Humanities Scholar Wins the Sonya Rudikoff Prize

Benjamin Morgan

Benjamin Morgan’s distinctive examination of the historical relationship between science and the humanities from Victorian times to the present in his first book, The Outward Mind: Materialist Aesthetics in Victorian Science and Literature (2017), recently received the 2017 Sonya Rudikoff Prize from the Northeast Victorian Studies Association. The Rudikoff Prize honors the best first book published annually about Victorian studies.

Acclaimed South Asian Visiting Scholar to Deliver Annual Vivekananda Lecture

Peter van der Veer

South Asian scholar Peter van der Veer uses his interdisciplinary knowledge to draw unusual comparisons and connections between the nationalism, spiritualism, and religions of India and China. He finds the comparisons of India and China to provide greater insight into the transition from the dominance of Western civilizations to Asian civilizations after World War I.

Applying his expertise on South Asian cultures, anthropology, religion, and ethnicity, Van der Veer will present the Annual Vivekananda Visiting Professor Lecture “The Modern Spirit of Asia: Comparing Indian and Chinese Spiritual Nationalism” on May 7 in Social Science Research Room 122, with a reception at 6 p.m. and the presentation at 6:30 p.m.

UChicago Press Awards Top Honor to Deborah Nelson for 'Tough Enough'

Deborah Nelson

The following was published by UChicago News on April 29, 2019.

By Jack Wang

The University of Chicago Press has awarded the Gordon J. Laing Prize to Prof. Deborah Nelson for Tough Enough, her exploration of how six women faced pain with unsentimentality—and her argument for it as an alternative response to empathy or irony.

The Laing Prize is the Press’ top honor, presented to the UChicago faculty author, editor or translator of a book published in the previous three years that brings the Press the greatest distinction. The Helen B. and Frank L. Sulzberger Professor of English and the College, Nelson received the prestigious award, given since 1963, at an April 25 campus ceremony.

In Tough Enough, she traces the work of Diane Arbus, Hannah Arendt, Joan Didion, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag and Simone Weil—writers, critics and artists whose paths didn’t always intersect, but who all looked at “painful reality with directness and clarity and without consolation or compensation.”

For Nelson, that unsentimental approach not only shaped 20th-century culture, but remains relevant today in the face of specters like climate change, gun violence and racial prejudice.

“The problem is not that we do not know what is happening, but that we cannot bear to be changed by knowledge,” she writes in her introduction to Tough Enough. “The women I discuss in the following pages all insist that we should be changed, however much we give up in the process.”

Nelson—who chairs the Department of English and specializes in the study of late 20th-century U.S. culture and politics—spoke recently about her book and the audience she hopes to reach.

Wu Hung Explains How Western Concepts Have Drastically Shaped the History of Chinese Art

Wu Hung

The following was first published in Artnet News on April 25, 2019.

Throughout the history of Western art, certain concepts have remained durable. Style. Iconography. Representation. Even when these categories are being inverted or rejected, they remain at the foundation of most discussions of European and American art. But as useful as these terms can be, they also box us in—especially when we’re talking about art from outside the Western canon. With Chinese art in particular, these categories, which have had such a sweeping influence, can prevent us from other productive ways of seeing.

“All the concepts we use to study Chinese art are derived from Western art history,” says Wu Hung, a professor at the University of Chicago and a prolific historian of Chinese art, who is currently delivering the A. W. Mellon Lectures at the National Gallery of Art. “In China, there were, of course, traditional discourses on art, even from as early as the ninth century. But they only dealt with calligraphy and painting. Sculpture and architecture were not considered art. So it was a very narrow art history.”

Throughout his talks, which are collectively titled “End as Beginning: Chinese Art and Dynastic Time,” Wu Hung is examining how Chinese art has historically been periodized, interpreted, and contextualized.

”In my talks, I deal with two kinds of materials, both of them historical,” he says. “One is the real object, the visual material. The other materials are historical writings, ritual prescriptions, mythologies.” The goal, he says, is to bring the two together to understand more fully the traditional purpose of an object, and the narrative it was originally meant to fit.

The below excerpt is adapted from Wu Hung’s first lecture, “The Emergence of Dynastic Time in Chinese Art,” which was delivered on March 31. His final three talks will be presented on April 28, May 5, and May 12.

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