The Division of the Humanities introduces nine professors in seven departments.

Melissa Baese-Berk, associate professor in Linguistics, is a phonology expert who studies the way we understand, produce, and learn spoken language, with an emphasis on second-language acquisition. Her current projects examine communication between health-care providers and aging patients, as well as the relationship between perception (listening) and production (speaking) among learners of second languages. She was previously a linguistics professor and an associate dean at the University of Oregon. Among her several research and teaching awards, she is the first person in the UO’s history to win simultaneous awards for distinguished teaching and for undergraduate teaching. Her PhD in linguistics is from Northwestern, where she also received a certificate in cognitive science, and her BA—with concentrations in linguistics as well as in violin performance—is from Boston University.

Baese-Berk’s work draws on concepts from psychology, cognitive science, and communication sciences. In addition to having published extensively in peer-reviewed journals, she has contributed to several book chapters: “Acoustic Theories of Speech Perception” in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics (forthcoming); “Perceptual Learning of Accented Speech” in The Handbook of Speech Perception, 2nd Edition (Wiley-Blackwell, 2021); and “Variability in Speaking Rate of Native and Nonnative Speech” in Second Language Speech Learning: Theoretical and Empirical Progress (University of Cambridge Press, 2021). She has also shared her scholarship in public-facing venues such as “Learning to Understand Accented English” for TEDxUOregon and podcast appearances. Her research has been extensively supported by grants, including major awards from the National Science Foundation and the James S. McDonnell Foundation.

Katherine Buse joins the Cinema and Media Studies faculty as assistant professor following a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute on the Formation of Knowledge. Her PhD, from the University of California, Davis, is in English with an emphasis in science and technology studies. She also holds an MPhil in criticism and culture from the University of Cambridge, an MA in science fiction studies from the University of Liverpool, and a BA in English from Duke University. Her current book project, “Speculative Planetology: Science, Culture, and the Building of Model Worlds,” explores how science fiction might help us understand climate science and climate futures.

While the influence of real-world scientific study on science fiction is generally accepted as commonplace, Buse identifies ways that science fiction has in turn shaped the way scientific research is produced and communicated with the public—such as how climate models share features of planet-focused science fiction stories and how computer graphics from film and video games have informed models for atmospheric physics. Her scholarship, which draws on popular media such as the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the video game SimEarth, also informs her practice as a designer of video games and game storylines.

Mari Eastman, assistant professor in Visual Arts, is a painter who also works in installation and collage. Her paintings attempt to find a confluence between pop culture and fine art by borrowing imagery from advertisements, media, decorative art, and the art history canon. Eastman received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and her BA from Smith College; she also studied at the Chautauqua School of Art. In addition to her previous faculty position at SAIC, she has taught at the University of Southern California, Otis College of Art and Design, and UCLA. She has exhibited her work extensively since 1997, most recently at Goldfinch in Chicago and the Green Gallery in Milwaukee.

While some of Eastman’s paintings are quite small (around 8" × 10") and made from photographs, she works at larger scales as well, combining photographic source material with imagery from her own memory and imagination. She often incorporates collaged paper and glitter into her works and sometimes extends her mark-making beyond the canvas onto the wall of the gallery space. Her pieces are part of the public collections of the Hammer Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Smith College Museum of Art, and the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Jacobé Huet is an assistant professor of modern architectural history in Art History, joining UChicago from a faculty position at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. She is currently completing the manuscript for her first book, which revisits the white cube as a fundamental motif of architectural modernism. While historians and theorists have consistently associated white and cubical modernist designs with machine-age aesthetics, Huet reframes this formula as emerging from European architects’ extensive visits to Greek island villages and North African medinas. In conjunction with her investigation of these architects’ appropriation of Mediterranean vernacular, Huet examines how various Mediterranean figures who were engaged in vernacular discourses forcefully responded to the modernist usurpation of their architectural heritage. Her BA is from the Sorbonne, and she earned an MA in art history from Williams College in addition to a PhD in history and theory of architecture from Harvard.

Several of Huet’s article-length inquiries have appeared in journals and edited volumes. She is currently working on an edited volume chapter titled “Architectural Elusion and Colonialism in Albert Camus’s ‘La maison mauresque’” (Brill, 2025). Huet argues that Camus’s treatment of Algerian residential architecture in “La maison mauresque” is highly paradoxical. While the title of this 1933 essay suggests a focus on a generic “Moorish” house, the text barely examines local dwellings. Indeed, Camus consistently supplants expected descriptions of residential architecture with vignettes depicting public spaces and landscapes in and around Algiers, thus relating Algerian houses as ever-eluding spaces. For instance, the segment of his text titled “The Entrance” presents the reader with an extended view of the old city’s cubic volumes cascading toward the Mediterranean Sea. Similarly, another segment titled “The Corridor” does not describe circulatory patterns inside a residence but rather recalls a rainy day in a public garden, thus entirely forgoing the maison. Huet defines Camus’s avoidant narration of Algerian residences as an anti-ekphrasis and argues that this gesture of elusion is aligned with French colonial perceptions of Algerian dwellings. She uses colonial scholarship, Orientalist postcards, and French architectural journals populating Camus’s historical realm to locate his vision within a broader colonial gaze on Algerian vernacular spaces. This inquiry is representative of Huets strong interest in architectural occurrences in non-architectural cultural objects, including literature.

Mikayla Kelley joins Philosophy as an assistant professor specializing in philosophy of action and formal epistemology. She received a PhD in philosophy from Stanford and an MA in mathematics from University of California, Berkeley; her BA—also in mathematics—is from University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is interested in fundamental questions about the nature of action, including the relationship between intentional action and knowledge and the centrality of intentional action to ethical life. She is also pursuing a research program in formal epistemology that seeks to generalize accuracy-first epistemology, which takes accuracy to be the fundamental source of epistemic value.

In her dissertation she developed the Control Theory of Action, specifying conditions under which a movement counts as an action. Kelley aims to extend the Control Theory of Action to a theory of group and institutional control and action, as well as to a unified philosophical theory of control in all its guises. Her other research interests include metaethics and social choice theory. She is currently working on a defense of robust metaethical realism, the view that there are objective ethical facts.

Thomas Pendlebury is an assistant professor in Philosophy who was previously on the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh. His research focuses on Kant’s attempts to understand human beings as rational animals—beings with reason who nevertheless are bound by their natural constitution—and, in particular, on Kant’s conception of the relationship between our intellectual and our sensible capacities. Pendlebury’s PhD and master’s in philosophy are from Harvard; he was also a visiting doctoral fellow at the University of Leipzig’s Research Center for Analytic German Idealism as well as a graduate exchange scholar in philosophy at University of California, Berkeley. He received a BA with highest honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a secondary major in linguistics.

In addition to his research on Kant’s critical philosophy and its connection to the broader philosophy of early modern Europe, Pendlebury also studies post-Kantian German idealism, including Hegel’s reaction to Kant. He has explored these ideas in publications that include “The Shape of the Kantian Mind” (in the journal Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 2022), “The Real Problem of Pure Reason” (European Journal of Philosophy, 2022), and “The Rational Faculty of Desire” (with Jeremy David Fix; forthcoming in the edited edition Reason, Agency, and Ethics: Kantian Themes in Contemporary Debates from Oxford University Press). His dissertation, “The Grounds of Sense: Kant’s Image of Theoretical Finitude,” was awarded the Adams Prize by Harvard’s philosophy department.

Robyn Schiff, professor in English Language and Literature and the Program in Creative Writing, holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She also received an MA in medieval studies from the University of Bristol and a BA in liberal arts from Sarah Lawrence College. She joins UChicago from the faculty at Emory University and previously taught at Iowa, Northwestern, and the University of Oregon. Schiff has published four poetry collections: Worth (2002) and Revolver (2008) with University of Iowa Press; A Woman of Property (Penguin, 2016), which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was on the year’s “Best Books of Poetry” list of both the New Yorker and the Chicago Tribune; and Information Desk: An Epic, which was published by Penguin this past summer. Information Desk is a book-length poem that draws on her experiences fielding questions for the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a young adult.

Schiff has been recognized with numerous awards, most recently a MacDowell Poetry Fellowship, a residency at Yaddo, and the American Academy in Rome’s Joseph Brodsky Prize in Literature. Her work was featured in The Cambridge Companion to Twenty-First-Century American Poetry (2021), which lauded her contributions to the feminist movement among contemporary poets; in The Poem Is You: 60 Contemporary American Poems and How to Read Them (Harvard University Press, 2016); and in Changing Subjects: Digressions in Modern American Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2012), in a chapter authored by Srikanth “Chicu” Reddy, now her colleague in English. She has also served as the coeditor of Canarium Books, an independent poetry press, since 2008.

Mehrnoush Soroush is an assistant professor of landscape archaeology in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures and serves as the director of the Center for Ancient Middle Eastern Landscapes (CAMEL) Lab. She previously taught at the University of Akron and was a fellow in Harvard’s Department of Anthropology and Center for Geographic Analysis. Her PhD and MPhil are from New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, and she holds a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Tehran as well as a diploma in mathematics and physics from the National Organization for Development of Exceptional Talents in Ahwaz, Iran. Her research uses archaeological fieldwork, remote sensing, and textual analysis to study the intersection between urban and water history in the Ancient Near East, particularly the extent to which the resilience of ancient cities was tied to their ability to adapt to environmental changes and sociopolitical developments through new hydraulic strategies and technologies.

Soroush has previously conducted fieldwork in Oman, Turkey, and Iran. Since 2012, she has been a member—and most recently the associate director—of the Erbil Plain Archaeological Survey (EPAS) in the Kurdistan Governate of Iraq, for which she has served as associate director since 2021. She recently received funding from the UChicago Women’s Board for a multiyear project that aims to provide professional development for Kurdish-Iraqi women archaeologists by employing them to help create a ceramic typology (a reference catalogue of all known types of ceramic artifacts) for the late pre-Islamic and Islamic periods. In addition to nudging the discipline toward gender parity, this initiative will shed light on the pottery of Iraq’s medieval and Islamic periods, which historically have been overlooked by Western scholars who tend to focus on early civilization and ancient empires.

A. E. Stevenson, AB’15, returns to UChicago as an assistant professor in Cinema and Media Studies. Her PhD and MA in cinema and media studies are from UCLA, and she received her bachelor’s degree in the Department of Art History. She was previously an assistant professor of Black feminist studies at the University of Southern California. Her current book project, “Sites of Fabulation: Scenes of a Black Online Social Life,” looks at TikTok, Instagram, and Vine to consider how Black women and girls have shaped the culture, syntax, and visual language of the internet since 2013, arguing that their contributions have been foundational to contemporary online aesthetics despite the tendency toward Black erasure in discussions of digital media.

Stevenson’s next project, “Tensed to the Future: Phenomenology and Black Women’s Audiovisual Experiments,” explores the work of Black feminist artists like Kathleen Collins, Sanaa Hamri, Solange Knowles, Ja’Tovia Gary, Simone Leigh, and Sondra Perry through theories of time and embodiment. Some of this work is reflected in a recent journal article, “A Sleight of Hair: Chaotic Strands of Embodiment in Hamri’s Something New (Feminist Media Histories, 2020), which argues that the embodied realities of Black women’s hair complicate postfeminist romantic comedies. More broadly, her scholarship looks at Black female aesthetic representations in music videos, social media, and the cinematic, as well as media representations of body horror and Black feminist phenomenology, to connect and continue Black feminist theories of knowledge within Black studies, media studies, and philosophy.

Photo Creds: 
Photography by John Zich