Humanities Scholar Explores Overlapping Worlds of Black and Trans Communities

For English Prof. C. Riley Snorton, being part of the communities he studies, informs how he approaches his work. Photo by Jean Lachat

Two black performers stand together, one in a tuxedo and the other in a flowing dress—their sex and gender uncertain. In choosing this century-old French postcard as the cover of his latest book, Prof. C. Riley Snorton wants to send a message: Trans identity is not new.

“If we look historically, we’re not only charting the lives of those who have existed in the past,” Snorton said. “We can also learn about what they were doing, and honor their lives and the survival strategies they employed.

“Our time is not so unique that we can’t learn from other times.”

Humanities Day Keynote to Examine How Home Movies Represent Cultural History

Jacqueline Stewart photo by Joe Mazza / brave lux

For more than a decade, Prof. Jacqueline Najuma Stewart has worked to preserve, digitize and exhibit an understudied cultural resource: home movies from the Chicago neighborhoods in which she was born and raised. In addition to founding the South Side Home Movie Project in 2005, the renowned University of Chicago scholar has earned national acclaim for her research on silent films—and was recently selected as Turner Classic Movies’ first scholar and African American host. On Oct. 19, Stewart will discuss what home movie archives can teach us during her keynote address at Humanities Day, a daylong series of 40 on-campus events celebrating the research of the UChicago intellectual community. Her talk, which begins at 11 a.m. in Mandel Hall at the University of Chicago, coincides with Home Movie Day, an international effort to preserve amateur films.

Mixing Beatboxing with Opera, Acclaimed Composer Redefines Genre

left to right: Augusta Read Thomas and Nicole Paris

With an abundant imagination for sound and music, Prof. Augusta Read Thomas unfolds fresh sonic perspectives and a personal artistic voice in soaring pieces played around the world—all while shaping the field of classical composition at the University of Chicago. Now, the Grammy-winning composer renowned for her masterful use of instrumental color has created a new opera that features acclaimed beatboxer Nicole Paris, accompanied by a youth choir and chamber ensemble. The original work Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun will debut Oct. 26 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is the second opera Thomas has composed in close collaboration with librettist Leslie Dunton-Downer.

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