Session III

3:30-4:30 p.m.

On Reading Dante's Vita Nuova

This year, the MA Program in the Humanities (MAPH) welcomed its 17th class of master’s students. From its beginning, MAPH has asked its students to become critically aware of the reading practices that characterize scholarly work in the humanities. MAPH’s Core course, Foundations of Interpretive Theory is a rigorous introduction to key texts and reading practices for contemporary humanistic inquiry.

The Art of Writing through Reading

The Committee on Creative Writing presents three of its faculty members reading from their work, each representing one of the genres at the core of the program. In addition to teaching fiction at University of Chicago and Columbia College, Megan Stielstra is Director of Story Development for 2nd Story ( and a veteran of the Chicagoland literary scene. Rachel DeWoskin is the author of two novels and a memoir that is currently being adapted into an HBO pilot.

Around 1948: Global Realignments in Politics and Culture

In a relatively short span of time, from 1947 to 1949, a wide array of nation-states and other institutions would assume new forms, most immediately in response to the aftermath of the Second World War but also in relation to the unfinished business of the decades that preceded it.

The Grammar of Subjectivity

One feature of human language that is crucial to its role in communication is the systematic relation between linguistic symbols (words, phrases, sentences) and the information they express in different contexts. For example, the sentence, “The Quad Club is currently serving tripe for lunch” conveys the same information about the world at the time of utterance no matter who utters it.

Recording Persian Antiquities in Crisis: An Update on the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project

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 that contained 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.

How Best to Learn a Foreign Language? The Case of Brazilian Portuguese

“It is difficult to enjoy well so much several languages” (Pedro Carolino, 1883). This presentation will briefly walk the audience through the methods used by the Portuguese program at The University of Chicago over the past 25 years to arrive at our current approach: one based on the use, inasmuch as possible, of authentic materials, both in and out of the classroom. Through the use of Blackboard, the university’s learning management system, these activities are housed online.

The Cinema’s Lesson for Cubism

This presentation explores the forgotten features of the early cinema experience in Paris that were central to the development of both analytic and synthetic Cubism. While cinematic movement undoubtedly transformed the representational paradigms of painting and literature, the focus of this talk is on the varied spatial contexts and styles of projection that made Parisian film exhibition a radically modernist event.

Delight in Sound - Transformations and Connections

Composer Augusta Read Thomas discusses her creative process, examining fundamental qualities inherent to her musical compositions. In an informal and lively setting, the audience will be invited to browse through her manuscripts and sketches while the composer provides brief recorded musical examples. Topics include rhythm, counterpoint, harmony, text setting, motivic development, organic transformation, nuance, color, improvisation, spirit and gestalt. The discussion will show how music shares these qualities and processes with many other forms of human endeavor and creativity.

Using Computers to Help Scholars Have Good Arguments: An Online Cultural and Historical Research Environment

Scholarship in the humanities is characterized by competing interpretations of texts, artifacts, and other cultural products. Some of this is (dare we say) ego-driven, but scholarly arguments are nonetheless useful and productive because they stem from a legitimate diversity of interpretive perspectives and research agendas. Arguments are necessary for discarding faulty interpretations and generating new insights.

Why Read "War and Peace"?

War and Peace is universally recognized as a great work, but its reputation as the quintessential “long novel” has resulted in an unwarranted reluctance to read it. In fact, the novel is a page-turner, which was Tolstoy’s intention from the beginning. Fresh off his experience teaching peasant children Russian history and influenced by his reading of English “sensation novels” of the 1860s, Tolstoy set about to write an engaging account of one history’s great stories.


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