Chicago Humanities Festival Blog

Totemism Today
In Totem and Taboo Sigmund Freud explores the similarities between the mental lives of neurotic patients and so-called savages, suggesting that totemic rituals find a modern day analog in the pathological behavior of compulsive individuals. Though turn of the century Vienna wasn't known for its storied basketball, baseball, or football franchises, Freud could have added the obsessive fervor of sports fans to this case study.  Image by Alissa Zhu Thankfully, Lester Munson will bridge this... 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 >>
Thinking CHF
There’s something new about this year’s Chicago Humanities Festival. And no, I’m not talking about the theme. That’s different every year, of course, lending each CHF its own unique character – with Animal promising to be the cat’s meow! What I mean with new are the categories we are using to organize our events. Here they are: I know, I know. It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal. But trust me, it’s huge! In fact, we conceive of them—and... Continue Reading >>
Susan Crawford: The Future of Information
We use it for paying bills, shopping, taking classes, applying for jobs, dating, and keeping in touch with friends. The Internet is a medium of communication that has become a world parallel to our physical one. It has sunk its webby fingers into every aspect of our lives. Yet one fourth of Americans don't have internet access and one third say it’s too costly to afford. Internet is a commodity in the United States—both limited and expensive—and, as a result, we're at risk... Continue Reading >>
Neil Shubin is a Rock Star
Neil Shubin is a rare find. Not only is he an accomplished scientist (in 2004 he led the team that discovered the missing link between fish and land-dwelling vertebrates), but he is an eloquent writer and public speaker to boot (his 2006 book Your Inner Fish was a New York Times bestseller, and he can hold his own on The Colbert Report). This made him a natural fit for the 2013 Chicago Humanities Festival, Animal: What Makes Us Human. His latest book, The Universe Within, treats the... Continue Reading >>

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