Humanities Doctoral Student's Creative Vent Turns into Career

Isabel Lachenauer

For several summers, Isabel Lachenauer had a secret. During her doctoral program at UChicago, she wrote a novel each summer, channeling her anxious energy to a healthy place. Her creative writing became a private world to immerse herself while forgetting the pressures of her academic work.

Now the novel Lachenauer wrote during the first year of the pandemic—The Hacienda—is scheduled for publication by Berkley (Penguin/Random House) on May 3, 2022. The book received multiple bids from publishers, providing Lachenauer with ample funds and the incentive to continue her career as a novelist after she graduates with a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC) in June 2022.

Why you can’t stop playing Wordle, according to a computational linguist

Jason Riggle

Over the past few months, Wordle has skyrocketed in popularity, with cryptic grids of gray, green and yellow squares appearing on social media. But why has the online word game captivated so many people? And what makes it interesting from a linguistic standpoint?

The game is challenging, but simple: Once a day, players have six guesses to identify a new five-letter word (all players receive the same word on a given day). Each guess provides color-coded hints: a letter turns green if it is in the correct spot, yellow if it is part of the word but in a different spot, and gray if it is not in the word at all.

But what makes Wordle so charming and addictive, said University of Chicago linguist Jason Riggle, is the sense of validation it offers—affirming our intuitions about language when we land on the correct answer. 

How the University's First Ph.D. Graduate Strengthened Ties Between Chicago and Japan

Eiji Asada and his family in 1908. Asada family photo originally published by Mikato Asada in "The Memoirs of Dr. Asada" (1916).

In the late 1880s, a young Japanese scholar named Eiji Asada came to the Chicago area to pursue a bachelor’s degree in theology. He took a summer course from William Rainey Harper, and the two developed a friendship based on their shared interest in Semitic studies and linguistics.

When Harper became the first president of the University of Chicago, he convinced Asada to pursue graduate studies at his new university. There, Asada studied theology and linguistics, graduating as the University’s first Ph.D. recipient on June 26, 1893—a milestone for the institution, which had been founded three years earlier.

The Overlooked History of Black Cinema, with Jacqueline Stewart

Jacqueline Stewart

Prof. Jacqueline Stewart’s career has examined the histories of overlooked Black filmmakers and Black audiences. Last year, the University of Chicago film scholar Stewart won a prestigious MacArthur fellowship for “illuminating the contributions that overlooked Black filmmakers and communities of spectators have made to cinema’s development as an art form.”

Stewart also serves as the host of Silent Sunday Nights on Turner Classic Movies and is chief artistic and programming officer at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. On this episode of the Big Brains podcast, Stewart explores the history of Black cinema and explains how preservation and archiving are not neutral acts, but contribute to how we contextualize and understand Black history.