Mark your calendars! Saturday, October 20th is the 34th annual Humanities Day at the University of Chicago. If you aren’t familiar with Humanities Day, it is an epic day of lectures from some of the heavyweights in the university’s Humanities Division. If you happen to be in town, please consider attending! Friends and family are welcome!
MAPH-affiliated faculty are making a great showing this year. The following talks may be of particular interest to past, present and future MAPHers:
- “Ethics & the Consequences of our Actions” (9:30AM), given by Ben Callard, current Deputy Director of MAPH.
- “Antiquities Under Seige: Baghdad, Cairo, and Libya” (9:30 AM), given by Lawrence Rothfield, Co-Founder and past Director of MAPH.
- “Reason and the Freudian Unconscious” (2PM), given by Candace Vogler, past Director of MAPH.
- “On Reading Dante’s Vita Nuova” (3:30PM), given by David Wray and introduced by Hilary Strang, current Director and Deputy Director of MAPH.
There is also a MAPH reception directly after David’s lecture in the Logan Center, which is a beautiful, brand new building on the south side of campus. The reception will be next door to David’s lecture, in Room 801.
So if you’re looking for a great way to reconnect with your MAPH experience, please join us next Saturday, October 20th, for Humanities Day. Hurry up and register so we can save you a seat!
I first heard about the Odyssey Project during a “What am I going to do with my life?” conversation with Hilary Strang, who teaches Critical Thinking and Writing to Odyssey students. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into, other than what I knew from the description on the Illinois Humanities Council website: “The Odyssey Project provides a college-level introduction to the humanities through text-based seminars led by professors at top-tier colleges and universities to help adults with low incomes more actively shape their own lives and the lives of their families and communities.” This sounded compelling, but my true motivation at the time was gaining some solid tutoring experience for future job applications. I began tutoring with the OP in January, which meant I hung out at Robust Coffee Lounge on 63rd and Woodlawn for an hour or two on Saturdays. To get familiarized with the students and the course content, I began sitting in on weekly U.S. history classes. During the first day, students voiced their personal perceptions of America, and I was hooked. These students were eager to participate, brutally honest, and ready to learn. Attending the classes and meeting students during the Saturday writing workshops was a learning experience for myself; not only was I reading new texts that I had always meant to read but never got around to, but I was meeting students, hearing their individual stories, and learning how the Odyssey Project was directly impacting their lives.
Although I was familiar with the OP through my tutoring experience, this internship has given me the opportunity to really dive into the inner workings of the organization and learn about the variety of often-unseen responsibilities that go into non-profit administration. I was unsure what to expect going in, so I was surprised by how much independence and responsibility I have as an intern. I feel like I am actually able to do significant work within the organization, such as developing new events and workshops to provide continuing resources to enrich and sustain the community of OP alumni. I was given the opportunity to design and lead a creative writing workshop on my own, which was the most amazing (and nerve-wracking) experience. Searching for relevant readings, developing in-class writing exercises, and leading weekly workshops of about fifteen students without direct guidance was scary at first, but I now feel much more confident in my ability to design curriculum and teach adults. But even more than that, leading the workshop was a way for me to get to know the students that this organization serves; learning their stories and hearing how the Odyssey Project has affected their lives has shown me that I am working for an organization that I can really believe in. It may sound hokey, but this mentality is quite a change from my past jobs at hair salons and property management companies—this is a job where I am actually excited to come into work to see what else can be done to help make the Project even better.
MAPH ’12, focus in American Literature
In the midst of final papers and thesis work, all of MAPH was encouraged (at the time, “harassed” seemed like the proper word) to think beyond the last harrowing weeks of school and apply to the summer internships offered through the program. Looking at the list, I was both confused and intrigued by the Odyssey Project. After I did a little research and talked to Hilary Strang, I thought it sounded like a great opportunity to combine my interests in humanities scholarship with a growing desire to get involved with the kind of socially progressive work done by non-profit organizations like the Illinois Humanities Council. After I took the Teaching in the Community College course offered by MAPH, I became more concerned with the social and economic barriers facing many adults who want to pursue higher education. The Odyssey Project tries to eliminate more of these barriers than any other educational institution that I am aware of—even covering bus fare and providing childcare during the classes.
On Tuesday, May 22nd at 6:00 pm at the brand new Logan Center, MAPH is co-sponsoring a panel discussion on Chicago police torture.
In moment when the relevance of the humanities is being challenged, it is a great opportunity to have a conversation about what the role of journalism or a play might be in a public dialogue about a serious social concern like torture. We hope this will be the start of future discussion-based events for current students and alumni to keep discussing at the role of the humanities in the academy and the world at large.
The event will feature John Conroy, the Chicago journalist who covered the Chicago police torture scandal, who has now written a play inspired by the cases he covered. His book on torture, Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People is often taught in courses at the university. In addition to John, panelists will include CraigFutterman, founder of the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project at the University of Chicago, Former Chicago Police Superintendent Richard Brzeczek, People’s Law Office founding partner G. Flint Taylor and will be moderated by WBEZ’s Kelly Kleiman.
At the start of the evening actors will perform a scene from the play as a spark for discussion and there will be a period for questions and discussion from the audience. A reception will follow the event.
We hope those living in Chicago will make the time to join us for this conversation.
Reposted from the Court Theatre Blog. The first part of Angels in America opens March 30, 2012
“The World Only Spins Forward”
by Deborah Blumenthal MAPH ’11
I was seventeen when I first saw Angels in America, and it did, as it does, change how I saw the world. It was the magnificent HBO miniseries; I remember two cold, snowy Sunday evenings, tip-toeing around my house, covertly staying up far past my school-night bedtime to see it, and from my naive perch among the couch pillows, watching an entire unfamiliar history unfold from the glow of my Dad’s big-screen TV.
I don’t know that my parents would have let me watch it if they had known what it was, but it was almost by accident, really. I had tuned in just to see one of my favorite then-obscure stage actors on television, none the wiser to what I was about to see, other than that it had been adapted from a play I had never seen.
My most distinct memory from either of those two evenings is that I couldn’t sleep after watching the ending of Millennium Approaches. Not that I was afraid of an angel crashing through my ceiling (though of course you never know), but because Prior was so sick, and I was so scared. Watching it became, very quickly, about much more than just a beloved actor. Recorded VHS tapes were joined immediately by paperback copies and DVDs, a few years later by working copies for thesis notes and a holiday-gifted first edition. There’s a Tony Kushner section on my bookshelf, and each resident is worn with love.
I was born during the period in which Angels in America takes place. Having grown up in a school system that ignored, or at least sugarcoated, the existence of the AIDS crisis (I did have one teacher—elementary school art—who taught second and third graders about Keith Haring, much to the chagrin of some parents), encountering some of the AIDS plays as a teenager—first Angels, and a few months later, Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, with Rent sandwiched in between—was like opening a pop-up book. Even in my high school health classes, AIDS was just a bad thing that happened to you if you didn’t use a condom, in no major way separated from other STDs. The curriculum gave some clinical biology, here’s what happens to your cells, but the politics and the details and the terrifying history were left out, and real understanding was foregone.
It’s not uncommon to hear from people my age, or even younger, that Angels in America changed their lives—which might be strange considering that we weren’t there. But for us it’s like a history lesson, live in living color, opening our eyes to a reality that we can only try to imagine. Progressive sex-ed or sugarcoated evasion, the AIDS epidemic has become incorporated into our cultural consciousness. My generation has no idea what it was like for it to barely even have a name. The immersion of the theater may be the closest we’ll ever get to understanding.
More on Angels in America after 20 years after the jump
Dance Films Kino is a three-week project that I am presenting as an artist in residence at Hyde Park Art Center, March 4-25, 2012. Over three weeks, I will present 30 works of dance on film, as well as over a dozen live music, dance, and literary readings. All of the programs will be free to the public.
The seeds of this project were planted ten years ago, back when I was a MAPH student sitting in Yuri Tsivian’s intro to film class, learning about how filmmakers whose works were censored, or considered to be too experimental for mainstream distribution, showed films out of their own homes.
The films and performance I am presenting will be shown in an environment inspired by “kinos”, underground, avant-grade art clubs of the 1920s and 30s. I’m currently getting ready to paint the walls of my residency studio red, put out the caberet tables, and art deco objects I’ve sourced from Etsy. I’m creating artwork inspired by movement to hang on the walls of the space.
My first goal is to show movies in a place that feels like someone’s home, so that people are a little more willing to give something they’ve never seen before a try. My second goal is to bring all kinds of artists, writers, musicians, dance makers and filmmakers together to create a lot of different points of access into the work.
My third goal is to invite people to help create the space by imagining what it would be like to be a part of an underground society, to feel nostalgia for a fictional place situated in the past. I think there is a collective desire to engage in this type of activity. I think it is part of the reason why bars inspired by speakeasies are so popular, and why people like to fantasize about travel, even in tough economic times.
More on how Sarah arrived at this point after the jump
Drew Messinger-Michaels (MAPH ’10)
Some Gallery Somewhere
It’s 2010, and the week before graduating from MAPH, I walk into an art gallery with my best friend. We’re intellectual equals, this friend and I, but I’ve studied art history formally and he hasn’t, and he is painfully aware of this fact. He doesn’t form an opinion without immediately turning to me for confirmation, validation, and general assurance that he gets it.
And I try to tell him that’s silly and self-defeating. I try to make my friend understand that he’s free to find a given piece of art life-changing or yawn-inducing or anything in between, and to drive that point home, I try to humanize the sainted artists whose work we’re both trying to get.
I joke about Marcel Duchamp being foremost a provocateur and a jerk (which he was), and about how so many pre-Renaissance paintings feature baby Jesuses who look like Mikhail Gorbachev in miniature (which they do). But that just makes things worse. What my friend hears is simply that I know lots of stuff, and that he should shut up because he doesn’t know nearly as much stuff as I do. He stops offering opinions, and so I clam up, too. We walk around in silence for a while.
This time next year, I’ll be the Founding Director of a new, online art gallery. I’ll be clicking that last “OK” button that will peel back the Under Construction page from our website, and I’ll be thinking about my friend, and about how badly I want to help smart-but-intimidated people like him find artwork that they’ll love.
More about Drew’s work running Gray Blush Gallery after the jump. . .
On a morning when MAPHers are submitting papers on “The Mirror Stage,” it might be hard for them to share all of Jeremiah Glazer’s (MAPH 2008) sentiments about his time in the program.
“I loved Core,” he told me by telephone last week, “I even loved Lacan.”
Jeremiah arrived at UChicago in the fall of 2007. He jokes that between graduation and the start of MAPH he went through every one of the motions that a recently-graduated liberal arts major can go through. After finishing at BU in 2005, he worked at a law firm, toyed with the idea of law school, decided he hated legal work, and applied instead to PhD programs, hoping to study Wittgenstein. » Read the rest of this entry «
Deborah Blumenthal (MAPH ’11) Reflects on her MAPH Internship, Curation and Academic Cross-Pollination
You could say I had a magical summer.
Being offered the MAPH internship at the Chicago History Museum had to be a nod to the absolute nerdism of my childhood – I was that kid who dragged her parents to every history museum within reach, wherever we were. I have become that adult who returns to the same ones over and over again. I was a Humanities student, but I am also a lifelong history geek, and the opportunity to intern in the Curatorial Affairs department at CHM let me do exactly what MAPHers do best: bridge the gaps. We’re cross-disciplinarians, proponents of academic cross-pollination.
I studied theater during my MAPH year, venturing out into a little bit of art history and concentrating very much on art-audience communication and relationships. I wrote my thesis on Tony Kushner’s AIDS-era epic play Angels in America, focusing on the work’s ever-changing relationship to its temporal setting: what happens when a play becomes history? I wrestled with Benjamin and his Angel of History, theories on nostalgia, and literature on historical drama. You can see the history geek peeking out. It always has. It’s a necessary marriage, I think.
More on the the internship and how it links to Deborah’s current project after the jump.