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Humanities Day 2010 features Laing Prize Winner Martha Feldman as Keynote Speaker

Martha Feldman, the Mabel Greene Myers Professor in the Humanities and Chair of the Department of Music, was the 2010 recipient of the prestigious Gordon J. Laing Prize for her 2007 book Opera and Sovereignty.  The Laing Prize is awarded annually by the University of Chicago Press to honor the faculty author, editor or translator of a book published in the preceding three years that has brought the Press the greatest distinction.  At the award ceremony in April President Robert J. Zimmer said, “Opera and Sovereignty has received great acclaim for its breadth and methodological ambition. [The critics] are right: Opera and Sovereignty is an outstanding example of the difference that scholarship in the humanities can make to the art of music when so convincingly allied with it.”

Feldman will be delivering this year’s Humanities Day keynote address on October 23, 2010 at 11am in Rockefeller Chapel.  Her lecture “Castrato De Luxe: Blood, Gifts, and Goods in the Making of Early Modern Signing Stars” will investigate the complex role of castrati in early modern Europe.  These men were castrated before puberty to preserve their high, unbroken singing voices and managed to achieve wealth and status in a patriarchal society. “The incredibly difficult ways of marking and articulating notes were very luxurious aspects of singing that were won with intense training and literally blood, sweat, and tears,” says Feldman.

The oldest event of its kind in Chicago and the inspiration for the citywide Chicago Humanities Festival, the University’s Humanities Day will also feature more than 25 faculty members presenting lectures and leading discussions across the Hyde Park campus.

“Humanities Day is a venerable Chicago tradition and a once a year opportunity to share the work of our scholars with the general public,” says Martha Roth, Dean of the Division of the Humanities. “Our passion and dedication to academic excellence pushes boundaries and sets global research agendas.”

The day is organized in three sessions, beginning at 9:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.  Highlights include guided tours of current exhibitions at the Oriental Institute and the Smart Museum of Art, an examination of the position of women in modern Buddhism, a guided reading of poems by Baudelaire, and an evaluation of the visual images and verbal metaphors that have dominated the era of the Global War on Terror.

Headquarters for Humanities Day is located in the lobby of Stuart Hall, 5835 South Greenwood Avenue.  Registration packets and information can be picked up beginning at 8:30 a.m. the day of the event. Free parking is available at the Ellis Avenue Parking Garage, on the southeast corner of 55th Street and Ellis Avenue. For a complete schedule of events, program descriptions, and registration information, please visit

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