News

How the University's First Ph.D. Graduate Strengthened Ties Between Chicago and Japan

Eiji Asada and his family in 1908. Asada family photo originally published by Mikato Asada in "The Memoirs of Dr. Asada" (1916).

In the late 1880s, a young Japanese scholar named Eiji Asada came to the Chicago area to pursue a bachelor’s degree in theology. He took a summer course from William Rainey Harper, and the two developed a friendship based on their shared interest in Semitic studies and linguistics.

When Harper became the first president of the University of Chicago, he convinced Asada to pursue graduate studies at his new university. There, Asada studied theology and linguistics, graduating as the University’s first Ph.D. recipient on June 26, 1893—a milestone for the institution, which had been founded three years earlier.

The Overlooked History of Black Cinema, with Jacqueline Stewart

Jacqueline Stewart

Prof. Jacqueline Stewart’s career has examined the histories of overlooked Black filmmakers and Black audiences. Last year, the University of Chicago film scholar Stewart won a prestigious MacArthur fellowship for “illuminating the contributions that overlooked Black filmmakers and communities of spectators have made to cinema’s development as an art form.”

Stewart also serves as the host of Silent Sunday Nights on Turner Classic Movies and is chief artistic and programming officer at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. On this episode of the Big Brains podcast, Stewart explores the history of Black cinema and explains how preservation and archiving are not neutral acts, but contribute to how we contextualize and understand Black history.

UChicago President Alivisatos Joins the Humanities for an Immersive Experience

UChicago President Paul Alivisatos meets with the Division of the Humanities Dean Anne Walters Robertson to begin an Immersion Day in the Humanities.

New UChicago President Paul Alivisatos spent Dec. 3, 2021, focused on understanding what the Division of the Humanities does by listening to multiple academic leaders, faculty members, and undergraduate and graduate students discuss its strengths, concerns, and future.

“We were delighted that the President was able to meet so many faculty, students, and staff, and could hear about the rich and varied work in scholarship, creation, and teaching that we carry out continually in the Division,” said Anne Walters Robertson, Dean of the Division of the Humanities and the Claire Dux Swift Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Music and the College.

Like the leaders at the UChicago Humanities Division, Alivisatos worries about the shrinking number of jobs in academia and having the right number of students in the Division’s master’s programs. However, he found reassurance throughout his Immersion Day, in such recent forward-looking undertakings as graduate students' research projects,  the Media Arts, Data, and Design Center, master’s program for Digital Studies, and strong collaborations of the Division with other parts of UChicago. Alivisatos was also impressed with the Division's recent creativity in institution building.

While the number of humanities majors and courses have plummeted at many universities, the Division of the Humanities at the University of Chicago has shown significant growth in enrollments from 2010 to 2019. Rigorous teaching, innovative programs, and interdisciplinary studies continue to attract undergraduate and graduate students to UChicago Humanities.

Alivisatos’s day began at the Walker Arts Museum for a breakfast and discussion with Robertson, wound through meetings in Foster, Stuart Hall, Classics, Crerar Library at the Weston Game Lab, and ended at a dinner in Logan Performance Center Penthouse with 23 Humanities Division faculty and four Humanities Council members.

Media Mentions December 2021

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

The Lives They Lived: Lauren Berlant
The New York Times Magazine 
Journalist Jane Hu remembers the impact Lauren Berlant (English Language and Literature, 1957–2021) had on helping generations of scholars understand how popular culture and everyday civic life are driven by some of their most private—and often painful—desires.

Michael K. Bourdaghs: A Fictional Commons: Natsume Soseki and the Properties of Modern Literature
New Books Network: New Books in Japanese Studies Podcast 
Michael K. Bourdaghs (East Asian Languages and Civilizations) examines how literature is an inherently shared experience, which emerges through coming together into a single stream of consciousness.

COVID makes us want to see the future. Too bad we’re not good at it
Toronto Star 
Agnes Callard (Philosophy) discusses how COVID diverts our attention from the present to the future, where we "fall into a frenzy of prediction."

Augusta Read Thomas, composer
The Samuel Andreyev Podcast 
Augusta Read Thomas (Music) talks about how she integrates her work and life to achieve such consistently high-quality work at such a prolific pace as a composer, teacher, and mentor.

Meet the Staff: Loreal E. Robertson

Loreal E. Robertson

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

Loreal E. Robertson
Assistant Dean of Students, Diversity and Inclusion;
Division of the Humanities

What do you like most about your job?

This job is an inaugural position for the division. I have the opportunity, with the help of students and colleagues, to create the foundation of what this role becomes in the future. It has been a pleasure thus far connecting with individuals about the importance of diversity and inclusion work in an educational environmental, and how it takes the effort of all of us to move the needle forward.

What was the last good book you read?

I closed out 2021 reading a total of 24 books. Two of my favorites were The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare and Black Magic: What Black Leaders Learned from Trauma and Triumph by Chad Sanders.

You might work with me if …

…you are involved with the implementation of diversity, equity and inclusion programs, initiatives, and best practices on campus.

What is the most important thing you have learned during the current pandemic?

To extend grace to myself and others as we have constantly had to pivot or reimagine ways in which to navigate our personal lives, professional work, and the world around us. We are not always going to get it right but are doing the best we can in this climate to simply just survive and show up for ourselves and others.

What UChicago Faculty and Staff Want You to Read Over Winter Break

Catriona MacLeod, the Frank Curtis Springer and Gertrude Melcher Springer Professor of Germanic Studies

As 2021 draws to a close, many are looking forward to a well-deserved winter break. It’s a great time to cozy up next to the fire with a book, so we asked University of Chicago scholars and staff what they would recommend reading.

The list includes books that weave together many different threads of human experience—family, history, science, government, nature and more—and one book that explores an intelligent robot’s experience of the human world. From the possibility of transformative justice to the prospect of nature rebounding after a crisis, there is something to match every sensibility.

Humanities Scholar to Receive the Friedrich Katz Prize in History

Larissa Brewer-Garcia photo by Erielle Bakkum

By examining previously untapped sources, Larissa Brewer-García has discovered fresh insights about the lives and culture of enslaved and free Black men and women in 17th-century Latin America. For the rigorous scholarship in her first book Beyond Babel: Translations of Blackness in Colonial Peru and New Granada, she will receive the 2021 Friederich Katz Prize in Latin American and Caribbean History from the American Historical Association on Jan. 6 in New Orleans.

Media Mentions November 2021

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

“‘Something Good—Negro Kiss’: Solving Its Historical Mystery and How to Account for ‘Lost’ Black
Films”

IndieWire
Allyson Nadia Field (Cinema and Media Studies) is quoted in an article about how lost Black film
pioneers are getting the reevaluation they deserve.

A Discussion with University of Chicago Professor Alain Bresson, PhD
Hellenic Hive (Podcast)
Alain Bresson (Classics) examines the significance of coinage and the economy in ancient Greece.

I’m Proud to Be Trans—but For Now Want to Feel Invisible
The Daily Beast
C. Riley Snorton (English Language and Literature) comments on trans identity and being "stealth."

Library of Congress Appoints 44 Experts to National Film Preservation Board
News from the Library of Congress
Jacqueline Stewart (Cinema and Media Studies) is chairing the National Film Preservation Board, while Allyson Nadia Field (Cinema and Media Studies) also is serving on the Board.

Graduate Student Council Reconnects Community Amid the Pandemic

HDGSC welcomed students back to campus with gift bags of essentials.

The pandemic didn’t just disrupt in-person classes. It interrupted many social activities that help friendships develop and flourish for graduate students in the Division of the Humanities.

To remedy the dearth of social activities for more than a year, the Humanities Division Graduate Student Council (HDGSC) wanted to give a proper welcome to the graduate students who joined the Division in 2020 and 2021, as well as welcome back their fellow graduate students through thoughtfully selected items in gift bags.

“We are thrilled that we could reach as many students in the Chicagoland area as we did,” said Catie Witt, President of HDGSC. “We wanted to welcome graduate students back to campus and to help rebuild a sense of community. Many students told us how thrilled they were with the surprise.”

Witt, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and Vice President, Naomi Harris (NELC), planned the list of supplies, collected several volunteers, and distributed more than 300 bags during November from the Humanities Division headquarters in the Walker Art Museum. The gift bags were stocked with useful items such as notebooks, mini-first aid kits, gift cards, tumblers, and hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes—now staples in the pandemic-world.

Advancing Innovative East Asian Arts Research Within the Humanities

Hou Beiren with his extensive collection of paint brushes for his artwork

Mark Barnekow (MBA’88) and his wife, Jean Song, are passionate about the arts and Chinese culture and have been deeply inspired by Hou Beiren, the 105-year-old Chinese American artist. They have been so moved by the man and his artistic practice, they recently decided to endow the ‘Hou Beiren Graduate Student Enhancement Fund’ in the Center for the Art of East Asia within the Division of the Humanities.

“We are truly grateful to Mark and Jean for their commitment to East Asian arts in making this significant gift to the Division of the Humanities,” said Anne Walters Robertson, Dean of the Division of the Humanities and the Claire Dux Swift Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Music. “This fund recognizes the rigor of the humanities as an indispensable mode of inquiry and the relevance of studying East Asian art at the University of Chicago.”

Meet the Staff: Russell Pagano

Russell Pagano

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

Russell Pagano
Assistant Director of Alumni Relations and Development;
Division of the Humanities

What do you like most about your job?

I am honored to play a role in maintaining and growing the financial support available to students and faculty in their pursuit of expanding the collective knowledge of the Division and the University at large.

What was the last good book you read?

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, a historical fiction novel that follows the lives of two identical twin sisters and their experiences with racism and colorism from the 1940s to 1990s. I recommend that you read it before the upcoming HBO series, with executive producer Issa Rae, comes out!

You might work with me if …

You receive philanthropic funds that support your work or are involved in projects or events that are of interest to our donors and community.

What do you like best about the holiday season?

I like spending extended, uninterrupted quality time with family and friends. And pie. I really love pie.

In Humanities Day Keynote, Wu Hung Explores the Rehabilitation of Damaged Art

Prof. Wu Hung presented the Keynote Session at Humanities Day 2021.

What would it mean to rehabilitate Buddhist artworks pillaged by art dealers from grottoes in China a century ago? And what can art history as a discipline learn from such efforts? Prof. Wu Hung explored these topics in his Humanities Day keynote address on Oct. 16 at the University of Chicago.

An annual tradition at the University, Humanities Day celebrates the research of UChicago humanities scholars through lectures, discussions and performances that are open to the University community and the public.