Faculty Publications

Humanities Division Honors Graduate Students and Faculty at the 537th Convocation

Humanities Division 2023 Convocation Ceremony

Division of the Humanities graduates, faculty members, and the graduating students’ families and friends celebrated the 537th Convocation ceremony in Rockefeller Chapel from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on June 2, 2023. This is the last year that Anne Walters Robertson is serving as Dean of the Division of the Humanities, and the first year for the new Stuart Tave Course Design Awards honoring graduate students for exemplary course design in teaching undergraduate students.

“At every convocation, we are proud to celebrate the achievements in scholarship and teaching of our faculty and students,” said Anne Walters Robertson, Dean of the Division of the Humanities and the Claire Dux Swift Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Music. “I am so pleased that at this, my final convocation as dean, we are launching a new award for excellence in course creation by graduate students: the Stuart Tave Course Design Award.”

Experimental UChicago Course Compares Maya, European Stories of Creation

EdgarEdgar Garcia discusses the Popol Vuh with UChicago students. Photo by Jason Smith Garcia discusses the Popol Vuh with UChicago students in the classroom

During the pandemic, English professors Edgar Garcia and Timothy Harrison began to notice connections between two seemingly different texts also written in moments of crisis.

John Milton’s epic “Paradise Lost” was written after the English Civil War once the poet had lost his vision. The “Popol Vuh”—sometimes called “the Mayan Bible”—was written by Maya scholars while living under Spanish colonization and forced religious conversion.

Both tell creation stories, narratives about how the world and its inhabitants formed. And both were written within the same historical moment—though on either side of the Atlantic.

Deborah Nelson Appointed Dean of UChicago's Division of the Humanities

Deborah Nelson

Prof. Deborah L. Nelson has been appointed dean of the University of Chicago Division of the Humanities, President Paul Alivisatos and Provost Katherine Baicker announced[MOU1] . Her tenure will begin July 1.

Nelson is a renowned scholar whose research focuses on late 20th-century U.S. culture and politics. The Helen B. and Frank L. Sulzberger Professor in the Department of English and the College, she currently serves as chair of the Department of English Language and Literature.

“Debbie is a highly regarded scholar who has made important academic contributions and who has contributed in numerous ways to the vitality of our University community,” Alivisatos said. “She is an experienced, collaborative and energetic leader. I am grateful that she has committed to service as Dean of the Humanities Division. Hers will be a powerful voice for the humanities at UChicago and beyond.”

Cornell Fleischer, Historian Who Revolutionized Study of Ottoman Empire, 1950-2023

Cornell Fleischer

Prof. Cornell H. Fleischer, a world-renowned expert of Ottoman history and scholar of the greater Islamic world, passed away in Chicago on April 21. He was 72.

Known for his prowess with languages and as an attentive mentor to his students, Fleischer was the Kanuni Süleyman Professor in the Departments of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and History. He was an expert in the Age of Süleyman the Lawgiver—the longest reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire—for which his professorship was named.

Humanities Scholar Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Salikoko Mufwene
Acclaimed University of Chicago linguist Salikoko S. Mufwene has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, founded in 1780 to honor excellence in independent research.

Mufwene is among 269 new members, which includes four other UChicago faculty, honored this year from a range of academic disciplines and selected from more than 1,300 nominations.

The Edward Carson Waller Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Linguistics and the College, Mufwene is a leading expert on the emergence of creoles and on globalization and language. He received this honor for his breakthrough research in the evolution of language.

Meet the Staff: Verletta Bonney

Verletta Bonney

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

Verletta Bonney

Manager of Finance & Events

Franke Institute

What do you like most about your job?

Aside from being a part of a very collaborative team, I enjoy meeeting and working with the many event organizers, grant recipients, and our Franke Institute Fellows.

What was the last good book you read?

I was torn because I have two: You Owe You by Eric Thomas and Inspired & Unstoppable by Tama Kieves. I love motivational books.

You might work with me if:

Can You Describe a Sensation Without Feeling It First?

Research with a person born without somatosensation shows that direct sensory experience is not required to understand language and abstract metaphors.

Blind or colorblind people can describe colors and use expressions like “green with envy” or “feeling blue.” A hearing-impaired person can also say those same vibrant hues are “loud.” But many linguists and cognitive neuroscientists have assumed that somatosensation—touch, pain, pressure, temperature, and proprioception, or the sense of where your body is oriented in space—is fundamental for understanding metaphors that have to do with tactile sensations. Understanding expressions like “she is having a tough time” or “that class was hard,” it was believed, requires previous experience with those sensations to extend their meaning to metaphors.

Now, research from the University of Chicago with a unique, perhaps one-of-a-kind individual, shows that you can comprehend and use tactile language and metaphors without relying on previous sensory experiences. These findings challenge notions of embodied cognition that insist that language comprehension and abstract thought require direct memory of such sensations.

NEH Grant to Transform UChicago's Creation and Delivery of Digital Collections and Research Data

Digital version of the illuminated medieval manuscript, Le Roman de la Rose (The Romance of the Rose) will be made more discoverable by UChicago Node. (The University of Chicago Library MS 1380)

The National Endowment for the Humanities is awarding the University of Chicago nearly $1 million to transform UChicago’s creation, stewardship, and delivery of digital collections and research data. Working together, the University of Chicago Library and Division of the Humanities will use the grant to build a new digital structure, UChicagoNode—the core of what will eventually be a network extending and enhancing the practice of digital research at UChicago and around the world. The University is committed to raising an additional $4 million to fulfill the vision for this project.

Treasure troves of more than 200 digital collections exist across the University, but they are found in a wide range of unconnected systems, including several hundred terabytes of digital content held at the Library. UChicagoNode will give researchers a single place to go to discover available digital collections through a unified, open access platform.

UChicago Writer's Second Book Wins Three Significant Awards

Ling Ma

UChicago faculty member Ling Ma’s first book “Severance” (2018) received multiple accolades and funding, including the Kirkus Prize, the Whiting Award and the New York Library Young Lions Fiction Award as well earning her a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her second book, “Bliss Montage” (2022) has won three significant awards in rapid succession: the National Book Critics Circle fiction prize, the Story Prize, and the Windham Campbell Prize for her collection of short stories.

“I am drawn to this form of writing and always wanted to write a book of short stories,” said Ling Ma, AB’05, assistant professor of Practice in the Arts in the Department of English Language and Literature and the College at UChicago. “A novel is a more forgiving format. In a short story, the reader sees the writer’s craft more easily.”