The Berlins Endow New Chair for Assistant Professor in English Language and Literature

Timothy Harrison

Compelled to make the humanities relevant to UChicago students’ lives, Timothy Harrison focuses on creating and nurturing an intellectual community—within and outside the classroom. For his scholarship and his engagement with students, Harrison received the inaugural Chair for the Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Assistant Professor of Renaissance and Early Modern English Literature: Masterpieces from 1500–1700.

“By every measure of scholarship, pedagogy, collegiality, service, and impact, Tim is worthy of this named professorship,” said Anne Walters Robertson, Dean of the Division of the Humanities and the Claire Dux Swift Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Music. “He brings great distinction to the Division of the Humanities, and I am delighted that we now have this public recognition of his accomplishments.”

Why We Can't Turn Away from "Gone with the Wind"

Jacqueline Stewart by Joe Mazza of Brave Lux

By Jacqueline Stewart

(CNN) Just before the Covid-19 quarantine, I joined my fellow hosts on Turner Classic Movies for an "Old Hollywood" fashion photo shoot for Emmy Magazine. But when the spread came out, I could not bring myself to post the photos to my social media. As an African American cinema and media studies professor, how could I promote the glamour of classic Hollywood when our current media landscape was exploding with scenes of racial crisis?

Day after day, I scrolled through posts decrying the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. For weeks, video after video showed the escalating protests against police brutality and the brutal treatment of protesters by police. It seemed inappropriate to share shots glorifying Hollywood's golden age in this moment of mourning and mobilization. Moreover, the classic films we showcase on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) have played a major role in perpetuating the racist beliefs that devalue Black lives and normalize the use of excessive force against Black people.

No wonder that many viewers were outraged when HBO Max rolled out with the Civil War romance "Gone with the Wind" on its roster. HBO Max has temporarily pulled the film with the intent to return it to their service with additional historical context.

Allyson Nadia Field Receives the Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship, Allowing Her to Focus on Uncovering Early Films Defying Racial Stereotypes

Allyson Nadia Field

Humanities scholar Allyson Nadia Field seeks to reimagine early cinema history by analyzing rare films, ephemera, and artifacts. In 2018, she assisted in identifying the actors, producer, and historical significance of “Something Good—Negro Kiss,” a 30-second long silent film from 1898 that is believed to be the earliest representation of Black affection on-screen.

The rediscovery of this short film has led to a radical reconsideration about race in early cinema. Inspired by “Something Good—Negro Kiss” to continue her research about the interrelation of minstrelsy, vaudeville, and early cinema, Field recently received the 2020 Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies.

Gimmicks Might Be the Key to Understanding Capitalism

Sianne Ngai

Over the course of her career, UChicago Division of the Humanities scholar and critic Sianne Ngai has asked readers to interrogate the everyday aesthetic judgments we make about art and objects. While finding kitty cams, baby carrots, and bath toys “cute” might seem innocent, Ngai cautions that a term like “cute” is ultimately rooted in a desire to “aestheticize powerlessness,” a useful tool for making commodification and consumption feel, conversely, empowering.

In her latest book, Theory of the Gimmick (2020), Ngai proposes another aesthetic category, “gimmicky,” to think through broader questions about how artistic worth is measured in capitalist culture. The gimmick, as a kind of labor-saving device that ironically overperforms (i.e., doing too much), is an embodiment of our anxiety about the way value is tied to labor.