William Pope.L, Renowned Interdisciplinary Artist and Scholar, 1955–2023

Pope.L Photo Peyton Fulford/©Pope.L/Courtesy the Artist

William Pope.L, an acclaimed interdisciplinary artist and professor in the Department of Visual Arts at UChicago, died on Dec. 23 at his home in Chicago. He was 68.

In the international art world, Pope.L was best known for his provocative performance art, which included crawling through the streets of New York City and Lewiston, Maine in a business suit or Superman costume and eating columns of financial news from the Wall Street Journal while smearing mayonnaise all over his torso to achieve an artificial whiteness. In addition to performance, his art also encompassed writing, photography, painting, sculpture and theater.

“Pope.L was a dedicated student of the human condition, a marvelous interlocutor and a kind soul,” said Matthew Jesse Jackson, professor in the Departments of Art History, Theater and Performance Studies, Visual Arts, and the College and chair of Visual Arts at UChicago. “He ceaselessly challenged us to think. His art is humane, generous, combative and among the most important bodies of work in the 21st century.”

Modern Language Association and College Art Association to Honor W. J. T. Mitchell with Lifetime Achievement Awards for English and Writing on Art

Freida High's painting "Hypericons: Homage to W. J. T. Mitchell" 2007. © Freida High. Photo by Jim Escalante.e.

Freida High's painting "Hypericons: Homage to W. J. T. Mitchell," 2007. © Freida High. Photo by Jim Escalante.

By Sara Patterson

Prof. W. J. T. Mitchell may be the only living iconologist on the planet. He draws on ideas from ancient and modern mythology that treat pictures as living things. As a historian of cultural images, Mitchell studies the relationship between words and images, cultivating visual and verbal literacy.

For his immense scholarly work in iconology and his 42 years as the editor of UChicago’s well-known humanities journal, Critical Inquiry, Mitchell will receive the Modern Language Association’s Award for Lifetime Scholarly Achievement on Jan. 5, 2024, in Philadelphia. He will be given the 2024 CAA Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing on Art on Feb. 14, 2024, in Chicago. It is also a fitting finish to his teaching career at UChicago, which officially ends in January 2024. He has promised, however, to hang around Hyde Park, showing up for lectures, teaching an occasional course, and skating on the Midway.

Two UChicago Scholars to Receive Scaglione Prizes from the Modern Language Association

Noemie Ndiaye (left) photo by John Zich and Maria Anna Mariani

For their books, Assoc. Prof. Noémie Ndiaye and Asst. Prof. Maria Anna Mariani respectively will receive the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies and for Italian Studies from the Modern Language Association on Jan. 5, 2024.

Ndiaye’s book "Scripts of Blackness: Early Modern Performance Culture and the Making of Race" (2022) examines how early modern theater and performance culture helped turn Blackness into a racial category and how that cultural decision still resonates today.

Mariani’s book "Italian Literature in the Nuclear Age: A Poetics of the Bystander" (2023) explores the position of the bystander in the atomic age by focusing on Italy as an example of paradoxical power and powerlessness. Her comprehensive study of Italian literary intellectuals’ engagement with the existential and political questions raised during the nuclear era shows its broader relevance.

UChicago Scholar Receives ASAP Book Prize

Tina Post

Asst. Prof. Tina Post became intrigued with how the gesture of expressionlessness operated in the 20th-century Black performances across literature, visual and performance art, film, theater, dance, the boxing ring and everyday life. For her original insights, she recently received the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present Best Book Prize for her first book, “Deadpan: The Aesthetics of Black Inexpression” (2023). The ASAP Prize recognizes the book that has made the most significant contribution to the study of the arts of the present.

Post contends that deadpan—dead is for inanimate, and pan is slang for face—is an investigation of the aesthetic affects at work at the intersection of Blackness and embodied expression.

“This book motivated by questions about the phenomenon I see,” said Post, assistant professor in the Department of English Language and Literature and the College at UChicago. “I had not read satisfying explorations about expressionlessness and its intersection with Blackness.”