Humanities Scholar Receives the Prestigious William Nelson Prize

Noémie Ndiaye

For revealing how the Romani people of Europe and sub-Saharan Africans were similarly racialized from the 17th century onwards, Noémie Ndiaye received the 2022 William Nelson Prize from the Renaissance Society of America for the best article annually published in the journal Renaissance Quarterly/. Her article “Black Roma: Afro-Romani Connections in Early Modern Drama (and Beyond)” focuses on performance practices in English and French settings showing the same legacy of bondage, enslavement, and human trafficking in theatrical representations for the Romani people and sub-Saharan Africans.

“In plays such as Molière’s Imaginary Invalid, Romani performers were performing Black dances,” said Ndiaye, the Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Assistant Professor in the Department of English Language. “The connection is consistent, and I got curious about this. What if this is not a coincidence?”

Scholar Mary Beard to Deliver Lecture Series on What We can Learn from the Classics

Mary Beard photo by Robin Cormack

When Mary Beard’s broadcasting career took off in her mid-50s, she became one of Great Britain’s best-known and most beloved academics thanks to her candor, knowledge about the ancient world and original insights.

Beard has the rare combination of wit, warmth, scholarship and genuine concern for her audiences—from the general public to the generations of students she taught at Cambridge University for more than 40 years.

In April, Beard will discuss “What Can We Learn from the Classics?” as part of the Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Family Lectures, hosted annually by the Division of the Humanities at the University of Chicago. Her lecture series will begin April 20 and continue April 25 and 26 at the Rubenstein Forum—both in-person and live streamed—from 6 to 7:30 p.m. CDT. Registration for the series is free and open to the public.

Soujourner Truth Festival to Bring Together Generations of Black Women Filmmakers

Still from "Alma’s Rainbow" (1994), a coming-of-age comedy by director and producer Ayoka Chenzira. The film will be screened as part of The Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts 2023 followed by a Q&A with Chenzira, who attended the original festival in 1976.

In 1976, a group of artists organized the first Black women’s film festival. The Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts was a celebration of Black feminist art and a space that fostered collaboration between artistic mediums. It was also a call for industry changes needed for Black women’s filmmaking to thrive.

Apart from two tributes, the Festival never happened on the same scale again—until now. Over four decades later, many of these same luminaries will reunite alongside the next generation of filmmakers.

The Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts 2023 commemorates this historic event with a nine-week film series culminating in a symposium held March 2-4 at UChicago’s Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. All events are free and open to the public.

“This symposium is a way to think about continuities, ruptures and evolutions,” said film scholar Assoc. Prof. Allyson Nadia Field.


UChicago Composer to Debut Opera about Anne Frank

Shulamit Ran photo by Valerie Booth

Prof. Shulamit Ran first read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl at age 12 while growing up in Israel. The book’s power never waned, and over the years the University of Chicago composer has written several works with a focus on the Holocaust during her Pulitzer Prize-winning career.

Now, Ran has returned to Anne Frank by creating the music for a full-scale opera based on Frank’s remarkable diary—a project into which she said she poured tremendous mental and emotional energy. Titled Anne Frank, the work will premiere on March 3 at Indiana University.

“The topic of Anne Frank was one that I thought about at different times and from various perspectives. As in my other works that speak to the difficult subject of the Holocaust, my desire through music has been to say: ‘Do not forget,’” said Ran, the Andrew MacLeish Distinguished Service Professor Emerita in the Department of Music. “From the moment that I decided that I would indeed create an opera that has the diary of Anne Frank at its center, I felt I had taken on a huge responsibility and, with responsibility, comes risk. She has become such an incredible, larger-than-life, iconic figure for so many throughout the world. Yet it was important for me that my opera be about a real person, not a figure that you put on a pedestal.”