News

From the Forbidden City to UChicago, Art Historian Searches for 'a Human Perspective'

Wu Hung shows students details of a sculptural relief. Published in 2020, his award-winning book "First Class" uses 24 of his opening class lectures to illustrate how he structures the study of Chinese art history.

When Prof. Wu Hung lived in the Forbidden City as a young scholar in the 1970s, he felt the constant presence of history. The palatial compound was quiet and empty after visiting hours, and Wu could contemplate its ancient art and architecture.

In the evenings, Wu often spent time in the largest open space within the palaces. Surrounded by the ancient architecture, he could see the vast sky and watch the seasons unfold.

“It was like living in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, only these palaces are even more immense and wonderful,” said Wu, a longtime University of Chicago faculty member. “Art was my next-door neighbor. The Forbidden City’s enormous art collections made me want to pursue a career in art history. I sensed a strong continuity in its art and architecture to our time.”

Media Mentions September 2021

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

"UChicago Film Scholar Jacqueline Stewart Awarded MacArthur Fellowship"
UChicago News
Jacqueline Stewart (Cinema and Media Studies), a leading film scholar known for her work on silent films and African American cinema, has been awarded a 2021 MacArthur Fellowship.

"Chicago's Public Art Scene Is Like No Other — Here's What to See"
Travel + Leisure
Rachel Cohen (English Language and Literature) explores memory and movement in Chicago's public art. 

"The Story of a Three Day Pass: Ordinary Love"
Criterion 
Allyson Nadia Field (Cinema and Media Studies) pens essay on Melvin Van Peebles's first feature film, The Story of a Three Day Pass.

"Theaster Gates’ Arts Incubator And Garden Will Prove ‘There Is Life’ In South Side’s Vacant Properties"
Block Club
Theaster Gates (Visual Arts) previews two Rebuild Foundation projects in South Shore: an incubator at the old St. Laurence School and the Kenwood Gardens community space.

"Beyond Identification: Daniel Morgan & Kyle Stevens Discuss Point of View and Camera Movement"
New Review of Film & Television Studies
In an interview, Daniel Morgan (Cinema and Media Studies) discusses his new book The Lure of the Image: Epistemic Fantasies of the Moving Camera.

UChicago Film Scholar Jacqueline Stewart Awarded MacArthur Fellowship

Jacqueline Stewart

Prof. Jacqueline Stewart, a leading film scholar known for her work on silent films and African American cinema, has been awarded a 2021 MacArthur Fellowship.

Given each year by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the prestigious grants recognize individuals from across disciplines who “show exceptional creativity in their work.” As a MacArthur Fellow, Stewart will receive a no-strings-attached grant of $625,000 over five years to support creative pursuits.

Make Film History More Inclusive. That's Jacqueline Stewart's Mandate at Academy Museum

Jacqueline Stewart by Joe Mazza, Brave Lux

Jacqueline Stewart was already one of the nation’s leading film scholars before she took the job of chief artistic and programming director at the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Now she’s helming the presentation of perhaps the most significant museum dedicated to movies in the country.

While Stewart is on leave from the University of Chicago’s department of cinema and media studies, where she taught American film history, she will continue to appear on Turner Classic Movies, where she was the cable channel’s first Black host. She also participated in TCM’s series “Reframed Classics,” which recontextualized long-beloved movies now seen as problematic by some contemporary audiences, such as “Gone With the Wind” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

UChicago Scholar Receives ACLS Emerging Voices Fellowship

Michele Kenfack

For UChicago Humanities Teaching Fellow Michele Kenfack, the apocalypse means new beginnings, not destruction. Her scholarship delves into an apocalyptic pattern of renewal that she discovered among prominent Francophone novelists from Africa and the Caribbean.

As result of her work, Kenfack (PhD’20) recently received the American Council of Learned Societies Emerging Voices Fellowship for 2021. She is one of 48 fellows and will pursue her postdoctoral work in comparative literature at Harvard University.

“Through a stunningly wide-ranging, interdisciplinary probing of apocalyptical fictions in the late 20th-century Francophone Sub-Saharan African and Caribbean literature, Michele Kenfack’s dissertation makes a groundbreaking contribution to the study of colonial and post-colonial traumas,” Larry Norman said.

In New Book, Prof. Martha Nussbaum Examines the Path Forward After #MeToo

Martha C. Nussbaum

As Prof. Martha C. Nussbaum watched the #MeToo movement emerge in a swirl of impassioned testimony several years ago, she was struck not only by the swell of attention being paid to stories of sexual violence and harassment but by the continued dearth of institutional accountability and the onset of “callout culture,” the increasingly common ritual of publicly shaming the accused.

The #MeToo revolution was important and long overdue, she would later write, but it wasn’t yet producing full justice. Nussbaum, the University of Chicago’s Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, was particularly dismayed by the ways in which three areas of employment—the federal judiciary, performing arts, and college sports—created “sweet spots” for abuse by elevating and protecting powerful men.

What the movement needed, she concluded, was a clearer and deeper understanding of the forces at play: the pride and greed that lead men to objectify women (and sometimes other men), the ways in which criminal and civil laws have evolved (and could continue evolve) to better address sexual assault and sexual harassment, and the dangers of allowing vengeful desires to impede true justice and reconciliation.

Michael Murrin, Leading Scholar of Allegory and 'Dracologist,' 1938-2021

Michael Murrin by Perry M. Paegelow, via Hanna Holburn Gray Special Collections Research Center

Michael Murrin, a leading scholar of the genres of epic, romance and fantasy in the Western literary tradition, died July 27. He was 83.

The Raymond W. and Martha Hilpert Gruner Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, Murrin was a treasured member of the University of Chicago faculty for 50 years.

A specialist in the history of criticism and allegorical interpretation, Murrin traced the tessellations of reality and fantasy in medieval, Renaissance and early modern European literature. Throughout his career, he read original works in more than half a dozen languages—including Italian, Persian and Old Norse.

Robert K. Ritner Jr., eminent Egyptologist and beloved teacher, 1953–2021

Robert K. Ritner Jr.

Prof. Robert K. Ritner Jr., a world-renowned Egyptologist and beloved teacher who spent decades at the University of Chicago, died July 25 after a yearslong battle with kidney disease and leukemia. He was 68 years old.

Remembered by colleagues for his devotion to Egyptology in his professional and personal life, Ritner wrote The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, one of the most influential volumes in the study of ancient Egyptian religion, magic and culture. First published by the Oriental Institute in 1993, the book launched a renaissance in the field and remains an OI bestseller even now in its fourth printing.

“Ritner’s use of original source materials added unique perspective to his groundbreaking work,” said OI research associate Foy Scalf. “He studied the original language from different periods and desired to have the Egyptians speak for themselves to gain an unfiltered view of ancient Egypt in his work.” 

Twenty-One UChicago Faculty Receive Named, Distinguished Service Professorships

University of Chicago campus

Twenty-one University of Chicago faculty members have received distinguished service professorships or named professorships.

President Robert J. Zimmer and incoming President Paul Alivisatos have received distinguished service professorships, along with Profs. Bariş Ata, Jing Chen, Frederick de Armas, Jean-Pierre Dubé, Martha Feldman, Michael Kremer, Thomas Lamarre, David Levin, Susan Levine, Adekunle Odunsi and Esteban Rossi-Hansberg.

Profs. Sanjay Dhar, Roberto Lang, Stacy Tessler Lindau, Josephine McDonagh, Kenneth Moss, Sianne Ngai, Willemien Otten and Lawrence Zbikowski have received named professorships.

Lauren Berlant, Preeminent Literary Scholar and Cultural Theorist, 1957–2021

Lauren Berlant photo by Robert Kozloff

Prof. Lauren Berlant, a world-renowned scholar who examined what sentimentality means in American culture for gender, sexuality and politics, died June 28 of a rare form of cancer. A beloved mentor and esteemed colleague who spent nearly four decades at the University of Chicago, Berlant was 63 years old.

Remembered by colleagues for their immense pedagogical curiosity, their perceptive interpretations of American literature, politics and culture and their collaborative prowess, Berlant gave readers the tools for understanding the complicated interactions between self and society.

The George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, Berlant was a leading theorist whose impact stretched across disciplinary lines. They sought to define the desires and emotions that compel people to create forms of life that support a sense of belonging, and the complex ways in which gender, race, citizenship, class, and sexuality affect and mold those attachments.