Jonathan Lear named Roman Family Director of Neubauer Collegium

Susan Allen
News Officer for Arts and HumanitiesUniversity Communications

Philosopher Jonathan Lear has been appointed the Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, Provost Eric D. Isaacs announced.

Lear, the John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought, Philosophy and the College, has written on a broad range of topics that include the works of Aristotle and Freud, as well as Native American culture. He succeeds David Nirenberg, the Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Professor in Social Thought and Medieval History, who has led the Neubauer Collegium from its founding in 2012, and was named dean of the Social Sciences Division in June.

“Jonathan Lear is an extraordinary scholar whose work reflects the breadth of interest and innovative approach to questions of importance that is at the heart of the Neubauer Collegium’s mission,” Isaacs said. “We are delighted that he has agreed to lead the Neubauer Collegium in its next chapter.”

Isaacs appointed Lear after receiving input from faculty across the University, as well as consultation with Nirenberg and Martha Roth, dean of the Division of the Humanities and the Chauncey S. Boucher Distinguished Service Professor of Assyriology.

The Neubauer Collegium is currently home to 30 collaborative research projects that bring together scholars from across the University around the world. These projects, which range from one to three years, use the tools and methodologies of the humanities and humanistic social sciences to examine some of the most challenging questions facing contemporary society.

Projects so far have involved faculty members from every department in the divisions of Humanities and Social Sciences, and include a long-term study of a new government health insurance program in India to end-of-life care. Scholars associated with the Collegium have also investigated the fate of Iraq’s intelligentsia, the role of games in learning and the relationship between gesture and sign language.

Lear will build on that successful launch, according to Roth.

“In just two years, David and his staff worked with the faculty to make the Neubauer Collegium an international destination for scholars pursuing complex questions in the humanities and humanistic social sciences,” Roth said. “Jonathan is a remarkable scholar and leader, and I am confident the innovative work taking place at the Neubauer Collegium will deepen and expand under his care.”

Neubauer Collegium ‘in the finest traditions’ of UChicago

“The research projects of the Neubauer Collegium have never failed to surprise and fascinate me,” Nirenberg said. “If there is any consolation for leaving a job as intellectually exciting as the directorship of the Neubauer Collegium, it is leaving it in such good hands. Jonathan Lear’s expansive and agile intellect is the perfect match for Neubauer Collegium, whose ambitions stretch across so many questions, disciplines and methodologies.”

The Neubauer Collegium also offers a Visiting Fellows program to support short- and long-term collaborations between UChicago scholars and experts from other institutions. In addition, the Neubauer Collegium hosts public lectures, conferences and workshops aimed at sharing its work with the wider campus community and the public.

The Neubauer Collegium is named in honor of longtime UChicago supporters Joseph Neubauer, MBA’65, currently vice chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer. Their $26.5 million gift to the University in 2012 is among the largest in support of the humanities and social sciences in the institution’s history.

“The Neubauer Collegium is a new initiative in the finest traditions of the University of Chicago,” Lear said. “I look forward to working with colleagues throughout the University to shape it into a premier center for imaginative and deep research in the humanities and humanistic social sciences.”

Lear studies philosophical conceptions of the human psyche from Socrates to the present. A graduate of Yale University, Cambridge University and the Rockefeller University, he also trained as a psychoanalyst at the Western New England Institute for Psychoanalysis. Lear is a recipient of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

He has written extensively on the works of Aristotle, Socrates and Freud. He is also the author of Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation, a study of the collapse of the Crow nation, and, most recently, A Case for Irony, which argues for the value and therapeutic benefits of irony in human life.

At UChicago, he has taught courses on psychoanalysis, the works of Kierkegaard and Lacan, Plato’s Republic, and the idea of the soul.

He is the second person to hold the title of Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society. The title honors philanthropist and Man Group CEO Emmanuel Roman, MBA’87.

The 2014-2015 academic year will witness many significant lectures and milestones for the Neubauer Collegium. Economist Emmanuel Saez will deliver an Oct. 9 lecture inaugurating the Roman Family Directorship of the Collegium. The Neubauer Collegium’s new home at 5701 S. Woodlawn is expected to open this spring.