Keynote (11.00am-12.00pm)

The Wisdom of Fools: Christianity and the Break in the Classical Tradition

With Shadi Bartsch (Classics)

“What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” thundered the church father Tertullian at the end of the second century AD, and the answer implied was: nothing. The triumph of Christianity by the time of Constantine created a radical break with many of the beliefs and practices of the classical past. In the Christian world, classical texts were still read, Greek and Latin were still spoken; but the claims to knowledge found in classical philosophy were not only disowned but even (by some zealots) considered a form of temptation held out by the devil. Where Christianity and its insistence on faith represented “the folly of the wise,” the writings of the philosophers were, in turn, “the wisdom of fools.” Christian thinkers who borrowed from them or tried to reconcile Christianity and Plato had to tread carefully indeed. This lecture explores features of the clash of classical philosophy and the Christian doctrine from late antiquity to the Renaissance and the long-lasting effects of the idea Credo quia absurdum est: “I believe, because it is absurd.” Along the way, we will touch on Socrates, free will, human sexuality, the use of allegory to redeem pagan writing, and, of course, what it means that our intellectual tradition has a radical break caused by the advent of a salvific religion.

In Mandel Hall — see on campus map.

Session I (9.30-10.30am)

Voices of Iraqi Jewish Women, 1921-52

With Orit Bashkin (Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations)

This lecture examines the history of Jewish women in Iraq from 1921 to 1952. These women lived in a society where the rights of all women were expanding. The debate about the rights and duties of Jewish women was conducted both within the boundaries of the Jewish community and outside these boundaries. The push for women’s rights often met with resistance from conservatives, whether they were rabbis or nationalists who saw women as nothing more than mothers responsible for raising the next generation of Iraqi patriots. By appropriating national discourses and challenging them in equal degrees, however, Iraqi Jewish women became more educated, entering the labor market in large numbers. They worked as writers, journalists, and poets, and they represented Iraq in international conferences concerning women's rights. The nonsectarian and pluralistic outlook of some prominent Iraqi Muslim intellectuals who challenged social norms grounded in religion and cultural norms deserved a fair amount of the credit for these positive processes. In the 1940s and 1950s, radical voices among Iraqi Jewish women took center stage, and women found new political avenues for the expression of their hopes, anger, and anxieties. This lecture will detail these processes and introduce translations of works written by Iraqi Jews at the period.

In Stuart 101 — see on campus map.

Adventures in the Soviet Imaginary / Special Collections Research Center Tour

With Robert Bird (Slavic Languages & Literatures)

Adventures in the Soviet Imaginary is drawn entirely from the collections of the University of Chicago Library and was created by the collaborative efforts of eight graduate students, one former undergraduate and two faculty members at the University of Chicago. The participants represent a range of academic disciplines, from history to art history and Russian literature. This exhibit is part of the Soviet Arts Experience, a 16-month-long showcase of works by artists who created under (and in response to) Soviet communism. (Guided tour led by Robert Bird at 9:30 am; registration is required.)

In Special Collections Research Center — see on campus map.

Buddhist Practices of the Self

With Steven Collins (South Asian Languages & Civilizations)

This lecture will discuss monastic behavior, meditation, and other "practices of the self" in premodern Pali texts and in modern ethnography of Theravåda Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia. In this practice, the ultimate goal is to realize the truth that there is no self.

In Harper 140 — see on campus map.

Between History and Revolution: Toussaint and Isaac Louverture's Memoirs

With Daniel Desormeaux (Romance Languages & Literatures)

A series of events led by slaves transformed the French colony of Saint-Domingue into the independent nation of Haiti in 1804. One name stands out in history: Toussaint Louverture (1743-1803). This lecture explores the historical, political, and judicial impact of Toussaint’s memoirs, written by him while in captivity at Fort de Joux in September 1802, a few months before his death. It will compare these memoirs with the famous memoirs (1818) of his son Isaac, who considered himself the one and only legitimate heir to Toussaint’s heroic achievement in Saint-Domingue.

In Stuart 104 — see on campus map.

The New Edition of Rossini's "Le Comte Ory"

With Philip Gossett (Music/Emeritus)

A new edition of Le Comte Ory, Rossini's 1828 comedy, is about to be published in the series Works of Gioachino Rossini (Bärenreiter-Verlag). The new edition returns to Rossini’s original 1828 version, where he himself performed at the Paris Opéra. It has been performed already in Zurich, with Cecilia Bartoli as the Comtesse, and revivals are planned in Zürich and Paris. It differs substantially from the opera as previously known. This presentation will explore these differences and seek to demonstrate why it is essential to perform the opera from this new edition.

In Fulton Recital Hall — see on campus map.

“Beowulf” and the Haunting of Heorot

With Michael Murrin (English/Comparative Literature)

Although it is composed in Old English, Beowulf is nevertheless about Danes and Geats, inhabitants of South Sweden as well as modern Denmark. There are eerie parallels between this poem and a late saga, that of Grettir the Strong, who operated in Iceland and Norway. Both authors dealt with the same cultural problem: ghosts and alien species hostile to humans. The two authors presented them essentially in the same way, and they bear little resemblance to ghosts as we understand them. While the lecture will summarize all relevant information, those interested could read Beowulf in the translation by Seamus Heaney, lines 99-1686. Those with still more time might look at the following in the Saga of Grettir: chapters 32-35 and 64-66. There are two translations available, one from the University of Toronto Press and the other from Penguin.

In Harper 130 — see on campus map.

Creative Writing

With Daniel Raeburn (Creative Writing)

Joined by other members of the Committee on Creative Writing, Daniel Raeburn will discuss How the Comic Book Faked Its Way into American Culture. According to almost every encyclopedia and reference book, including those of the Smithsonian, the first comic strip was "The Yellow Kid," by RF Outcault. This assertion has been repeated for so long by so many sources that it has acquired the mantle of fact. But it's a factoid: a false fact. The truth is that comics emigrated here from Europe in 1842. Raeburn will give a brief history of the piracies and chicaneries that led to its landing on these shores. Vu Than will also read from his work.

In Stuart 105 — see on campus map.

Mansueto Library Tour

With Staff (Library/Oriental Institute)

The newest addition to the University of Chicago Libraries system, the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library opened to the public on May 16, 2011. Featuring a glass-domed reading room and a state-of-the-art underground storage and retrieval system for research materials, Mansueto promises to keep archived research materials within short walking distance of UChicago faculty and students. The Library was funded by a generous $25 million gift from Joe Mansueto and Rika Yoshida, both alumni of the University.

In Mansueto Library — see on campus map.

Before the Pyramids: The Origins of Ancient Egyptian Civilization / Oriental Institute Tour

With Staff (Library/Oriental Institute)

Join Oriental Institute docents for guided tours featuring our world-renowned collection of art and artifacts from the ancient Near East, as well as a guided viewing of Before the Pyramids: The Origins of Ancient Egyptian Civilization. This special exhibit reconstructs the lives of artisans, administrators, and kings from the dawn of Egyptian culture whose legacies gave lasting shape to the great civilization that arose on the banks of the Nile.

In Oriental Institute — see on campus map.

What Did Herodotus Speak at Home?

With Theo van den Hout (Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations)

For decades, the inscriptions from Caria in southwest Turkey—the birthplace of the Greek historian Herodotus—drove decipherers to despair. Recent developments have shed important new light on them and forced a breakthrough in our understanding of these texts from the days of Herodotus. This talk examines the new shoot in the branch of Anatolian languages.

In Stuart 102 — see on campus map.

The Freudian Unconscious

With Candace Vogler (Philosophy)

Although Sigmund Freud distanced psychoanalytic work from specific concern with ethics, in working from and against Freud, both Jacques Lacan and Melanie Klein developed accounts of mental life that turn on how the mind copes with anxiety triggered by negotiating the line between good and bad in human life. What drives unconscious activity, on these views, is precisely the need to wind up on the good-side of many shifting good/bad divides that we face in a day-to-day way and over various stretches of our lives. Focusing on the interpretation of a dream and concentrating on the role of anxiety over good and bad, this presentation discusses the character of the Freudian unconscious.

In Kent 120 — see on campus map.

The Vikings and a Turbulent Anglo-Scandinavian World

With Christina von Nolcken (English Language & Literature/Medieval Studies)

On August 14, 2007, Denmark apologized for her part in the ninth-century Viking invasions of Ireland. However, England may also be due for such an apology. This talk will track the Vikings’ impact on medieval England, an impact with effects that are still evident today. This talk will introduce, among others, Ragnar Hairy Breeches, who ended his days in a snake pit; his son, Ivar the Boneless, who was reputedly nine feet tall; Eric Bloodaxe, the last Viking king of York; Olaf Tryggvason, who rammed Christianity down unwilling Scandinavian throats; Svein Forkbeard, who absorbed England into a Denmark-centered empire; and the last of the great Vikings, Harald Hardrada.

In Kent 107 — see on campus map.

Session II (2.00-3.00pm)

Murder Most Foul: “Hamlet” in Recent Film Productions

With David Bevington (English Language & Literature/Emeritus)

Various interpretations of Hamlet on film in recent decades give some indication of range of possible interpretations of this famous play. This talk will explore some of these interpretations, popular and otherwise.

In Kent 107 — see on campus map.

A Revolution in Poetry: Wordsworth and Coleridge, 1798

With James K. Chandler (English Language & Literature/Cinema & Media Studies)

For several years near the end of the eighteenth century, two talented English writers became neighbors, traveling companions, and most importantly, collaborators in a project to reform the ills of English culture in the age of the French Revolution. Their chosen means? Poetry--ballad poetry. The result was the transformative volume, Lyrical Ballads. We will look at what they thought they were doing, what they wrote, and what changes they effected. We'll pay some attention to Wordsworth's famous Preface about the woes of contemporary society.

In Franke Institute (Regenstein Library) — see on campus map.

Metaphor and Ambiguity: Two for the Price of One

With Ted Cohen (Philosophy)

When language presents more than one meaning, sometimes the rules of the language determine both meanings—but sometimes not. When the rules are of no use, imagination is required to make and to understand these linguistic wonders. This session will introduce the topic and invite extended discussion.

In Kent 120 — see on campus map.

Why Learn a Foreign Language?

With Sascha Ebeling (South Asian Languages & Civilizations)

Recent studies suggest that speaking more than one language can help us to stay mentally young and prevent early dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. But learning a second language, in fact, has many benefits. This lecture draws upon recent findings in a number of fields (e.g., linguistics, literary studies, cognitive science, and philosophy) in order to explore what actually happens to us when we learn a foreign language.

In Harper 140 — see on campus map.

Security and the Charismatic Leader in Rome

With Michèle Lowrie (Classics)

The idea of a close connection between the safety of the leader and that of the state characterizes autocratic regimes. As power became more concentrated in a single person during the transition in ancient Rome from Republic to Empire, contemporary literature shows a parallel progression in the ways leaders embodied group safety. During the time of Caesar and Cicero, multiple leaders stood for the safety of the state; by the time of Horace and Ovid, Augustus not only stood for security at all levels, but was the only one to do so. Modern parallels abound.

In Stuart 105 — see on campus map.

Celluloid India: The Many Worlds of Satyajit Ray

With Rochona Majumdar (South Asian Languages & Civilizations)

Satyajit Ray (1921-92) is one of India’s best-known film directors. His work has been exhibited, discussed, and celebrated all over the world. Ray ranks among the finest auteurs of the second half of the twentieth century. Audiences in the West are perhaps most familiar with the Apu trilogy (1955, 1956, 1959). But Ray’s oeuvre also includes children’s films, detective cinema, films based on Calcutta during the stormy sixties, and his adaptations of important works of Indian literature. This talk is a critical tribute that situates a remarkable filmmaker in his social, political, and cinematic context.

In Film Studies Center (Cobb Hall) — see on campus map.

Hard Hat Tour, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts

With William Michel (Logan Center)

Set to open for classes in Spring 2012, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts will soon be a hub for the robust arts scene on campus. Join us for a behind-the-scenes look at the construction site and learn more about the University’s arts initiatives. Tour begins at the corner of 60th and Ingleside in front of Midway Studios. (Note: The Logan Center is an active construction site; guests will need to wear closed-toed shoes.)

In Logan Center — see on campus map.

Opera Alive and Well in the Twenty-First Century

With Marta Ptaszynska (Music)

Over the last decade, several new operas have been written and premiered all over the world. This talk will look at several of these new operas from around the world, including the most recent European works as well as American operas.

In Fulton Recital Hall — see on campus map.

Before the Pyramids: The Origins of Ancient Egyptian Civilization / Oriental Institute Tour

With Staff (Library/Oriental Institute)

Join Oriental Institute docents for guided tours featuring our world-renowned collection of art and artifacts from the ancient Near East, as well as a guided viewing of Before the Pyramids: The Origins of Ancient Egyptian Civilization. This special exhibit reconstructs the lives of artisans, administrators and kings from the dawn of Egyptian culture whose legacies gave lasting shape to the great civilization that arose on the banks of the Nile.

In Oriental Institute — see on campus map.

Is "The Divine Comedy" Supposed to be Funny?

With Justin Steinberg (Romance Languages & Literatures)

Dante refers to his poem twice as a comedy within the Commedia itself (the modifier Divina is the legacy of a 16th-century publisher) and once more in a semi-private letter. Yet this characterization has long frustrated readers, from his contemporaries to today. It fails to cover the range of the poem’s subject matter and does not correspond to its tone. This talk will examine what is comic in Dante’s Comedy, both in his explicit theory of the genre and in his immanent poetics, and what the author meant with his title. Two primary questions will be addressed: What is different between modern and medieval conceptions of comedy? And, how does Dante understand the role of genre as a mediation between individual artistic freedom and collective conventions?

In Stuart 102 — see on campus map.

Recording Persian Antiquities in Crisis: The Persepolis Fortification Archive Project

With Matthew Stolper (Near Eastern Languages & Civilization)

In 1933, Oriental Institute archaeologists made a startling discovery at Persepolis, near the palaces that Darius and Xerxes built in the heartland of the Achaemenid Empire (near the Fars Province of modern Iran): tens of thousands of clay tablets, with texts in several ancient languages and the impressions of thousands of seals. Oriental Institute researchers have been studying them ever since, with results that have transformed our understanding of the Persian Empire at its zenith. But since 2004, researchers have been working under the shadow of litigation that threatens the future of the tablets. Since 2005, the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project has marshaled electronic tools and techniques in a race to preserve a comprehensive record of the Archive and to enable new kinds of research.

In Stuart 101 — see on campus map.

The Most Beautiful Story in the World

With David Wellbery (Germanic Studies)

The philosopher Ernst Bloch called the brief story Unverhofftes Wiedersehen (Unexpected Reunion) the "most beautiful story in the world." In fact, since its publication in 1811, this "calendar story" by the Alemmanic writer Johann Peter Hebel, who is hardly known outside the German-speaking world, has come to occupy a crucial place in the lives of generations of readers. Walter Benjamin made it the centerpiece of his essay "The Storyteller" and Martin Heidegger discovered in it the essence of poetry. There is perhaps no better place to explore the depth and the power of narrative than with this five-page tale. (Participants who sign up in advance may request copies of the story.)

In Social Science 122 — see on campus map.

Linguistics Open House in the Landahl Linguistics Labs

With Alan Yu (Linguistics), Diane Brentari (Linguistics), Jason Riggle (Linguistics), Ming Xiang (Linguistics)

The faculty of the Department of Linguistics will give presentations on the current experimental and computational research on language taking place in the Department of Linguistics.

In Landahl Lab — see on campus map.

Session III (3.30-4.30pm)

Vision and Communism / Smart Museum Tour

With Robert Bird (Slavic Languages & Literatures)

Vision and Communism. Discover the aggressive, emotionally charged work of Soviet artist and designer Viktor Koretsky (1909–1998). Featuring more than ninety posters, photographs, and maquettes—the majority of which date from the heart of the Cold War—this exhibition reveals a Communist vision of the world that is utterly unlike that of conventional propaganda. This exhibit is part of the Soviet Arts Experience, a 16-month-long showcase of works by artists who created under (and in response to) the Politburo of the Soviet Union. (Guided tour led by Robert Bird at 3:30 pm; registration is required.)

In Smart Museum — see on campus map.

The University of Paris: Daughter of the King

With Daisy Delogu (Romance Languages & Literatures)

At a time when the value of a liberal arts education is under attack, it is a worthwhile endeavor to look to the past. While contemplating where universities came from, what aims they have pursued, and what roles they have played in their social and political settings, this talk will retrace the emergence of the University of Paris. We then explore how the university, represented allegorically as the daughter of the king, established itself as a key political player during a period of social unrest and warfare that nearly destroyed the kingdom of France.

In Stuart 101 — see on campus map.

Cotton, Gender, and Revolution in Twentieth-century China

With Jacob Eyferth (East Asian Languages & Civilizations)

The socialist revolution promised to transform the everyday life of China’s rural inhabitants by bringing new objects and technologies – “two-storey brick houses, electric light, and telephones” (loushang louxia, diandeng dianhua) – to the countryside. How people experienced socialism at the grassroots levels depended as much on such changes in material life as on the political campaigns that are usually at the center of analysis. Few changes were as momentous as those related to how rural people clothed themselves. Before the 1949 revolution, most rural people wore tubu: homespun, hand-woven cloth produced in small workshops and farm households. At many levels, textile work shaped the lives of women, who rarely left their home and remained almost invisible, even to their neighbors. The socialist revolution promised to liberate women from slow, painful, time-consuming labor, but for complex reasons, the state failed to deliver on its promise. From the 1950s to the 1970s, millions of rural women continued to produce cloth and clothing for their families, but manual textile work – long seen as the proper and appropriate work for women of all classes – was devalued. This talk examines how rural women in North China (Shaanxi province, near Xi’an) reacted to these changes.

In Stuart 102 — see on campus map.

Drinking and the Culture of Play in Ancient China

With Donald Harper (East Asian Languages & Civilizations)

The play element in human culture is often agonistic: winning the game demonstrates the winner’s superior power over other players. Marcel Granet (d. 1940), French sociologist and sinologist, used the motif of drinking as an agonistic activity to analyze society and culture at the beginning of Chinese civilization in his final, unfinished work, Le roi boit. (Granet’s student Rolf Stein published a synopsis in 1955.) In light of recent discoveries of manuscripts and other archaeological materials, it is time to revisit Granet’s ideas: to reveal how drinking defined culture and power, its function in the structure of play, and the dual face of drinking as sacred and profane.

In Harper 130 — see on campus map.

The Arts of Enslavement in Colonial Cuba

With Agnes Lugo-Ortiz (Romance Languages & Literatures)

Coercion and violence over body and soul were not the only mechanisms deployed at the dawn of the Cuban slaveholding plantation system to extract obedience and subjugation from uprooted African captives. In their efforts to pedagogically incite some sort of “willingness” to submit, Cuban masters also engaged theatrical performances and the visual arts. In this talk we will examine some examples of these artistic forms and the unintended, and rather paradoxical, effects they had over the lives of slaves.

In Franke Institute (Regenstein Library) — see on campus map.

Preserving the Spell: Fairy Tales and the Future of Storytelling

With Armando Maggi (Romance Languages & Literatures)

According to the Brothers Grimm, the seventeenth-century Italian book titled The Tale of Tales by Giovan Battista Basile was the first and most important collection of oral fairy tales. This book contains the first versions of famous tales such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. The Grimms believed that "The Tale of Tales," written in the Neapolitan dialect, echoed the original myths of the Italian people who, according to the Grimms, were closer to ancient history. Clemens Brentano, another fundamental representative of German Romanticism, held that Basile's book had primarily a literary character and was not just a transcription of oral tales. Both the Grimms and Brentano rewrote some of Basile's most beautiful fairy tales according to their opposite poetic views. This talk examines the adaptations of Brentano and the Grimms and sheds light on why these fundamental tales (e.g., Cinderella) matter today, why their “spell” still seems natural and immutable, and what they may say about the future of storytelling.

In Kent 107 — see on campus map.

Freud and Proust

With Françoise Meltzer (Comparative Literature)

Freud and Marcel Proust were contemporaries, each writing from (very) different perspectives on memory and time. In this lecture, we will be considering two texts. The first is "Note on a Mystic Writing Pad," a very short text by Freud in which he uses a child's toy as a model of how the mind remembers. The second will be parts of the famous "tea and madeleine" episode in the first volume of Proust's Recherche. The two texts are remarkably similar, and open up considerations on how literature and psychoanalysis use metaphors and myths to explicate abstract notions. Both texts will be provided for the lecture.

In Kent 120 — see on campus map.

Ethics, Poverty, and the Humanities

With Bart Schultz (The Civic Knowledge Project)

The University of Chicago has a long and illustrious history of promoting the humanities. In recent years, this legacy has provided support for new and provocative defenses of the value of the humanities, not only as crucial to the education needed by citizens of a democracy but as providing effective tools for antipoverty programs worldwide. This presentation will introduce some of the programs of the Humanities Division’s Civic Knowledge Project as well as the people devoted to using the humanities to redefine the word "poverty," and to developing humanities programs that can help individuals even in the most difficult of circumstances.

In Harper 140 — see on campus map.

Schematic Passion: Charles Le Brun and his Conference on Expression

With David Schutter (Visual Arts)

As founder of the French Academy and court painter to Louis XIV, Charles Le Brun (1619-90) influenced an era of visual art practice. His Conference on Expression detailed, along the lines established in Descartes's theory of the inner emotional passions, a visual guide for artists to follow as emotive states became manifest on the surface of the body. These instructive lectures and his drawing albums of diagrammatic facial expression formed a theoretical and practical base to be contended with through modern time. This Humanities Day talk will discuss the formation of Le Brun's theory with selections from the Academy lecture, address the problem of Le Brun as historical specter, and include recent works by David Schutter on the subject.

In Stuart 104 — see on campus map.

Oy ♥ Noo Yawk (But Maybe Not Da Tawk a’ Da Town)!

With Michael Silverstein (Linguistics)

Successful New York City “accent eradication,” as it is termed by speech therapists, while sought by many upwardly mobile clients, nevertheless engenders a kind of panic at the thought of being phonetically deracinated, verbally uprooted, and sonically removed from kith and kin. This talk examines the changing landscape of urban and regional accent here through the lens of a recent report in the digital pages of “Da Noo Yawk Toyms” that caused an instant uproar – in many different accents. Noticeable in particular is an emergent cultural value running counter to long-term trends of stratification of language around a perceived “neutral” standard. It is a kind of American linguistic "AOC" phenomenon, not unlike Europe’s oenological sense of “appellation d’origine contrôlée” and the palpable pleasures it gives of knowing one’s place.

In Social Science 122 — see on campus map.

Walden’s Carbon Footprint: How People, Plants, Animals, and Machines Created an Environmental Classic

With Eric Slauter (Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture)

Modern Americans associate Henry David Thoreau’s masterpiece with solitude, manual labor, idealist philosophy, and the natural world. This talk will blend environmental, labor, and literary history while revisiting the crowded, industrial, material world of the global nineteenth-century marketplace, where Thoreau’s book first took physical form. We’ll examine the supply-chain of raw materials that composed the first edition of the book (cotton-based paper, animal-skin glue, etc.), consider the many hands who directly and indirectly contributed to its production (southern slaves, commodity brokers, northern mill workers, European rag-pickers, women and children in the printing trades), and reflect on the literary history of our own contemporary desire to know the origins and environmental impact of objects in our daily lives.

In Stuart 105 — see on campus map.