News

Norman Golb, Renowned Scholar of Medieval Jewish History, 1928-2020

A prolific author who was fluent in Hebrew and Arabic, Prof. Emeritus Norman Golb advanced ideas that intensified a continuing debate over the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Prof. Emeritus Norman Golb, a multilingual scholar renowned for his pioneering research about medieval Jewish history and the Dead Sea Scrolls, died on Dec. 29. He was 92 years old.

Remembered by his students as an intellectually generous, kind and patient teacher, the University of Chicago professor of more than 50 years was known for his encyclopedic knowledge—particularly in the study of Qumran, the West Bank archaeological site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. A prolific author, Golb was fluent in Hebrew and Arabic and used his expertise to examine primary sources.

Humanities Grad Student Nova Smith Receives Diversity Leadership Award Tonight

Nova Smith

Every year, the University of Chicago honors members of the UChicago community who demonstrate leadership and a sustained commitment to justice and equality. In addition to faculty, alumni and staff, this year’s Diversity Leadership Awards also recognize the contributions of UChicago students.

This year’s recipients are Prof. Anita Blanchard, MD’90; Rami Nashashibi, AM’98, PhD’11; Jessica Jaggers of Chicago Booth; and UChicago students Nova Smith (Cinema and Media Studies Department) and Demetrius Johnson Jr. They will be honored Jan. 12 during a virtual celebration of UChicago’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration.

Jacqueline Stewart Is One of 2020 Chicagoans of the Year

Jacqueline Stewart by Joe Mazza of Brave Lux

Chicagoan of the Year Jacqueline Stewart is a longtime University of Chicago film professor, archivist and curator, and director of the South Side Home Movie Project. More recently, she is the first Black host of Turner Classic Movies. In January, she takes an extended leave the university to become the director of the Academy of Motion Pictures museum.

Twenty-Three UChicago Faculty Receive

Harper Memorial Library at UChicago

Twenty-three University of Chicago faculty members have received named professorships or have been appointed distinguished service professors.

Profs. Maud Ellmann, Maryellen Giger, Melissa Gilliam, Ralph Koijen, Raphael Lee, Salikoko Mufwene, Stefan Nagel, Lucia Rothman-Denes, Margaret Beale Spencer, Amir Sufi and Dmitri Talapin received distinguished service professorships, while Profs. Anthony Casey, Jing Chen, Herschella Conyers, Dhammika Dharmapala, Rina Foygel Barber, Laura Gagliardi, Anastasia Giannakidou, R. Tamara Konetzka, Stephan Palmié, Selywn Rogers, Sonja Starr and Alexander Todorov received named professorships.

What You Should Read Over Winter Break

Although you can't read in the Mansueto Library right now, find a cozy corner to curl up with a good book recommended by members of the University of Chicago community. Photo by Jason Smith

The end of the year and beginning of the new represent a moment to take a breath and consider the past, present and future. We asked University of Chicago scholars and staff, including Prof. Srikanth Reddy and Asst. Prof. Mitchell S. Jackson in the Department of English Language and Literature, what they’ve read this year that they’d recommend to the campus community: Their list includes subjects ranging from the multigenerational family struggles of Korean immigrants living in Japan, to a treatise on mushrooms and capitalism, to a meditation on what therapy can bring to our lives.

Grant to Support Humanities Scholar's New Novel on Black Cult Leader

Mitchell S. Jackson photo by John Ricard

Asst. Prof. Mitchell S. Jackson is accustomed to pushing the boundaries of artistic creation, both writing and teaching fiction and non-fiction. Now, the University of Chicago scholar has been recognized with a prestigious award—one that will help support a new work of historical fiction.

Jackson recently received a 2021 Creative Capital Grant, which will provide him with up to $50,000 in direct funding as well as additional long-term career development services from a community of diverse artists. Specifically, this grant will fund his project, John of Watts, which is inspired by the rise and fall of the Black cult leader Eldridge Broussard Jr.

How Alternate Reality Games Are Changing the Real World with Patrick Jagoda and Kristen Schlit

Patrick Jagoda

Video games are the most popular form of media. With 2.5 gamers, games are set to be the type of media that most defines our world. Prof. Patrick Jagoda (English Language and Literature) and Kristen Schlit (Sociology) are re-thinking how to leverage Alternate Reality Games in a way to address some of the world's biggest issues, ranging from climate change to public health.

Aught Culture: The Exhibitions That Defined the 2000s

Smart Museum Exhibition: Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China

The illuminating exhibition “Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China,” co-organized by University of Chicago professor Wu Hung and International Center of Photography curator Christopher Phillips (a former senior editor at A.i.A.), the survey comprised 130 works by sixty Chinese artists. It debuted at the International Center of Photography and the Asia Society, both in New York, and toured to six other museums in the United States and abroad, including the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago. The vision it delivered was that of a nation utterly transformed both physically and socially. Photographs by Zhang Dali and Sze Tsung Leong showed historic neighborhoods reduced to rubble to make way for soaring modern towers; Rong Rong and Xing Danwen documented the renegade life of their artist friends in the squalor of Beijing’s self-styled East Village; Liu Zheng turned his lens on everyone from professional village mourners to convicts to decadent businessmen; Wang Qingsong staged elaborate scenes melding Chinese history and folklore with contemporary life.

ECHO Game Brings Students Together--and Keeps Them Safe

Culminating in an Oct. 30 livestream, ECHO brought together students and other members of the UChicago community through weeks of collaborative play. Photo courtesy of the Fourcast Lab

A portal in the Regenstein Library. A rabbit hole to a mysterious alternate universe. Messages from the beyond—and the 1980s. This might seem like an alternate plot of Back to the Future, but you won’t find Marty McFly combing the library stacks. All of these elements were part of ECHO, the newest game launched by the University of Chicago’s Fourcast Lab.

“Purely educational games tend not to work well,” said Fourcast Lab member Patrick Jagoda, a professor of English Language and Literature and Cinema & Media Studies and director of the Weston Game Lab. “Instead, we wanted to embed safe and healthy behaviors within more engaging or creative quests.”

UChicago Humanities Scholars Expand Digital Dictionaries of South Asia, Middle East

Gary Tubb, left, and James Nye with some of the South Asian language dictionaries in Nye's home

For decades, scholars at the University of Chicago have sought to preserve and share the languages of South Asia and the Middle East—from Assamese to Torwali, Khowar to Pashto.

In this work, the Digital Dictionaries of South Asia are invaluable: In addition to definitions and pronunciations, users can learn about the original source of words in languages spoken by nearly a quarter of the world’s population.

Prof. Gary A. Tubb and James Nye, a former UChicago Library bibliographer, are now spearheading a major expansion of these digital dictionaries—a three-year project that will help scholars, diplomats, journalists, businesspeople and countless others.

Our Love-Hate Relationship with Gimmicks

Sianne Ngai

The seductive wonders of Nabokov’s mirror or Egan’s PowerPoint are harder to find in the gimmicks of the present. Recent headlines offer up a wide range of gimmicks rushed into production to contain the spread of the coronavirus (robot chefs, antiviral cars), as well as products and ideas whose sudden obsolescence (“fun” workplaces, airline miles) reveals that they were gimmicks all along. Why is a word used to describe a literary technique also the word used to describe the buffoonery, the cruelty and carelessness, of contemporary political and economic life? What is in a word as minor as “gimmick”?

For Sianne Ngai, a professor of English at the University of Chicago and the author of “Theory of the Gimmick” (Harvard), the answer is: everything, or at least everything to do with the art consumed and produced under capitalism. One of the most original literary scholars at work today, Ngai has made a career of unravelling the social and political histories that shape our aesthetic judgments (“How beautiful! How hideous!”) of novels, films, and photographs, as well as of show tunes and YouTube videos, bath toys and smiley faces. Her work draws attention to the public dimensions of apparently private reactions to art, and to the world in which these aesthetic experiences arise—a “capitalist lifeworld,” she writes, where art is increasingly trivial and artifice reigns supreme, where fun and fright merge to create the same arresting, alienating magic as Nabokov’s mirror.