News

Kate Petroff, a Doctoral Student in Philosophy, Earns Freund Prize

Kate Petroff

Spencer Caro, ’23, and Kate Petroff, a UChicago graduate student in philosophy, each have been awarded an Ernst Freund Fellowship in Law and Philosophy to develop novel interdisciplinary research projects. Caro will draw on philosophical ideas from epistemology as well as law and statistics to argue for higher standards for scoring consumers’ creditworthiness. Petroff will advocate for a clearer definition of human exploitation in hopes of closing a gap that has stymied efforts to deal with human trafficking.

The fellowship, designed to encourage advanced law and philosophy scholarship among graduate students, was established in 2016 after Professor Martha C. Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, donated a portion of the proceeds from her Kyoto Prize to the Law School and the University’s Department of Philosophy. The $5,000 award is typically given to either a law student or graduate student in philosophy, but this year the committee chose two recipients.

“We were delighted to have an unprecedented number of proposals, all of high quality, so the selection was difficult,” said Nussbaum, who was part of the selection committee, along with Brian Leiter, the Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence. “Fortunately, an additional gift made it possible for us to give two prizes, and these two really stood out.”

Three UChicago Humanities Scholars Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2022

The Division of the Humanities campus in the spring

Seven members of the University of Chicago faculty, including three in 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. Christopher R. Berry, Raphael C. Lee, Peter B. Littlewood, Richard Neer (Art History), Sianne Ngai (English Language and Literature) and Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, and Prof. Emerita Wadad Kadi (Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations).

These scholars have made breakthroughs in fields ranging from condensed matter physics to biomedical engineering and the aesthetics of capitalism. They join the 2022 class of 261 individuals, announced April 28, which includes artists, scholars, scientists, and leaders in the public, nonprofit and private sectors.

Meet the Staff: Miller C. Prosser

Miller C. Prosser photo by Erielle Bakkum

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

Miller C. Prosser
Associate Director of Digital Humanities

What do you like most about your job?
On any given day, I may talk to prospective students about the Digital Studies MA program, teach JavaScript programming or data management principles to DIGS MA students, or work on Humanities research projects like CEDAR on Biblical, Shakespeare, and Melville textual studies. Dies diem docet!

What was the last good book you read?
I'm currently reading two books in tandem, each of which challenges the accepted wisdom in their domain. In Phoenicians and the Making of the Mediterranean, Carolina López-Ruiz asks why the Phoenicians are not more celebrated for the way in which they connected cultures across the entire Mediterranean. In Publishing Scholarly Editions: Archives, Computing, and Experience, Christopher Ohge rethinks practical approaches to editing, publishing, and reading digital text editions.

You might work with me if…
You might already know me if you work on digital research in Humanities. I have the pleasure of working with many of you already on OCHRE database projects, digital imaging, web publication, or textual studies. If we haven’t met, stop by the Digital Studies offices at 5720 S. Woodlawn to discuss digital approaches to humanistic research.

Aside from Digital Studies, what else keeps you busy?
My wife and I are board game enthusiasts, an intentionally non-digital hobby.

Photo of Miller Prosser by Erielle Bakkum

Media Mentions April 2022

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.

“Facing ‘the Can’t-See of the Future,’ in Verse and at the Chiropractor’s”
The New York Times
Srikanth (Chicu) Reddy (English Language and Literature) reviewed Dana Levin’s book “Now Do You Know Where You Are.” He reflects on the work of poets, including Levin, who don’t write poetry, yet use and expand writing genres like literary experiments that depart and arrive to poems.

"How to Pronounce Eid al-Fitr—Here's the Right Way to Say It"
Newsweek
Tahera Qutbuddin (Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations) correctly pronounces "Eid al-Fitr" and states the phrase refers to the end of Ramadan, which is a time of great celebration and joy, and a time of prayer and thanksgiving for Muslims.

"Philly's Magic Gardens inspired new music by Augusta Read Thomas"
The Philadelphia Inquirer
For the 200th anniversary of the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia, Augusta Read Thomas composed "Magic Gardens" inspired by Isaiah Zagar's iconic mosiac art.

"Funding To Support Unprecedented Research On Short Films And Diversity In Early Hollywood"
American Film Institute
Allyson Nadia Field (Cinema and Media Studies) is on the board of American Film Institute (AFI) project “Behind the Veil,” which intends to document the cultural impact of women and people of color in the creation, distribution, and reception of early cinema.

Media Mentions March 2022

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.

“Neubauer Collegium announces seven research projects for 2022–23
UChicago News
Edgar Garcia (English Language and Literature), Julie Orlemanski (English Language and Literature), Miller Prosser (Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations), Ellen MacKay (English Language and Literature), Victoria Saramago (Romance Languages & Literatures) and Sharese King (Linguistics) have been awarded research grants for 2022-23.

“Generations of Influence: Celebrate women in classical music”
91.9 Classical KC
Augusta Read Thomas (Music) is among four composers who were featured to commemorate International Women’s Day.

“NEH Grant will help scholars challenge current views of Jews in the Middle East”
Penn State
Orit Bashkin (Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations) is among a group of scholars who have furthered the history of Jews in the Middle East and will publish a book with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Meet the Staff: Brent Fergusson

Brent Fergusson

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

Brent Fergusson
Manager, Academic Records and Systems
Office of the Dean of Students

What do you like most about your job?
The people I’m working with. The Humanities DOS office is fantastic, and I got a warm reception from various department administrators. When I sent out an email introducing myself and talking about my background, I got many emails back with photos of pets and board game recommendations. Admittedly, I solicited those emails, but still, I wasn’t expecting people to take me up on it.

What was the last good book you read?
I’m finishing up The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman, which I last read when I was in high school, and I’ve really enjoyed it. During the last few years, most of my reading has been much more deeply escapist  and largely in the sci-fi world. I discovered Anne Leckie and voraciously read all of her books, starting with Ancillary Justice.  Then I found Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem and read that trilogy. I also revisited two of my favorite series, the Masters of Rome by Colleen McCullough and the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian. The thought of sailing around the South Pacific sustained me through another long COVID winter.

You might work with me if …
…you do anything related to convocation, student milestones, student employment, or reimbursement, among other things. And if you are trying to figure something out, feel free to reach out and I can try to help.

Poet Claudia Rankine to Explore Meaning of Survival in UChicago Lecture Series

Claudia Rankine

Amid historic times, Claudia Rankine feels a deep sense of obligation. The celebrated poet and playwright is preparing to deliver a three-part lecture series at the University of Chicago during a pivotal moment: Russia has invaded Ukraine; the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world; and the United States, she said, still teeters between fascism and fragile notions of democracy.

What the U.S. people will choose next—electorally and beyond—is one of the central questions Rankine will explore in her upcoming talks. Starting April 6, her Berlin Family Lectures will focus on the meaning of survival, and what it means to continue living after crisis or catastrophe.

“All of us need to be doing whatever it is we know how to do to engage these questions,” said Rankine, professor of creative writing at New York University and the award-winning author of the poetry book Citizen, among many other works. “It’s about our lives, the lives of our children and our friends and family moving forward. These decisions about women’s bodies, voting and the ability to have as just a system as possible profoundly affect all of us.”

UChicago's Korngold Festival rediscovers composer who straddled two worlds: A Q&A with Prof. Philip V. Bohlman

Erich Wolfgang Korngold at work in his studio in 1935

Starting on April 1, the Korngold Festival at the University of Chicago will celebrate Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s music and discuss how his life and work show a transformational change from composing late-romanticism in classical music in Vienna to Hollywood film music in Los Angeles.

The 10-day festival, titled Korngold Rediscovered, features a myriad of events held at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts on the Hyde Park campus. It includes musical performances, a symposium of lectures and panels, the American premiere of Korngold’s final opera, and a film screening, finally concluding with UChicago Presents’ performance of the French string quartet Quatuor Diotima on April 10. Ticket prices vary depending on each specific event. 

“Korngold was a very talented composer who could create songs, operas and concertos starting at the age of 11, but he was not considered a genius in Vienna,” said Philip V. Bohlman, the Ludwig Rosenberger Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Music at UChicago. “Like Joseph Haydn, Korngold was groomed to be a musician from his earliest years. The most fascinating part of his life and work is how he makes the transition to America and to Hollywood film music.”

From 'Dune' to Climate Change, UChicago Scholar Draws from Unique Experiences in New Course

Katherine Buse

University of Chicago undergraduate students will soon have a new opportunity to delve into the wondrous world of video games, guided by a game designer who consulted on one of the biggest films of the past year.

This spring, postdoctoral researcher Katherine Buse will help bring a creative blend of science and technology to the College curriculum. An expert on digital media, science fiction and environmental humanities, Buse’s scholarship draws from a range of theory and practice—including her recent work on “Dune,” the Oscar-nominated adaptation of the acclaimed novel.

What Does 'Drawing' Mean? Gray Center Exhibition Explores Interdisciplinary Possibilities

Celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Gray Center’s signature fellowship program, “On Drawing Drawing On” includes artworks such as handmade pencils and a chalkboard that invites visitors to add their own illustrations.

In 2016, artists Amber Ginsburg and Sara Black harvested a tanoak tree on the California coast that was dying from sudden oak death, a disease caused by an accidentally introduced pathogen. After drying the tree in a high-temperature kiln to remove any trace of the pathogen, they gave it new life by turning it into 7,000 handmade pencils: works of art that could be used to produce more art.

Those pencils are now part of “On Drawing Drawing On,” a new exhibition at the University of Chicago’s Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry. Running through March 13 in the Logan Center Gallery, the exhibition celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Gray Center’s signature initiative: the Mellon Collaborative Fellowship in Arts Practice and Scholarship.

“The show is a riff on the double meaning of drawing,” said Seth Brodsky, director of the Gray Center. “It obviously designates the act of creating art with pencil and paper. But it also involves pulling, dragging, drawing out, selecting too. It speaks to the way Gray Center fellows select each other, draw from and on each other, find things in each other’s work neither knew was there in the first place.”

Media Mentions February 2022

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.

“Archaeologists seek out mystery behind 500-year-old 'spines on sticks'”
National Geographic
Nené Lozada (Romance Languages and Literatures) contends that South American indigenous communities tried to reconstruct their personhood, identity, and resistance after Spanish colonizers looted their burial grounds.

“Thinking Without Banisters”
The New York Review
D.N. Rodowick (Cinema and Media Studies) examines Hannah Arendt's life, work, and her ideas about allowing our own judgments to be affected and transformed by those of others.

“How Yiddish Scholars Are Rescuing Women’s Novels From Obscurity”
The New York Times
Jessica Kirzane (Germanic Studies) sheds light on the lives and ideas of nearly forgotten women writers from the early-20th century by translating their books for the first time from Yiddish to English.

“The Eros Monster”
Harper Magazine
Agnes Callard (Philosophy) investigates the meaning of Eros and the complexity of human relationships in relation to thought, superstition, and social norms.

Meet the Staff: Shea Wolfe

Shea Wolfe

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

Shea Wolfe
Dean of Students and Associate Dean
Office of the Dean

What do you like most about your job?

As the Dean of Students, I enjoy assisting students with any issues or concerns that may arise and help them navigate UChicago’s support mechanisms. My position also allows me to work with world-renowned faculty and a collaborative divisional staff to assist in meeting the needs of our students. I enjoy hearing from students about their research interests and am always excited to stand on the Convocation stage with so many distinguished graduates.

What was the last good book you read?

The Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe. It was an engrossing tale of greed, family drama, and the destruction of so many communities through the opioid epidemic.

You might work with me if …

You have questions about the new funding model, pedagogical training plan requirements, divisional policies and processes as it relates to students, or if you are working with a student in crisis or other financial, mental health, or medical emergency.

What’s your favorite way to unwind after a busy day?

I enjoy spending time with my family. I have two boys—ages 10 and 13—who are very active in sports and other activities. My husband and I are University of Iowa alumni and enjoy going back to Iowa City for football and basketball games. I also love anything involving popular culture. So I can always be found watching a new TV show, seeing all of the Oscar-nominated movies, or reading a good book.

Department of Race, Diaspora, and Indigeneity Established at the University of Chicago

UChicago Hyde Park campus

The University of Chicago’s Council of the University Senate approved a new Department of Race, Diaspora, and Indigeneity (RDI) at their meeting on Feb. 22. The new interdisciplinary department will be a home for ambitious scholarship on concepts that have helped shape the modern world and continue to reverberate in contemporary thought, culture, and policy.

“The approved plan emerged from a process among our faculty in which strongly differing points of view have been put forth, through which many people changed their minds as they listened and engaged, and by which the proposal itself evolved in response to ideas of colleagues,” said President Paul Alivisatos and Provost Ka Yee C. Lee in a message to the University community. “We look forward to working with the Division of Social Sciences, as well as faculty, students, alumni, and friends of the University as we build for the success of this new department.”

Humanities Doctoral Student's Creative Vent Turns into Career

Isabel Lachenauer

For several summers, Isabel Lachenauer had a secret. During her doctoral program at UChicago, she wrote a novel each summer, channeling her anxious energy to a healthy place. Her creative writing became a private world to immerse herself while forgetting the pressures of her academic work.

Now the novel Lachenauer wrote during the first year of the pandemic—The Hacienda—is scheduled for publication by Berkley (Penguin/Random House) on May 3, 2022. The book received multiple bids from publishers, providing Lachenauer with ample funds and the incentive to continue her career as a novelist after she graduates with a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC) in June 2022.

Why you can’t stop playing Wordle, according to a computational linguist

Jason Riggle

Over the past few months, Wordle has skyrocketed in popularity, with cryptic grids of gray, green and yellow squares appearing on social media. But why has the online word game captivated so many people? And what makes it interesting from a linguistic standpoint?

The game is challenging, but simple: Once a day, players have six guesses to identify a new five-letter word (all players receive the same word on a given day). Each guess provides color-coded hints: a letter turns green if it is in the correct spot, yellow if it is part of the word but in a different spot, and gray if it is not in the word at all.

But what makes Wordle so charming and addictive, said University of Chicago linguist Jason Riggle, is the sense of validation it offers—affirming our intuitions about language when we land on the correct answer.