Faculty Publications

Art Historian Darby English on Why the New Black Renaissance Might Actually Represent a Step Backwards

Darby English

Darby English understands the power of art. The author of To Describe a Life: Notes from the Intersection of Art and Race Terror (2019) affirms its place in our lives during this period of social turmoil and incessant racial violence in America. Timely, poignant, and ruefully truthful, English’s work on African American art history and thought challenges us to remember the capacity art has to change not only our lives but the ways in which we see ourselves and the world at large.

Revered in the field as a thought-leader, the Cleveland-born scholar is currently the Carl Darling Buck Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago. In 2010, he received the University of Chicago’s Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the nation’s oldest such prize.

New Concert Series Weaves Together Music, Architecture for Online Audiences

During the November premiere of the SOUND/SITES concert series, pianist and UChicago artist-in-residence Clare Longendyke played music from Schumann and Debussy in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Image courtesy of UChicago Presents

While the past year has been challenging for musicians who normally perform before live audiences, it has also created opportunities for innovation.

One result is SOUND/SITES, a virtual concert series that combines music with architectural landmarks on the University of Chicago campus. A co-production of UChicago Presents and the Department of Music, the quarterly series offers a new way for artists and audiences to safely connect amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as an avenue for interdisciplinary artistic exploration.

“We created this program at a time of empty communal spaces, so that these accomplished performers could fill them with music, showcasing the deep resonance between tradition and innovation that animates the University as a place of listening and learning,” said Prof. Berthold Hoeckner, chair of the music department.

Amid pandemic, UChicago scholar launches program for international artists

Ghenwa Hayek

Early last year, Assoc. Prof. Ghenwa Hayek signed on to become the interim director of the University of Chicago’s Gray Center. A month after she accepted the interim directorship, the COVID-19 crisis was officially declared a pandemic.

Uncertain times call for certain decision-making, and Hayek quickly embraced the challenge. The Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry has long convened scholars and artists in the spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration—but without in-person events, it would have rethink the nature of its mission.

Drawn from Music: Art Exhibition Opens Window into Composers' Creative Process

Map of Form by University Professor Augusta Read Thomas; Image courtesy of UChicago Arts

For composers, drawing a “map” of music can give shape to a new work and articulate its overarching ideas. As evocations of the composer’s intentions—from sweeping curves to stars, birds and brightly-colored dots—such maps capture the ebbs and flows within a musical piece and complement musical scores, serving as guides for performers.

MAPS OF FORM, a new exhibition at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts, presents a collection of these musical illustrations as works of art in their own right. Drawn by UChicago faculty and graduate composition students, the maps vary from abstract representations of operatic arias in numbers and letters to contemporary works illustrated with chariots and drawings of hanging mobiles.

Humanities Scholar Receives Prestigious Donnelley Fellowship to Cambridge College

Sam Lasman

While Sam Lasman (PhD’20) works primarily in the Persian, Arabic, French, and Welsh languages, he dabbles in Latin, Irish, and old English. But it’s not only the multiple languages that intrigue him, it’s the access to medieval literature concerning the supernatural from the primary sources in different languages.

To further pursue medieval literature and languages, Lasman recently received the Gaylord and Dorothy Research Fellowship, a postdoctoral exchange program for recent PhDs at the University of Chicago and Cambridge’s Corpus Christi College. The three-year fellowship allows Lasman to focus exclusively on his research, although he has leeway to teach courses at Corpus Christi College.

Norman Golb, Dead Sea Scrolls Contrarian, Is Dead at 92

Norman Golb, University of Chicago Archives

The first scholars to examine the Dead Sea Scrolls theorized that they were the work of the Essenes, a small ascetic Jewish sect living in the nearby settlement of Qumran who, in their messianic beliefs and monastic sensibility, probably exerted a strong influence on another breakaway group, the early Christians.

But Norman Golb, a maverick professor at the University of Chicago, took issue with that thesis, and in time he galvanized a few other scholars to question it as well.

Prominent Alumnus Inspires New UChicago Humanities Endowment in Islamic Studies

Jonathan A. C. Brown

Renowned for educating scholars in Islamic studies, UChicago has luminary professors, such as Professor Emeritus Fred M. Donner and Professor Emerita Wadad Kadi, to serve as its teachers and mentors. Now one of their protégés, Jonathan A. C. Brown (PhD’07), has emerged as a prominent voice in this field.

In honor of Brown, a new $100,000 endowment in Islamic Studies has been established in the Division of the Humanities at UChicago. While the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations will manage the Jonathan A. C. Brown Islamic Studies Research Award Fund, annual applications are open to both UChicago master’s degree and PhD students researching Islamic studies across many disciplines.

Humanities Lecturer to Receive Prestigious Prize for Arabic Literary Translation

Kay Heikkinen

Humanities Lecturer Kay Heikkinen thrives on the challenges of translating Arabic novels into English. “It’s like playing music: you have a score and you bring it to life,” said Heikkinen, the Ibn Rushd Lecturer of Arabic in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC) at UChicago. “Many people do not realize that the translation of a literary work requires an artistic sense and imagination. It’s not mechanical.”

In recognition of her translation of the Arabic novel Velvet (2019) by Huzama Habayeb into English, Heikkinen will receive the 2020 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation from the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature and the Society of Authors on Feb. 11. “Without translations, we don’t talk to each other,” Heikkinen said. “Even the best literature in another language is invisible to us unless it’s translated.”