Faculty Publications

Robert Bird, prolific scholar of Russian literature and film, 1969–2020

Robert Bird

Assoc. Prof. Robert James Douglas Bird—an expert on Russian literature, film and modernism—died Sept. 7 in Chicago after a nine-month battle with colon cancer. He was 50.

“Robert’s outstanding biographical and critical work made a lasting impression on the fields of Russian literature, cinema and intellectual history,” said Anne Walters Robertson, dean of the Division of the Humanities and the Claire Dux Swift Distinguished Service Professor of Music. “As a legendary teacher and mentor, he also will be sorely missed.”

Court Theatre Reimagines the Stage Through Online Programs During Pandemic

Sarah Nooter

For Court Theatre executive director Angel Ysaguirre, the magic of the stage exists in the actors’ ability to connect with the audience—to see their smiles and their tears, and to hear their laughter, gasps and applause.

But the coronavirus pandemic has forced all large gathering spaces to close, putting “the electricity of theater,” as Ysaguirre puts it, on hold for the indefinite future. Instead of shutting its doors completely for the upcoming academic year, Court will transition to an all-digital platform, allowing audiences to reinterpret productions from their own computers.

In October, for example, Prof. Sarah Nooter will use Euripedes’ The Bacchae—based on the Greek myth of King Pentheus and his punishment by the god Dionysus—as a way to explore the contemporary manifestations of intertwining the personal and political, and the importance of listening to the will of the people. 

Living Through Turbulent Times with Jane Austen

Rachel Cohen

This excerpt published in The New Yorker is drawn from "Austen Years" by Rachel Cohen, which is available for purchase as of July 21 from Farrar, Straus & Giroux. The author discusses how six unexpectedly far-ranging novels carried her through eight years, two births, one death, and a changing world. Cohen is Professor of Practice in the Arts in the Program of Creative Writing in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago.

Michael Silverstein, Groundbreaking Anthropologist and Linguist, 1945-2020

Michael Silverstein

Prof. Michael Silverstein, a leading University of Chicago anthropologist who made groundbreaking contributions to linguistic anthropology and helped define the field of sociolinguistics, died July 17 in Chicago following a battle with brain cancer. He was 74.

The Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology, Linguistics, and Psychology, Silverstein was known for his highly influential research on language-in-use as a social and cultural practice and for his long-term fieldwork on Native language speakers of the Pacific Northwest and of Aboriginal Australia. Most recently, Silverstein examined the effects of globalization, nationalism, and other social forces on local speech communities.

How an Alternate Reality Game Helped Build Community During the Pandemic

Patrick Jagoda

Interactive media has proven itself to be one of the most powerful forces in today’s world. A group of artists, designers and technicians at the University of Chicago is pushing the boundaries of how this new media can be used to build community and shape our interactions.

This spring, a team of scholars affiliated with the Weston Game Lab and the College developed and presented A Labyrinth, an alternate reality game that utilized the UChicago campus as the playspace for a series of interactive quests. Responding to the need for community as Spring Quarter classes and activities moved online in response to COVID-19, this initiative asks big questions about the future of the arts and media.

How do we relate to each other in this new world? How do we spend time together? How can we help fill the gap left by in-person interaction—and what new ways of interaction can we devise?

Op-Ed: Bias Against African American English Speakers Is a Pillar of Systemic Racism

Sharese King, assistant professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago

In the national conversation taking place about systemic racism in the United States, one important element should not be overlooked: linguistic prejudice.

African American English, like other dialects used in the U.S., is a legitimate form of speech with a deep history and culture. Yet centuries of bias against speakers of AAE continue to have profound effects on employment, education, the criminal system and social mobility. To attack systemic racism, we have to confront this prejudice.

Of course, some of the greatest examples of American oratory and literature have roots in AAE, also known as African American Vernacular English. The works of Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison are infused with AAE. Its significance cannot be understated when examining the speeches of orators like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Obama. 

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