Every fall since 1979, the Division of the Humanities has opened its doors to alumni, students, and the intellectually curious for a day of free public lectures and spirited Chicago-style inquiry. This year’s Humanities Day takes place on Saturday, October 22, and once again showcases the depth of talent at the University.

It is a day when we open our classrooms to the public, offering a unique opportunity to sample the riches that the University of Chicago has to offer in the wide field of humanities,” says Dean Martha T. Roth.

Drawing up to 1,000 people each year, Humanities Day has become a pivotal event for alumni, Hyde Parkers, and other Chicagoans. The day proved so popular that in 1990 the University of Chicago participated in planning the citywide Chicago Humanities Festival, which now spans several weeks.

Many alumni and humanists continue to travel to campus from beyond the city because of the breadth of topics and depth of scholarship offered on Humanities Day.

Gary Strandlund, AB’83, MBA’96, was a philosophy student in 1979 and attended the first Humanities Open House, beginning a long tradition. “I made it a point to go back every year to keep in touch with my Humanities professors,” says the Batavia, Illinois, resident. “When my kids were old enough, I would take them so they would get a feeling for the kinds of things they could pursue when they entered college as well as get a flavor of the U of C experience. I look forward to it each year.”

With approximately 40 lectures, exhibits, and tours planned this year, Humanities Day 2011 is appropriately themed “See. Hear.” Participating scholars represent virtually every department in the Division. Visitors can learn about recording Persian antiquities in a time of crisis from Matthew Stolper (Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations), explore the Freudian unconscious with Candace Vogler (Philosophy), hear about the newest edition of Rossini’s Le Comte Ory from one of the world’s foremost opera experts, Philip Gossett (Music/Emeritus), or join David Wellbery (Germanic Studies) to discuss the most beautiful story in the world.

Visitors can also see the newest physical improvements to the campus as well as exhibitions at the Oriental Institute (Before the Pyramids: The Origins of Egyptian Civilization) and the Special Collections Research Center at the Regenstein Library (Adventures in the Soviet Imaginary). Robert Bird (Slavic Language and Literatures) will lead the talk on the library exhibit, which focuses on Soviet children’s literature, and then give introductory comments at the Vision and Communism show at the Smart Museum of Art. Both exhibitions are part of the citywide Soviet Arts Experience festival. (See related story on pages 6–7.) 

Other highlights include a tour of the new Joe and Rika Mansueto Library and a hard-hat tour of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, which is still under construction and slated to open in May 2012.

Classics professor Shadi Bartsch will deliver the keynote address, “The Wisdom of Fools: Christianity and the Break in the Classical Tradition,” at 11:00 a.m. in Mandel Hall. (See accompanying article.)

High school English instructor Kate Pavlou has traveled to Chicago from Normal, Illinois, every Humanities Day but one since 1997. She usually has several students as well as her own children in tow. “As an intellectually curious individual for whom learning is a lifelong pursuit, Humanities Day offers me the opportunity to engage with some of the greatest minds of our time,” she says. Over the years, she adds, several of her students were so “hooked” that they went on to attend the University. 

Admission to Humanities Day is free, but registration is required. Online registration and a complete schedule are available at http://humanitiesday.uchicago.edu. Visitors can also register on the day of the event beginning at 8:30 a.m. in Stuart Hall. 

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