phenomenon that archaeologists have recognized in times and places the world over: the constantly contested nature of monuments and their violent destructions.

Presenter: Judith Zeitlin

Opera and Adaptation: About Writing a Libretto


This presentation will discuss the new opera that the presenter is writing with award-winning composer YAO Chen, supported by a Mellon Fellowship and the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry at UChicago. Entitled Ghost Village, this English-language libretto is inspired by a ghost story in PU Songling’s 17th-century masterpiece, Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. This was an actual historical event: the Qing dynasty’s bloody crackdown on a local revolt in 1662. The session will emphasize the collaborative process of creating the libretto, and the ways in which this creative experience is transforming the presenter’s approaches to scholarship and teaching.

Presenter: William Nickell

Putin's Puppets


Although Vladimir Putin is often described as a cunning puppet-master—pulling strings to control political players and determine political outcomes—when he first appeared on the political scene he himself suffered humiliating caricatures on the weekly Russian television show “Puppets.” The talk examines how Putin gained control over his own representation on this show and became a determined manipulator of the political stage in Russia and beyond.

Presenter: Olga Sánchez-Kisielewska

The Hymn Style in the Music of Beethoven and His Contemporaries

Starting in the late 18th century, composers incorporated with increasing frequency the style of hymns into passages of instrumental music. This presentation provides examples of this phenomenon in works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms. By situating this music in the cultural context and the musical landscape of their time, Olga Sánchez-Kisielewska offers interpretations of the expressive meanings that such passages might have communicated to historical listeners.

Presenter: Robert L. Kendrick

The Second Life of the Oratorio


Although the musical genre of oratorio seems to have been typical of the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras, from Handel to Elgar, it has experienced a surprising rebirth since 1945. This presentation examines the ways in which the genre's sacred heritage has been used—or ignored—in several recent examples and their staging.

Presenter: Patrick Jagoda, Kristen Schilt

Transforming First-Year Orientation Through Alternate Reality Gaming

Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) are an art form that originated in early 21st-century information culture. Most games in this category, including Microsoft’s The Beast and 42 Entertainment’s I Love Bees, function as collaborative narrative experiences that use real-world urban spaces as a platform, blurring the lines between games and reality. To accomplish this fusion, these games incorporate a wide breadth of everyday media types including text, video, audio, print, phone calls, websites, email, social media, locative technologies, and live performance. This presentation offers a case of an ARG called the parasite. A design team at UChicago developed this ARG to augment the orientation for the class of approximately 1,750 incoming undergraduate students.

Presenter: Christina von Nolcken

Two University Professors, the German Code, and Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales"

We will focus on John Manly (1865–1940), first chair of the University of Chicago’s Department of English Language and Literature, and Edith Rickert (1871–1938), a widely traveled and well-thought-of novelist, as well as the Department’s first woman full professor. Their landmark edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales appeared in 1940. In preparing it, they used techniques they had learned in the War Office during World War I when, working together, they “busted” what is remembered as “the most important part” of the German code.

Lunchtime Tours

Noon-2:00 p.m.

Presenter: University Staff

Guided Tour of "Jason Dodge" at the Neubauer Collegium Exhibitions


Guided tour of Jason Dodge: Berlin-based artist Jason Dodge returns to Chicago with a site-specific installation conceived specifically for the intimate grandeur of the Neubauer Collegium’s wood-paneled exhibition space. Dodge’s immersive sculptural environment will be activated over the course of the fall courtesy of poet Ishion Hutchinson. Curated by Dieter Roelstraete.

Guided Tour of "Object Histories" at the Oriental Institute Museum, 12-1 p.m.


Why do I see certain objects at the Oriental Institute? How did the Oriental Institute come to have these objects? And what do they mean? As the Oriental Institute looks ahead to celebrating its first hundred-year anniversary, this tour will look back at how the pieces in the Oriental Institute Museum came to Chicago and came to this museum.

Guided Tour of "Object Histories" at the Oriental Institute Museum, 1–2 p.m.


Why do I see certain objects at the Oriental Institute? How did the Oriental Institute come to have these objects? And what do they mean? As the Oriental Institute looks ahead to celebrating its first hundred-year anniversary, this tour will look back at how the pieces in the Oriental Institute Museum came to Chicago and came to this museum.

Virtual Guided Tour: Filling in the Blanks: Community Cataloging with the South Side Movie Project, 12-1 p.m.


Calling Hyde Parkers and South Siders, past and present: Join a virtual guided tour of the South Side Home Movie Project’s digital archive, and discover new ways of activating and preserving community knowledge through home movies. What year was that parade? What high school band was leading it? Do you recognize that beach? Help SSHMP fill in missing dates, locations, and names, and collect background stories that fill in context. Jog your memories and join our efforts to provide both cultural and geographical reference points in the films, and to collect anecdotes as well as facts.

Virtual Guided Tour: Filling in the Blanks: Community Cataloging with the South Side Movie Project, 1–2 p.m.


Join a virtual guided tour of the South Side Home Movie Project’s digital archive and discover new ways of activating and preserving community knowledge through home movies. What year was that parade? What high school band was leading it? Do you recognize that beach? Help SSHMP fill in missing dates, locations, and names, and collect background stories that fill in context. Jog your memories and join our efforts to provide both cultural and geographical reference points in the films, and to collect anecdotes as well as facts.

Session 2

2–3 P.M.

Presenter: Kara Keeling

"Daughters in the Dust" as Cinematic Black Feminist Theory"


This presentation takes Julie Dash’s 1991 film Daughters ​of the Dust as itself the theory that might offer insights into selected issues raised by selected subsequent films, including Eve’s Bayou (dir. Kasi Lemmons, 1997) and Mississippi Damned (dir. Tina Mabry, 2009). It has two foci. The first is in how time and temporality participate in a cinematic project having to do with blackness, violence, and gender that these films share. Related to the first, the second addresses the ways that these films forge the concept “Black woman” cinematically.

Presenter: Janet H. Johnson

"Women in Ancient Egypt, A Sourcebook"


Women in Ancient Egypt, A Sourcebook, will appear in the “Writings from the Ancient World” series published by the Society of Biblical Literature. It is a collection of translations of ancient Egyptian texts written by, for, or about women; it is aimed at the general interested public and will require no special training in ancient studies. It will have sections on women and marriage, the family, the economy, law, religion (including music), and health. It will end with a short discussion of the question of female literacy.

Presenter: Augusta Read Thomas

An Opera in the Making

What exactly goes into composing an opera? From the initial concept to opening night, what does it takes to bring an opera to the stage? This talk discusses the processes of the writer, the composer, and the performing artists in their mission to create a contemporary work in an age-old genre.

Presenter: Rachel Cohen, Rachel DeWoskin, Edgar Garcia, Augustus Rose, Lynn Xu

Creative Practices: Archives Considered

This panel will consider the uses of personal and historical archives for creative practices (narrative, poetic, or visual).  What are the objects and situations by which we constitute our lives in writing? Participants will include Gus Rose (author of the novel The Readymade Thief), Lynn Xu (author of the poetry collection Debts and Lessons), Rachel Cohen (author of the critical biography Bernard Berenson: A Life in the Picture Trade), and Rachel DeWoskin (author of the novel Second Circus). Edgar Garcia, Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of English, will moderate the panel discussion.

Presenter: University Staff

Guided Tour of "Candice Lin: A Hard White Body, a Porous Slip" at the Logan Center Exhibitions


Guided tour of Candice Lin: A Hard White Body, a Porous Slip: Los-Angeles-based artist Candice Lin creates sculptural environments that breathe, seep, ferment, and decay. Working with an arsenal of sculptural forms that include finely crafted objects; organisms such as plants, insects, and bacteria; and natural compounds, Lin interrogates the ways in which histories of power and marginality are inscribed into bodies and into the natural world.

Presenter: Michael Harrison

Guided Tour of "Shadi Habib Allah" at the Renaissance Society


Guided tour of Shadi Habib Allah: Palestinian artist Shadi Habib Allah works across film, drawing, sculpture, and installation, often drawing on a process of deep research and on-the-ground physical engagement in specific locales. Richly varied in form and focus, his recent projects run the gamut from traveling along illicit trade routes with Bedouin smugglers to documenting labor and banter between mechanics in a Miami body shop. In works like these, he homes in on economies of people, objects, and images, tracing various ways of navigating through these networks or investigating their structures. Here, the artist presents a new series of photographs alongside recent video works.

Presenter: Orit Bashkin

How the Muslim World Viewed the Dreyfus Affair


In December 1894, French Jewish Captain Alfred Dreyfus was sentenced to life imprisonment for giving French military secrets to the Germans. Dreyfus was innocent, yet the French military continued his persecution for years. The affair divided France between royalists and military men, on the one hand, and progressive powers, who supported Dreyfus, on the other. After a long legal affair, Dreyfus was exonerated and reinstated as a major in 1906. The affair brought to the fore the problem of French and global anti-Semitism, and was covered extensively in the Arabic press, with some very sympathetic accounts in support of Dreyfus.

Presenter: Benjamin Morgan

The Art and Literature of Climate Change


In recent years, many writers and artists have begun to address climate change and ecological crisis in their work. Can the arts help us confront problems that often seem politically and scientifically intractable? And, more specifically, how do different media—installations, novels, sound art, or film—afford different perspectives on our relationship with nature? This talk will discuss recent works that address the effects of climate change, and reflect on the role of the arts on a warming planet.

Presenter: Catherine C. Baumann

The Art and Science of "Teaching" Grammar

Current language teaching methodologies stress maximizing face-to-face class time for communicative activities, where students are engaged in meaningful exchanges. But learners still need practice with grammar. This talk will differentiate “speaking practice” and “communicative activities,” and let participants experience several interactive tasks that also reinforce and practice grammatical principles.

Presenter: Benjamin Callard

The Value of Free Speech


The value of freedom of speech has recently been called into question. Speakers on college campuses and elsewhere have been subjected to the “heckler's veto,” and the legitimacy of this veto has been explicitly defended by many commentators. This turn of events is an opportunity to revisit the question: what is the point and value of free speech—especially when the speech at issue is morally offensive or dangerous? In this talk, the presenter explores this question and offers a candidate answer.

Presenter: Pamela Pascoe

The World of a Play: An Actor's Perspective


This presentation will be a lecture and demonstration focusing on how actors learn to fill in the given circumstances in a text’s environment, being aware that different playwrights provide varying degrees of information. Actors also learn how to create their character’s backstory. The goal is develop specific details that will help to create a unique character onstage.

Session 3

3:30–4:30 P.M.

Presenter: Philip V. Bohlman

"When We Remember Zion"—Songs of Love, Loss, and Life


For its Humanities Day performance, the New Budapest Orpheum Society performs a diverse repertoires of 20th-century Jewish music. Drawing on diverse genres and languages—Hebrew, Yiddish, German, and Russian, to name a few—the songs of the NBOS have been uncovered from the destruction of pogroms and the Holocaust; others filled the smoky backrooms of cabarets; and still others are among the most exquisite examples of European art song, past and present.

Presenter: Amber Ace, Jordan Johansen, Rik Peters

Animal Cognition in Antiquity

From Jane Goodall to Finding Nemo to YouTube cat videos, the behavior of animals continues to fascinate humans. This panel of three graduate students from the Classics Department will look at how several ancient Greek authors voiced this fascination and how they viewed the behavior of animals, including mating fishes, dancing elephants, and talking pigs. Just as animals are both intimately recognizable and strange to us humans, these Greek texts are at once familiar and exotic. This panel is cosponsored by PATHS (Professional Advancement and Training for Humanities Scholars), an NEH-funded initiative to prepare UChicago PhD students in the humanities for careers that make an impact in the world.

Presenter: Rebecca West

Creepy Venice: Thomas Mann, Daphne du Maurier, Patricia Highsmith, Ian McEwan


Venice is Italy's honeymoon city, a lushly romantic floating dream of gently gliding gondolas and quaint traffic-free streets and squares through which to meander. Some writers and film directors, however, have captured another dark, dangerous, and even positively macabre Venice. From Thomas Mann's infected city (Death in Venice) to Daphne du Maurier's haunted site of both past and future loss (Don't Look Now); from Patricia Highsmith's labyrinth in which a deadly cat-and-mouse game is carried out (Those Who Walk Away) to Ian McEwan's setting for erotic menace (The Comfort of Strangers), these books and film adaptations—of all but Highsmith's novel—give us a creepy Venice distinctly at odds with its image as a city for lovers. Let's explore the how and why of this alternative imagining of the Serenissima, Queen of the Adriatic.

Presenter: Ada Palmer

Guided Tour of "Censorship and Information Control, Antiquity to the Internet" at UChicago Special Collections Research Center


Guided tour of Censorship and Information Control, Anquity to the Internet: Why do people censor? For ambition? Religion? Profit? Power? Fear? This global history of attempts to control or silence information, from antiquity's earliest written records to our new digital world, examines how censorship has worked, thrived, or failed in different times and places. It examines how real censorship movements tend to be very different from the centralized, methodical censorship depicted in Orwell's 1984, which so dominates how we imagine censorship today. From indexes of forbidden books, to manuscripts with passages inked out by Church Inquisitors, to comics and pornography, to self-censorship and the subtle censorship of manipulating translations, or teaching biased histories, the banned and challenged materials in this exhibit will challenge you to answer: how do you define what is and isn't censorship?

Presenter: Patrick R. Crowley

Looking for Women Painters in Ancient Greece and Rome


Piecing together different forms of evidence—literary, visual, and archaeological—this lecture explores the virtually forgotten role of women painters in the ancient Greek and Roman past.

Presenter: Richard Strier

Nahum Tate's King Lear (and Shakespeare's)


From 1681 until the early 19th century, if you went to the theater to see King Lear, you would have seen the version adapted by Nahum Tate from Shakespeare's original. With its happy ending, Tate's play is often mocked as a terrible travesty of Shakespeare's. This lecture will show that Tate's play is first quite a brilliant reading of Shakespeare's, and second that knowing Tate's play makes us better readers of Shakespeare's.

Presenter: Will Boast, Rachel Galvin, Ling Ma, John Wilkinson

New Faculty Books in Creative Writing

From fiction to poetry to literary translation, from Latin American modernism to the contemporary poetry of war, from a modern-day Apollo and Daphne to the zombie apocalypse, Creative Writing faculty Rachel Galvin, Will Boast, and Ling Ma will read from and discuss their fascinating new books. Moderated by Director of Creative Writing John Wilkinson, the panel will also consider questions of literary influence in an expanded field, the relationship between teaching and writing, and how these two aspects of a writer's career complement and complicate each other.

Presenter: Amber Ginsburg, William Pope.L

Poetics in a Time of Climate Collapse and Human Rights Abuses

Amber Ginsburg and William Pope.L, from the Department of Visual Arts, will discuss their work in the context of climate change and the global war on terror. This talk will question the role of poetics in our current political climate.

Presenter: Anna Schultz

Rehearing the Past: Identity and Indenture in Indian Guyanese Music


Between 1838 and 1917, hundreds of thousands of Indians were brought to the Caribbean to work as indentured laborers on British plantations. For many Indo-Guyanese musicians today, the past is a reminder of indenture’s traumas or an embarrassing site of rural stereotypes. For others, indenture signifies heritage and pride in hard work. How does one construct shared identities of the indenture diaspora when the past is so fraught? This presentation is about the faintly heard echoes of indenture in Guyana and the Indo-Caribbean diaspora a century after the brutal practice was abolished in the British Empire.

Presenter: Christopher Taylor

Self-Enslaving Narratives and the Anarchy of Antebellum Black Life


In the late-Antebellum South, a new genre of free black life-writing emerged: the self-enslavement petition. From the southern state legislatures that passed laws enabling such petitions, through the local judicial functionaries who ruled on them, to the abolitionist writers who had to manage their (sporadic) reality, free black petitions for enslavement engendered a philosophical and cultural scandal. Whites in North and South alike asked: How could free black subjects, however depleted their circumstances, relinquish freedom, even the attenuated freedom available to them in the Antebellum United States? Through a series of cases, this talk will explore the origins of these petitions, their legal and philosophical history, and their generic features.

Presenter: Virginio Ferrari, Andrei Pop, John Kuhns

The Lifespan of Public Art: In Conversation with Virginio Ferrari and Andrei Pop

Join UChicago Arts for a conversation between Virginio Ferrari and Andrei Pop on the lifespan of public art, from conception to fruition to evolution. Together, they will discuss the following questions: How does the artist create a sculpture to respond to a specific architectural or geographical context? How does the work survive changes in its surroundings (architectural, geographical, political) after it has been installed? How does the context of the piece evolve through those changes? The conversation will be introduced and moderated by artist and entrepreneur John Kuhns (MFA ’75).

Presenter: Armando Maggi

What Is Real in Classic Fairy Tales? Truth, Fantasy, and Hope in Contemporary America


National traditions of folk and fairy tales saw in the “people” (the German Volk) its mythic origin. What did “people” mean in early-modern Italy, where the first literary fairy tales were written? And how did the concept of “people” mutate when the center of this literary tradition moved to France and then to Germany? Finally, we will try to identify the concept of “people” in the American interpretation of Western fairy tales, in particular in our contemporary political context dominated by racism and xenophobia.