News

Humanities scholar elected as an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy

Top row, far left: UChicago scholar James K. Chandler was one of 28 new members elected to the Royal Irish Academy on May 24, 2024.

For many years, Prof. James K. Chandler studied, researched, and taught the English side of literature, politics, and history. About 30 years ago, he realized there was a wholly different Irish perspective, which was equally worthy of study and teaching. Chandler started asking questions such as “What happens if we look at the Irish perspective on English literary history? What if we shift to understanding both the Irish and English sides of certain key dates in the historical chronical:  1603, 1641, 1688, 1798, 1916?”

For his seminal work on Irish literature and cinema in his books, articles, and lectures, Chandler was elected as an honorary member to the Royal Irish Academy on May 24. He is one of 28 new members from across all disciplines elected by their peers because their work has brought international recognition to Ireland.

Two Humanities Scholars to Receive 2024 Quantrell Awards

UChicago campus in the spring quarter

The transformative education offered at the University of Chicago begins in the classroom, with the teachers who inspire, engage and inform their students.

UChicago annually recognizes faculty for their incredible teaching and mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students through the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Awards, believed to be the nation’s oldest prize for undergraduate teaching; and the Faculty Awards for Excellence in PhD Teaching and Mentoring, which honor faculty for their work with graduate students.

Learn more about this year’s recipients below:

Quantrell Awards: Fred Chong, Anton Ford, Michele Friedner, Nicholas Hatsopoulos and Chris Kennedy

W. Ralph Johnson, pre-eminent UChicago critic of Latin poetry, 1933‒2024

W. Ralph Johnson, the John Matthew Manly Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, 1993-2024, Photo courtesy of the University of Chicago Special Collections Research Center

Prof. Emeritus W. Ralph Johnson, a distinctive critic of Latin poetry and the renowned University of Chicago author of multiple books on Latin and comparative literature, passed away on April 13. He was 90.

Through his scholarship, Johnson showed an uncanny ability to draw the reader into the text by his own deep appreciation of both the author’s and the reader’s concerns. Many of his colleagues believed that he achieved the highest level of literary criticism for Latin scholars of his generation, and said he helped make UChicago the “crucial center of classical studies that it is today.”

Media Mentions April 2024

The latest media mentions, quotes, profiles, and writings from Division of the Humanities faculty, students, staff, and alumni. Visit us on X, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Facebook for more updates

Sakamoto - Art Is Long, Life Is Short
BBC Sounds
Michael Bourdaghs (East Asian Languages and Civilizations) reflects on Ryuichi Sakamoto's legacy by examining his music's intersection with postwar Japanese society, and his influence on global perceptions of Japanese music and art.

Why Do Millennials Feel Compelled To Write 'Lol' After Everything?
HUFFPOST
Anna-Marie Sprenger, PhD student in Lingustics, discusses how “lol,” a little word commonly used by millennials, is what linguists like to call a "discourse marker."

What Taylor Swift's cultural impact looks like to fans
NPR’s All Things Considered
Paula Harper (Music) discusses the launch of Taylor Swift’s latest album, "The Tortured Poets Department," unpacking Swift's cultural impact. Harper is currently co-editing a book on Taylor Swift and her fans.

Poetry of the Americas
The Roundtable Perspective
Rachel Galvin (English Language and Literature) discusses the importance of Latinx poetry, self-translation, and the shifting dynamics of how poetry in the Americas is viewed through translation.

Two Humanities scholars elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2024

Spring arrives at the University of Chicago quadrangles.

Six members of the University of Chicago faculty, which include two from the Division of the Humanities, have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honorary societies. They include Profs. Diane Brentari, Bonnie T. Fleming, Chuan He, Erik Hurst, Deborah L. Nelson and Amir Sufi.

These scholars have made breakthroughs in fields ranging from linguistics to particle physics to fundamental biology. They join the 2024 class, announced April 24, which includes 250 artists, scholars, scientists, and leaders in the public, nonprofit and private sectors.

UChicago scholar wins National Book Critics Circle Award

Tina Post, assistant professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, Committee on Theater and Performance Arts, and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture at UChicago

Asst. Prof. Tina Post’s scholarship delves into racial performativity, especially the ways that Black Americans present their racial identity. For her distinctive perspectives about blackness and expressionlessness, Post recently received the National Book Critics Circle Award in the category of Criticism for her first book, Deadpan: The Aesthetics of Black Inexpression (2022). The National Book Critics Circle recognizes outstanding writing and cultivates a national conversation annually about its winners’ work.

It is unusual that scholars receive such a nationally prominent award for their first books. This award comes after Post received the Association for the Study of Arts of the Present Best Book Prize for Deadpan in December 2023.

“At the broadest level, I want to complicate how blackness is interpreted,” Post said.

Diversity and Inclusion Pillars: Past, Present, and Future

Diversity and Inclusion Pillars

In this interview, Loreal E. Robertson explores her approach to serving as the Assistant Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) within the Division of the Humanities. She delves into strategies for fostering understanding and integration of the D&I pillars, a framework she played a crucial role in shaping, emphasizing the collaborative nature of D&I efforts and the ongoing learning opportunities available to all members of our community.

How were the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Pillars created?

LR: I started as the inaugural Assistant Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion in autumn of 2021, so there was a lot of foundational work related to D&I that had to be done. Before I could develop a D&I framework, I had to think about who we, the Humanities Division, were at our core, identify areas in which the division could be the most impactful and how we contributed to the overall health of the university. From there, a D&I mission, vision and values statement were created along with five pillars. The idea is that our D&I programs, efforts and initiatives align to one of the identified pillars.

What has been the biggest challenge for you when thinking about Diversity and Inclusion?

LR: D&I work is a heavy load and is meant to be collaborative, but often it is not. There’s a misconception that D&I work falls solely on individuals who have direct responsibility, when, in fact, D&I shows up in areas of all our work; therefore, we have a shared responsibility for the progression of these efforts. I stay committed to instituting behaviors that 1. Help others see how their work aligns with diversity and inclusion; 2. Direct others toward a DE&I implementation plan; and 3. Share research that supports these efforts.

What advice would you give to colleagues wanting to engage in D&I efforts?

Donald Whitcomb, renowned scholar of Islamic archaeology, 1944‒2024

Donald Whitcomb, renowned Islamic archaeologist, 1944‒2024

Donald Whitcomb was a pioneering scholar in the field of Islamic archaeology, who investigated its history through numerous excavations across the Middle East while also training generations of University of Chicago students in archaeological fieldwork.

A member of the University of Chicago community for more than four decades, he was also a trusted mentor who created master’s and doctoral programs in Islamic archaeology at UChicago. Whitcomb, PhD’79, a research associate at the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures (ISAC) and associate professor at the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC), died on Feb. 8 in Chicago at age 79.

Two UChicago scholars awarded 2024 Guggenheim Fellowships

Two Humanities Scholars Receive 2024 Guggenheim Fellowships

Two University of Chicago scholars have earned 2024 Guggenheim Fellowships, honored in recognition of their innovative work and exceptional promise as scholars.

Profs. Sianne Ngai and Robyn Schiff are among the 188 fellows selected in this year’s class from nearly 3,000 applicants to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Their respective fellowships will include a monetary stipend to support projects under “the freest possible conditions.”

“Humanity faces some profound existential challenges,” said Edward Hirsch, president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. “The Guggenheim Fellowship is a life-changing recognition. It’s a celebrated investment into the lives and careers of distinguished artists, scholars, scientists, writers and other cultural visionaries who are meeting these challenges head on.”

Meet the Staff: Michael Fischer

Michael Fischer Photo

More than 100 staff members work in the Division of the Humanities. We’ll introduce you to our staff in this continuing series.

Michael Fischer
Senior Program Manager
Creative Writing Program

What do you like most about your job?

I enjoy being around creative writers, whether it is visiting authors or our faculty. Our group of faculty differs from most academic departments. While we certainly have our share of folks with PhDs and traditional academic backgrounds, writing is a hustle. That means we also have folks whose last job before teaching was waiting tables. I like that dynamic.

What was the last good book you read?

I read a ton and have awful reading comprehension, so even a good book often doesn’t stay with me for long. But the last awesome book I remember reading was Heavy by Kiese Laymon. Kiese is a genius, with a MacArthur Fellowship to prove it. His memoir is the one book I recommend to people regardless of their interests and feel confident they’ll like it.

You might work with me if …

Your curricular programming intersects with the Creative Writing Program's courses or faculty, you would like our financial or promotional support for events, you want to use Taft House for any reason, or you have something for our newsletter.

If you could instantly become an expert in something, what would it be? Why?

Woodworking. I would love to work with my hands and have something tangible to show for my labor, instead of just a bunch of emails and digital files. I think it would be meditative. And it would allow me to exist inside of a housebuilding/restoration montage, like Ryan Gosling when he restored that old falling-down house in The Notebook.

What eclipses have meant to people across the ages

The total solar eclipse of 2017, viewed from Jefferson City, Mo. Photo courtesy of NASA/Rami Daud, Alcyon Technical Services

Eclipses have fascinated people since the earliest days of recorded history.

These rare astronomical events have helped explain the world around us—from ancient Mesopotamia to medieval Islamic tradition all the way to the 20th century, when they helped prove Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Such interest hasn’t dimmed. People across the United States will have an opportunity on April 8th to see a total solar eclipse—the last opportunity for the contiguous U.S. until 2044. UChicago faculty, students and alumni are among the hordes of enthusiasts traveling across the country toward the area of “totality,” the 70-mile-wide stripe stretching from Texas to Maine in which the moon will fully block the sun.

Author and "Odyssey" translator Daniel Mendelsohn to deliver Berlin Family Lectures, beginning April 23

Daniel Mendelsohn, the Berlin Family Lecturer 2024

Daniel Mendelsohn enjoys interpreting Homer’s "Odyssey" for modern readers. Drawn to the ancient tale since his teens, for six years he took on the challenge of translating and reanimating the book. His translation of Homer’s "Odyssey" is scheduled for release in the spring of 2025 by the University of Chicago Press.

On April 23 and 30, Mendelsohn will deliver lectures on the epic poem. Both lectures will be held at the Rubenstein Forum—in person—from 6 to 7:30 p.m. CDT. Registration for the series is free and open to the public.

William Walker Tait, renowned UChicago philosopher of mathematics, 1929‒2024

William Walker Tait, professor in the Philosophy Department at UChicago

Prof. Emeritus William Walker Tait, an acclaimed philosopher and mathematician at the University of Chicago, died March 15 in Naperville, Ill.. He was 95.

Known by colleagues as one of the most distinguished philosophers of mathematics of the second half of the 20th century, Tait was professor emeritus in the Department of Philosophy and the Committee on the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science at UChicago. During a career spanning 60 years, he made significant contributions to development of proof theory, as well as to logic and the philosophy of mathematics.

“Bill Tait was chair of Philosophy when I joined the department in 1981 and he was arguably the best chair I knew, standing up for the department and junior faculty—often against the administration—with a fierce moral determination but a twinkle in his eye,” said Josef Stern, the William H. Colvin Professor Emeritus in the Department of Philosophy at UChicago.

Howard Stein, acclaimed UChicago philosopher and historian of physics, 1929‒2024

Howard Stein, Philosophy Professor Emeritus, at the University of Chicago

Prof. Emeritus Howard Stein, a renowned philosopher and historian of physics at the University of Chicago, died March 8 at his home in Hyde Park. He was 95.

A trained philosopher and mathematician, Stein was a longtime faculty member of the Department of Philosophy and the Committee on the Conceptual Foundations of Science. Colleagues recalled Stein’s curiosity about physics, the elegance of his writing, and his impact on our understanding of the history of philosophy and physics.

According to Thomas Pashby, assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy at UChicago, Stein inaugurated the modern study of the foundation of physics in 1967 with his article “Newtonian Space-Time,” published in The Texas Quarterly.