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Guest Bloggers

The Wondrous Junot Díaz
One of the most memorable events from the 2013 Chicago Humanities Festival was Junot Díaz in conversation with Peter Sagal. We asked Dara E. Goldman, associate professor of Spanish and director of the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to share her insights into what makes Díaz so readable and so memorable. Junot Díaz is arguably the writer who put Dominican Literature on the map. That is, he is probably the... Continue Reading >>
When Science Meets the Humanities or Why You Should Never Sing Wagner at the Zoo
The next time you are caught in a lull in a dinner party conversation, try throwing out this tidbit: “Hey, did you know that spiders masturbate?” You can be sure that once the dropped jaws recover, the conversation will be buzzing again. And, that sexy, spidery fact is just one of numerous startling parallels between human and non-human animal behaviors that cardiologist Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, and her co-author, Kathryn Bowers, a staff editor at The Atlantic, draw out in their... Continue Reading >>
Animal Studies Takes Center Stage in Academia
The Chicago Humanities Festival’s exciting focus this year on Animal: What Makes Us Human brought together academics, artists, journalists, scientists, public intellectuals, and the wider public to explore how non-human animals come to have meanings in our and other societies. This is a key question, and a crucial one right now. And it is one that several disciplines in academia are newly taking up with a vigorous appetite. Questions about “the animal” currently animate not... Continue Reading >>
"Terriers Take Wolves!" Holly Hughes on the Tough and Tiny
Holly Hughes is a true terrier. The seminal performance artist's career launched in the 1980s and gained notoriety through the 1990 NEA 4 culture wars. Hughes's fighting spirit earned her multiple Obie Awards, a Lambda Book Award, and most recently, a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her bold exploration of sexual politics in the face of taboo has created a legacy of performance pedagogy that spans 30 years. A professor of fine arts at the University of Michigan, Hughes's latest projects include the... Continue Reading >>
Cognitive Connections: Dolphins, Dogs, and Us!
Ken Ramirez, executive VP of animal care and training at the Shedd Aquarium, will speak at the 2013 Chicago Humanities Festival on Saturday, November 2. As humans we are fascinated with the topic of animal intelligence. How smart is a dog? How smart is a dolphin? These are questions asked frequently by visitors to Shedd Aquarium, but these questions do not have easy answers. Generally speaking, I have always suggested that animals are as smart as they need to be to survive in their world.... Continue Reading >>
James Kennedy on Lemony Snicket (or rather, VICE VERSA)
Friday, November 1 will be the LAST PUBLIC APPEARANCE of Lemony Snicket, a.k.a. Daniel Handler—and, I am frankly relieved to add, MYSELF. After Mr. Handler finishes his presentation for the Chicago Humanities Festival about his latest (indeed last) book in his “All The Wrong Questions” series, and I follow up with my own presentation while he autographs books, Mr. Handler and I will both be WHISKED BY ARMORED AMBULANCE to the University of Chicago Medical Center, where a... Continue Reading >>
Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Not Deke Weaver
From his world-shaping monologues to his immersive, cinematic performance productions, one thing is clear: no one can tell a story like Deke Weaver. (Photo by Valerie Oliveiro) I had the joy of attending Elephant, Weaver's second installment of his Unreliable Bestiary series, at the stock pavilion in Urbana, Illinois in 2010. As I was ushered into the dimly lit barn and asked to take a seat on a hay bale, I knew this wasn't going to be any typical theater-going experience. Emerging from that... Continue Reading >>
Frans de Waal and the Evolution of Morality
This year's festival will feature primatologist Frans de Waal in two separate events, a panel discussion on Saturday, Nov 2, and a solo lecture on Sunday, Nov 3. We invited Rebecca M. Stumpf, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, to share some background on de Waal and his work. As I sit here typing this, I am trapped in a small seat surrounded by 350 people in a large metal cylinder 32,000 feet in the air. I am en route to my research site in Uganda... Continue Reading >>
Temple Grandin: A Sketch of Specificity
Temple Grandin will speak at the 2013 Chicago Humanities Festival on Saturday, Nov 9. In 2009, I sat in the audience at the Chicago Cultural Center to watch Temple Grandin talk. It was perhaps the third time I'd seen her, and she had already changed so much about the way we talk about autism. I sketched her while she talked, enjoying what a striking figure she was; tall, androgynous, and dressed in a Western outfit that might have looked like a costume on anyone less completely self-defined than... Continue Reading >>
Poetry Ghosts
  Mr. Lemony Snicket has agreed to join the Chicago Humanities Festival and Poetry magazine for an evening spectacle this November 1, which also happens to be the Day of the Dead. It was an accident, we assure you. Details are forthcoming, but we can tell you now that children and like-minded adults are especially welcome. It should be noted that Mr. Snicket comes to us due to his recent occupation of the Poetry Foundation library. It is there that he discovered—among various... Continue Reading >>
A Tribe Called Hope?
What color is hope? That’s a question I asked my students as they began reading Sherman Alexie’s book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. (Alexie appears at the Festival on Saturday, Nov. 9. Click here for more information.) Arnold “Junior” Spirit, the protagonist in Alexie’s book, also ponders hope as it relates to color. Junior asks his parents, “Who has the most hope?” Their reply: white people (p. 45). My students might disagree. They... Continue Reading >>
New Perspectives on Frank Lloyd Wright
Popular publications about architectural history tend to focus on a few male architects who designed big buildings and who possessed equally big egos. Their names are familiar to most members of the general public because their work was so well documented and their lives so well chronicled. They are variously represented as heroic, flamboyant, eccentric, obsessive. If asked to identify just one famous architect, most Americans will utter three names in rapid sequence: Frank. Lloyd. Wright. ... Continue Reading >>
A Snapshot of Now
  I am sitting reading at Myopic Books in that great back room of hardwood floors, of chairs nestled in the crocked, outstretched arms of bookshelves, of muddled windows that temporarily frame fleeting Blue-Line trains. A guy is rummaging through the “Fem Lit” section and I don’t wonder why he’s reading Irigaray or even think it’s refreshing to see a guy interested in Irigaray. His pants are tight, my size I think, and they’re paired with a blue flannel shirt that would... Continue Reading >>
What Constitutes a Solid WRITE CLUB Bout?
Ian Belknap  Hi again – Ian Belknap, Founder and Overlord of WRITE CLUB here. As you may have heard, very shortly CHF will be taking your submissions for bout topics for our fast-approaching shows at the Poetry Foundation. In order for you to make the best and most mighty suggestions, which will ensure the most maximally awesome show possible, here’s a couple things to keep in mind: ·It’s gotta be conceptually meaty. We’re not looking for a chicken wing of an idea – we’re... Continue Reading >>
Marlee Prutton is the Education Fellow at the Chicago Humanities Festival. She is a recent graduate of the Masters of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH) at the University of Chicago. The F.B.I. has had Barney Rosset’s Francis W. Parker School file for over seventy years. In class a teacher had asked him: “Who is the most important person in the world?” He had been reading Sawdust Caesar by George Seldes, an anti-Mussolini novel. Already a radical... Continue Reading >>
An Introduction and Nine Notes on Anne Waldman
Rowland Saifi is a Chicago-based writer and teaches writing and literature at Tribeca Flashpoint Academy and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. When I first arrived in Boulder it was snowing. I’d taken a Greyhound halfway across the country and was dropped in the middle of the night at a gas station whose most striking feature was a payphone. I was there to start school as an undergrad at Naropa University and with orientation still a week away, I spent the... Continue Reading >>
Write Club: Trojan Horse of Goodness
Greetings, CHF loyalist! My name is Ian Belknap, and I’m the Founder and Overlord of WRITE CLUB. Which is likely a thing you’ve not heard of and do not know. I’m here to change that. First the basics: WRITE CLUB is quite simply a literary event that takes the form of a battle. The format is this: Three Bouts of Two Opposing Writers/Two Opposing Ideas (assigned in advance – Fire vs. Ice, for example, or Fate vs. Free Will)They get seven minutes each to read their... Continue Reading >>
Sparking Chicago Students’ Interest in History
Frank Valadez is Executive Director of Chicago Metro History Education Center.  “History Fair taught me how to think critically and how to turn a confused pile of evidence into a coherent, meaningful argument. I’ve seen how it’s empowered my peers; the pride they have in their work. And I think History Fair really does create more empathetic, engaged people.”  Olivia Daniels, History Fair Participant For the past 35 years the Chicago Metro History Fair has... Continue Reading >>
Light, Shadow, and Joy: Nori Sawa’s Puppet Theater
By Sarah Arehart, University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies The first thing you’ll notice about Nori Sawa is that he breaks the rules of traditional theater. In Fairy Tales, he breaks all of them, in 55 minutes. Nori is a master of figural theater. Where a puppeteer operates characters from the shadows, Nori steps into the spotlight. He manipulates and is manipulated by his puppets, sometimes becoming a character in the story himself. He also... Continue Reading >>
The Man of Steel Goes to Gotham
By Marc Frost, Artistic Director of Theater Un•Speak•Able Stepping into Times Square on a cold January evening felt close to otherworldly—especially knowing I was going to perform there later that night. I emerged from the subway to find myself in the bright hue of so many LCD screens I could have mistaken the night for day. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but Times Square merits a few million. And there I was—nervous as you-know-what; it was... Continue Reading >>