Faculty Publications

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.

Longtime Journal Editor W. J. T. Mitchell Reflects on Career, the Loss of His Son

W. J. T. Mitchell

The year 2020 marked two milestones for Prof. W. J. T. Mitchell: He ended his 42-year tenure as editor of the interdisciplinary arts and humanities journal Critical Inquiry and published his first non-academic book. That work, Mental Traveler: A Father, a Son, and a Journey through Schizophrenia, is a memoir of his son Gabrielʼs 20-year battle with schizophrenia and subsequent death by suicide in 2012.

Mitchell was the second person to lead Critical Inquiry, taking over in 1978 upon the death of founding editor Sheldon Sacks, PhDʼ60, professor of English and linguistics. The journalʼs influence grew steadily under his watch; 25 years later, the New York Times called it “academeʼs most prestigious theory journal.”

100 Years Ago, Georgiana Simpson Made History as the First Black Woman to Graduate with a Ph.D.

Third-year students Marla Anderson (right) and Dayo Adeoye pose with the bust of Georgiana Simpson in the Reynolds Club at the University of Chicago. Anderson and Adeoye created the Georgiana Simpson Organization last year to honor Simpson's pioneering legacy and foster the advancement of Black women at UChicago.

In the summer of 1907, Georgiana Rose Simpson left Washington, D.C., to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the University of Chicago. A 41-year-old high school teacher, she enrolled with the goal of furthering her interests in German language and literature.

As a pathbreaking figure, Simpson faced racism and discrimination throughout her academic career. Shortly after she arrived at the University, she was forced to live off-campus when white students objected to sharing a dorm with a Black woman.

Despite such challenges, Simpson would earn three degrees from the University of Chicago—an AB in 1911, AM in 1920, and a Ph.D. in 1921, when she was 55 years old. Simpson became the first Black woman to receive a Ph.D. in the United States on June 14, 1921, followed within weeks by two scholars at other universities who also received their degrees that month.

Division of the Humanities Recognizes Student and Faculty Scholarship at the 534th Convocation

Division of the Humanities graduates celebrated in the sun.

As the pandemic winds down, the Division of the Humanities at UChicago conducted its Convocation on Friday, June 11, at Amos Alonzo Stagg Field in Chicago. Ninety-four students participated in the live ceremony, while 162 were celebrated virtually on mega-screens for those watching the in-person and livestreamed event.

Reflecting the times, seating on the stage and in the arena was socially distant in the outdoor setting. Those participating in the Convocation wore masks except when presenting awards and diplomas. In contrast to a traditional Convocation in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, graduates gulped spring water in UChicago aluminum cans and used manual fans to beat back the heat and full sun.

In addition to celebrating the achievements of 256 graduating students with master’s and doctoral degrees, seven presenters in the Division of the Humanities, including Dean Anne Walters Robertson and Dean of Students Shea Wolfe, honored students and faculty members for their achievements—Zsofia Valyi-Nagy, Rebeca Velasquez, Samuel Lasman, Christine Wilkie Bohlman, Veronica Vegna, Persis Berlekamp, Daniel Morgan, and Kaneesha Parsard.

UChicago Scholar Mitchell S. Jackson Wins Pulitzer Prize for Essay on Ahmaud Arbery

Mitchell S. Jackson photo by John Card

Asst. Prof. Mitchell S. Jackson of the University of Chicago was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for his essay in Runner’s World about the life and death of Ahmaud Arbery.

Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old Black man, was shot and killed in February 2020 while jogging in Georgia after being chased by white men in vehicles. Arrests were made only weeks after the killing, once video pertaining to the incident was shared widely on social media.

Two Humanities Scholars Receive the Glenn and Claire Swogger Award for Exemplary Classroom Teaching

Rachel DeWoskin (first on the left) and Jessica Kirzane (far right) received the Swoon Awards.

Navneet Bhasin, Rachel DeWoskin, Jessica Kirzane and Lucas Pinheiro have been awarded the Glenn and Claire Swogger Award for Exemplary Classroom Teaching.

Based upon nominations from University of Chicago undergraduates, the award recognizes outstanding teachers with College appointments who introduce students to habits of scholarly thinking, inquiry and engagement in the Core Curriculum, the College’s general education program.

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