Humanists on Humanities Day: Suggestions from the Presenters

Humanists on Humanities Day: Suggestions from the Presenters

Humanities Day, October 15, 2016

On Saturday, October 15th, Division of the Humanities faculty members will offer presentations at the annual Humanities Day. You might find some faculty in the audience as well. We asked four presenters what Humanities Day sessions most interest them this year. Sign up for your favorite presentations at

Chrysanthi Koutsiviti
Presenter: 3,000 Years of Greek Poetry in 60 Minutes

Olga Solovieva, Nakata Hideo’s Ringu and the Memories of Atom Bombings
Who is best to talk about the Atom Bombing in Japan than a Japanese director? I am a great fan of cinema and history. Here we get both into a film which is not a documentary, but a horror movie! Moreover the topic is timely and University of Chicago has also a role somewhere on the screen! I am curious to find out how Olga relates the film, the atom bombings, President Obama and the University of Chicago!

Lawrence Zbikowski, Words to Music to Words
Everyone speaks and sings; well, some do the second secretly…The relation between words and music is deep and old in the human civilization. People were singing verses before the discovery of writing. I am excited to see what research has discovered on this passionate relation and how it contributes to the fact that we live in a world full of sounds and we finally as persons sound the sounds we love. 

Miguel Martinez, World Travelers in the Early Modern World
I adore traveling, but I rarely keep diaries about my visits; photography tries to be my memory wherever I have been. In 16th and 17th c. however people would remember only if they knew how to write and they had the will to do so. We are grateful to those who did it; through their writings we are able to reconstruct the past of places and find out the current opinions and ideas by which the travelers judge or make comments on what they had seen. Imagine what wrote travelers who visited five continents centuries before cars, trains and airplanes were invented! 

Rochona Majumdar
Presenter: Songs and Storytelling in Bollywood

Humanities day is an annual ritual that I note down in my calendar as soon as the academic year begins. Reading the program reminds me of being a child at a fairground looking excitedly at a cornucopia of attractions and games. It is the best day-long retreat to rejuvenate the mind by opening it up to new ideas and thoughts. 

This year I plan to start the day with Garin Chycoll’s “Beyond the Michigan Sea” to get a view of Chicago through literature on the great lakes and the rust belt. Jim Chandler’s “Doing Criticism/Doing Without Criticism” will be next as it speaks to one of greatest skills of our times, one we all practice and need to nurture carefully. 

Steven Rings
Presenter: Bob Dylan’s Blues

I am especially eager to hear Jim Chandler’s keynote, and would certainly attend Richard Strier’s session on Shakespeare, or my colleague Seth Brodsky’s on modernism and repetition—were they not at the same time as my own session! In the morning I will be struggling to choose between Sarah Nooter’s presentation on voice in ancient Greek drama, Larry Zbikowski on words and music, Theo Van Den Hout on Hittite seals, and the introduction to the Imani Winds.

Tyler Wlliams
Presenter: Burn Your Books! Ten Good Reasons to Destroy Books from South Asia and the Middle East

Edward Shaughnessy, Of Trees, a Son, and Kingship: Recovering the First Chinese Dream
This talk promises to be not only fascinating, but to contain some poetic beauty as well. It has all the ingredients for a fascinating story: lost ancient works, textual fragments and clues, and dreams.  I work on manuscript culture, so it has particular interest for me, but the historical content and textual forensics should make it interesting for anyone. 

Olga Solovieva, Nakata Hideo's Ringu and the Memories of Atom Bombings
This presentation fulfills an important need in contemporary scholarship: to use creative texts and works to link together and think through current events and their relationship to the past. Solovieva uses Hideo's film to think through questions of nuclear technology, existential danger, and ethics in a way that connects history and contemporary events in Japan with our own inherited history here at the University of Chicago. I think the talk will challenge us to think about our personal connections to global history and events.

Ahmed El Shamsy, How Printing Remade the Islamic Tradition
I do book history, so I'm particularly excited about this presentation, but again this topic should be of interest to everyone: the introduction of print shook up and reorganized the transmission of knowledge and traditions in every society it touched, and we have only recently begun to understand the magnitude of these changes.  The history of writing and reading in Islamic intellectual traditions is particularly rich and fascinating, and so the history of print in these traditions should be no less interesting.

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October 4, 2016