Spring Lecture Series to Feature Distinguished Scholars, Writers, Artists

Join the Division of the Humanities for a variety of lectures and events during the 2014 Spring Lecture Series. From indigenous art in sixteenth-century Mexico City to the literature of Haruki Murakami in the post-Fukushima era, these lectures offer the best of contemporary scholarship, artistic practice, and cultural criticism.

Composition by Augusta Read Thomas Garners National Media Attention

University Professor of Composition Augusta Read Thomas

Resounding Earth, a new composition by Augusta Read Thomas incorporating the sounds of 300 different pieces of metal being struck, has received praise from local and national media following several performances and a DVD release. Thomas spent a year developing the piece with Third Coast Percussion, a Chicago-based percussion quartet and Ensemble-in-Residence at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

“It was to take something that was true to my music and push it all the way," Thomas, University Professor of Composition in the Department of Music, told the Wall Street Journal about her inspiration to use 125 bells and more than 150 other metal objects within the piece.

The Chicago Tribune’s review highlights how the melding of bell and metal tones “…sounds at once ancient and modern — bright, dark, shimmering, shattering, rhythmic, lyric;” and Chicago Classical Review praises how “Thomas neatly matched each rhythmic gesture to an appropriate sound and dynamic.” 

Third Coast Percussion will continue to perform Resounding Earth in 2014 across the country. A preview of the DVD, including short segments from a performance of the composition, is available on YouTube. Additional information—including Thomas’ program notes—is available at her website.

"Because" is 2013 Word of the Year; Jason Riggle Explains Why

Jason Riggle, Humanities Day 2012

While there were many promising choices, such as “sharknado,” “struggle bus,” and “slash,” the American Dialect Society voted “because” the 2013 Word of the Year. Jason Riggle, associate professor of Linguistics and voting member of the society, explained the choice for Chicago Tonight.

“This is the year that language nerds had their day,” said Riggle. The recent update in usage of “because” allows the word to introduce a noun, adjective, or other part of speech, and no longer requires it to be followed by “of” or a full clause. 

Learn more about the language trends of 2013 and watch Riggle’s full interview online at Chicago Tonight.

Robert Morrissey-Led Project Receives Digital Humanities Grant from NEH

With help from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a collaborative project between UChicago and Oxford University will digitize books essential to eighteenth–century intellectual history. The “Commonplace Cultures” project will use data analysis techniques to develop a digital commonplace book. 

In the eighteenth century, commonplace books gathered excerpts and quotations from many different works and organized them by subject, helping readers to track new thinkers and ideas. Identifying and analyzing these commonplaces will shed light on how knowledge spread and transformed in the early modern period, according to Robert Morrissey, one of the leaders of the “Commonplace Cultures” project.

Commonplace books were “a way of managing information that made texts, ideas, and words accessible,” explained Morrissey, the Benjamin Franklin Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures. "Commonplace Cultures" builds on Morrissey's ongoing ARTFL project that collaborates with the French government to digitize and offer full-text versions of French sources.

To read more about the “Digging Into Data” award from the National Endowment for the Humanities, visit UChicago News

Malynne Sternstein Offers Close Reading of Nabokov Classic

Literature is an affair of the nerves, says Malynne Sternstein, associate professor in Slavic Languages and Literatures. In her fall quarter class on Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, Sternstein, AB’87, AM’90, PhD’96, taught her students to respond to the tingling of the nervous system created by reading Nabokov’s prose.

For Sternstein, Lolita turns not on plot, but on Nabokov’s use of language. Sternstein teaches her students to pay close attention to the text, progressing slowly but carefully to page nine of the novel by the fourth meeting of class.

To learn more about Sternstein’s close reading techniques in class discussion, visit The University of Chicago Magazine

Linguistics Alumna Defends the Listicle

As a contributor for The Week and Mental Floss, Arika Okrent, PhD’04, regularly writes listicles—an article in the form of a list—as part of her job. The listicle has become an increasingly popular literary form both online and in print, and in turn that popularity has created a thriving list of listicle sub-genres: “best of…” or “the worst of…” or “top reasons why…” are just a few examples.