Soujourner Truth Festival to Bring Together Generations of Black Women Filmmakers

Still from "Alma’s Rainbow" (1994), a coming-of-age comedy by director and producer Ayoka Chenzira. The film will be screened as part of The Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts 2023 followed by a Q&A with Chenzira, who attended the original festival in 1976.

In 1976, a group of artists organized the first Black women’s film festival. The Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts was a celebration of Black feminist art and a space that fostered collaboration between artistic mediums. It was also a call for industry changes needed for Black women’s filmmaking to thrive.

Apart from two tributes, the Festival never happened on the same scale again—until now. Over four decades later, many of these same luminaries will reunite alongside the next generation of filmmakers.

The Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts 2023 commemorates this historic event with a nine-week film series culminating in a symposium held March 2-4 at UChicago’s Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. All events are free and open to the public.

“This symposium is a way to think about continuities, ruptures and evolutions,” said film scholar Assoc. Prof. Allyson Nadia Field.


UChicago Composer to Debut Opera about Anne Frank

Shulamit Ran photo by Valerie Booth

Prof. Shulamit Ran first read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl at age 12 while growing up in Israel. The book’s power never waned, and over the years the University of Chicago composer has written several works with a focus on the Holocaust during her Pulitzer Prize-winning career.

Now, Ran has returned to Anne Frank by creating the music for a full-scale opera based on Frank’s remarkable diary—a project into which she said she poured tremendous mental and emotional energy. Titled Anne Frank, the work will premiere on March 3 at Indiana University.

“The topic of Anne Frank was one that I thought about at different times and from various perspectives. As in my other works that speak to the difficult subject of the Holocaust, my desire through music has been to say: ‘Do not forget,’” said Ran, the Andrew MacLeish Distinguished Service Professor Emerita in the Department of Music. “From the moment that I decided that I would indeed create an opera that has the diary of Anne Frank at its center, I felt I had taken on a huge responsibility and, with responsibility, comes risk. She has become such an incredible, larger-than-life, iconic figure for so many throughout the world. Yet it was important for me that my opera be about a real person, not a figure that you put on a pedestal.”

Meet the Staff: Jennifer Woodrum

Jennider Woodrum Headshot

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

Jennifer Woodrum
Artistic Operations Manager
Music Department

What do you like most about your job?

I absolutely love getting to meet and work with the amazing Don Michael Randel Ensemble in Residence artists. I spent many years of my career as a touring musician and was often a visiting artist at universities nationwide. It brings me great joy to have the opportunity to support artists that come to UChicago with meaningful, relevant, and impactful residency activities on campus and in our surrounding community. I also love getting to step out of my office, away from my computer, and observe musicians rehearse, perform, and truly become embedded in the ecosystem of our UChicago community for the brief time they are here.

I also really like getting the chance to explore this beautiful campus and Hyde Park. This job keeps me very busy, but I never regret taking the time for an afternoon stroll. There are so many beautiful green spaces, incredible architecture, and, of course, a multitude of great coffee shops, restaurants, and shops.
I must mention that I greatly appreciate my colleagues here. I greatly value, trust, and admire everyone I work with and feel that reciprocated consistently.

What was the last good book you read?

I recently read American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. It was an eye-opening glimpse into the horrific impact drug cartels continue to have on the people of Mexico, told by a mother seeking refuge in the United States with her 8-year old son. It was by no means an easy read, but I'm not one for light fiction. I'm almost finished with Michelle Obama's newest book, The Light We Carry. I've really enjoyed her perspective on parenting, especially now that Sasha and Malia are in their 20s, which is so hard to believe! As a parent, I'm inspired by her commitment to cultivate resilient and independent daughters from a very young age into adulthood.

You might work with me if …

Celebrating Humanities Scholars: Black History Month

In celebration of Black History month, we are featuring UChicago Humanities Division scholars and visiting scholars who presented their work during some of our latest public programs: The Berlin Family Lectures and Humanities Day, from 2020 to the present. We featured scholars whose lectures were recorded and are available on our YouTube Channel.

Featuring scholars Kaneesha Parsard, Kenneth W. Warren, Claudia Rankine, C. Riley Snorton, Danielle Allen, and Jacqueline Stewart.



Media Mentions January 2023

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

NEH, NEA give more than $2 million in grants for humanities and art projects in Illinois
Chicago Tribune
Victoria Saramago (Romance Languages and Literatures) has been awarded a $60,000 NEH Fellowship for her proposed book about the cultural legacy of electrification in Brazil from the 1930s to the present.

What to know about 'Naatu Naatu,' the song that beat out Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga at Golden Globes
NBC News
Rochona Majumdar (Cinema and Media Studies) is interviewed about the Indian film "RRR," which includes the song "Naatu Naatu" that won a Golden Globe award for best original song.

Yukihiro Takahashi, Pioneer of Electronic Pop Music, Dies at 70
The New York Times
Michael K. Bourdaghs (East Asian Languages and Civilizations) says that Yukihiro Takahashi, a pioneer of electronic pop music, “was remarkably skilled at taking what were obviously artificial, technologically mediated sounds and using them to build songs that sound fully and organically human.”

UChicago Humanities Scholar Receives NEH Fellowship

Victoria Saramago

For her rigorous research and original approach to connecting electrical energy and culture production in Brazilian literature and art from 1930s to the present, Assoc. Prof. Victoria Saramago received a $60,000 Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) on Jan. 10. Her book project “Against the Current: Electrification and Cultural Production in Brazil Anthropocene” will investigate the multiple ways in which Brazilian artistic practices have shaped perceptions of the production and consumption of electrical energy, and how electricity has enabled, affected, and, sometimes, destroyed cultural objects.

Saramago contends that modern Brazilian artists have addressed electrification critically, skeptically, and ironically, countering the narrative of progress found in 20th- to early 21st-century Brazilian politics. Their critical views question one of the most basic assumptions from post-World War II to today: that a reliable and growing supply of energy is vital for modern life.

“Victoria Saramago’s scholarship is at the cutting edge of the contemporary environmental humanities and in particular Latin American ecocritical studies,” said Alison James, professor and chair in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at UChicago. “More broadly, Victoria’s scholarship challenges us to reflect on the complex entanglements of representations and reality.

Meet the Staff: Lara Madden

Photo of Lara Madden

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

Lara Madden
Operations Manager, Performance Program
Music Department

What do you like most about your job?

Managing our student workforce and getting to know students from all over the world. Also, seeing and hearing beautiful music performances.

What was the last good book you read?

The Master and His Emissary by Iain McGilchrist

You might work with me if …

You are scheduling a music rehearsal or event.

Where do you draw inspiration from for your work at the University or other projects you might have outside of the university?

The beautiful, majestic architecture of UChicago campus, yoga, and the music and work ethic of J.S. Bach.

UChicago Humanities Professor Receives Honorary Doctorate from the Universite Jean Monnet

Larry Norman accepts an honorary doctorate from the Universite Jean Monnet de Saint Etienne.

For his rigorous research illuminating French literature, theater, and history, promotion of the arts, and emphasis on interdisciplinary studies, Prof. Larry F. Norman received an honorary doctorate from the Université Jean Monnet de Saint Etienne on Dec. 7, 2022. This achievement comes in same year as Norman’s award-winning book The Shock of the Ancient: Literature and History in Early-Modern France (2011) was translated into French.

“From his historical research on theater and aesthetics in 17th-century France to his leadership in making the University of Chicago a global center for the arts, Larry Norman embodies the combination of rigor and openness that makes this institution great,” said Richard Neer, the Barbara E. and Richard J. Franke Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of Art History, Cinema and Media Studies, and the College and Director of Franke Institute for the Humanities. “His intellectual, professional, and personal generosity are inspiring, and this honor is richly, richly deserved.”

Meet the Staff: Anna Dobrowolski

Anna Dobrowolski

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

Anna Dobrowolski
Student Affairs Administrator
Department of English Language and Literature

What do you like most about your job?

I started out when we were all remote, so connecting with coworkers, faculty members, graduate, and undergraduate students always brightens my day. It’s such a positive, word-loving community. I especially enjoy when students stop by to talk about their projects and goals. We are revamping the “Guilty Pleasures” series, so my office has also become the makeshift confessional for sharing topics we “hate to love” or “love to hate.”  I'm looking forward to those upcoming events.

What was the last good book you read?

It’s a toss-up between a couple of books: Mary Gabriel’s Ninth Street Women, Cervantes’s Don Quixote, and, to round it out, Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I tend to gravitate toward collections of letters or biographies these days.  

You might work with me …

if you have any questions about the English major, the BA project, department course scheduling, or PhD requirements. 

Do you typically set intentions or resolutions for each new year? If so, any you would like to share?

As a chronic goal-setter, at some point I decided to ditch the idea of setting a resolution at the start of the year; it just seemed redundant. I thought it would be better to set goals in October on a random Tuesday. I usually aim to complete a couple of creative projects or learn something new. Currently, I’m learning French on my commute and volunteering more in the artist community. There’s a lot to do in Chicago.

Media Mentions December 2022

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

Featured Poet: Rachel DeWoskin
Arrowsmith Press
Rachel DeWoskin (English Language and Literature) was selected as Arrowsmith Press's featured poet, Volume XXI.

Do Humans Owe Animals Equal Rights? Martha Nussbaum Thinks So
The New York Times
Martha C. Nussbaum (Law and Philosophy) interviewed on her recent book "Justice for Animals: Our Collective Reponsibility" (See book cover above).

Justice for Animals: Martha C. Nussbaum on Law, Ethics, and our Collective Responsibility
Storytelling Animals
Martha C. Nussbaum (Law and Philosophy) discusses her new book "Justice for Animals: Our Collective Responsibility" in this podcast interview.

Hyde Parkers Work to Resettle Academic Refugees
Hyde Park Herald
Christine Mehring (Art History) featured in this article about academic refugees who have received support from the Hyde Park Refugee Project, the University of Chicago (which is part of a global network of colleges and universities called Scholars at Risk), and other volunteers and donors.

Composition in Color

Augusta Read Thomas

To capture the essence of Augusta Read Thomas’ extensive body of musical work is as nuanced and colorful of an endeavor as the creative and technical process behind its composition. While language is similar to music in many ways—a means of communication, a form of expression—it often lacks that which is elusive and inexplicable about the means in which orchestral sound and contrapuntal rhythm can truly move one on a visceral level.

While defined in her own words as “highly notated, precise, carefully structured, soundly proportioned” with an organic self-propulsion and vibrant inner life—as if “overhearing a captured improvisation,” the nuanced work calls to mind expressive language like spontaneous, elegant, capricious, ardent, lyrical, and dynamic, informed by a process in which material and form has been sculpted, polished, chiseled, and formed.

Media Mentions November 2022

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

Scepter and Sword: African Warrior Queens
Women who Went Before
Janet H. Johnson (Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations) praised in this podcast that features UChicago Alumna Dr. Solange Ashby, President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Egyptology and Nubian Religion (UCLA). Prof. Johnson was Dr. Ashby's dissertation chair.

Theaster Gates Transforms the New Museum into a Church of Memories and Music
“Young Lords and Their Traces,” Theaster Gates’s (Department of Visual Arts) first museum survey exhibition, asks and answers the question of how the everyday life of communities can be represented through objects.

“That Little Click in the Mind”: Vijay Seshadri Reflects on his Tenure as the Review’s Poetry Editor
The Paris Review
Srikanth “Chicu” Reddy (English Language and Literature) is introduced in this article as the new editor for The Paris Review, by the outgoing editor Vijay Seshadri.

Out of unbearable loss, a vision of radical hope
The Washington Post
Jonathan Lear (Philosophy) featured in this review of his new book, Imagining the End: Mourning and Ethical Life (see book cover above), which “shows us how to engage in the world with extraordinary care.”

Meet the Staff: Claire Snarksi

Claire Snarski Headshot

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

Claire Snarski
Graphic Design Specialist
Department of Music and UChicago Presents

What do you like most about your job?

What I like most about my job is working with a group of spectacular colleagues. Every day I work with peers who are kind, knowledgeable, hard-working, and always willing to help and support me is a luxury that many people do not have in their workplace environment. I have worked for the Department of Music and UChicago Presents for a long time, and I have been fortunate enough to meet so many amazing people.

What was the last good book you read?

I wish I could say that I have read a lot of stellar books lately, but unfortunately my recent book count is way down due to my excitement over listening to podcasts…hello from a typical millennial! So maybe I share podcasts instead? If you’re looking to learn fun and interesting stories about Chicago, check out Curious City. If you love a good origin story for design and history topics, take a listen to 99% Invisible.

You might work with me if …

… you are part of the Department of Music and you are presenting or performing in one of our many concerts scheduled throughout the year. One of my main responsibilities for the Department of Music/UChicago Presents is creating all the promotional materials for each event/concert. You’ve probably seen my work up around campus! Interested in attending free concerts with student/staff/community member performers or excited to see world-class artists by purchasing discounted tickets for staff and faculty? Visit to learn more.

What are you looking forward to in 2023?

Ancient Civilizations

Archaeologists uncover ancient civilizations in the Middle East.

A century ago, UChicago scholars argued a controversial idea: Western civilization had its roots in the ancient Middle East—not in Greece or Rome. Today, scholars at the OI and across the University continue shaping the study of the early civilization through archaeological work and their research on the world’s most ancient languages.

In 1919, UChicago Egyptologist James Henry Breasted formed the Oriental Institute (OI)—a world-renowned museum and interdisciplinary research center dedicated to the study of early civilizations in Western Asia and North Africa.

OI archaeologists carried out large-scale expeditions in modern-day Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, Iran and Israel, unearthing massive temple complexes as well as objects of everyday life. For over 100 years, these items have helped researchers sketch a portrait of life in the some of the world’s oldest cities.