Chicago Humanities Festival Features University of Chicago Scholars, Artists

For the second consecutive year, the citywide Chicago Humanities Festival will return to the place that it inspired it all: the University of Chicago.

The Chicago Humanities Festival will showcase several of the University's scholars, scientists, and artists during its "Hyde Park Day" on Saturday, Oct. 11. Economist Gary Becker, anthropologist Michael Silverstein, computer scientist Ian Foster and philosopher William Wimsatt are just a few of the University's participants.

The Chicago Humanities Festival's day in Hyde Park-a part of this year's "Thinking Big" theme-will create a second opportunity to see and hear some of the University's leading scholars in October. The Chicago Humanities Festival's Hyde Park Day is just two weeks before the University's annual Humanities Day on Oct. 25. Humanities Day, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year, inspired the citywide Humanities Festival, which runs from Oct. 3 to Nov. 16.

Some highlights of the Chicago Humanities Festival's second visit to Hyde Park:

  • Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker, University Professor Economics and Sociology, will give the keynote. 10 a.m. Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St.
  • Ian Foster, the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor in Computer Science, will discuss the explosion of online information. Foster, Director of the University's Computation Institute, will show how technology, such as super-computers and massive data sets, is revolutionizing how knowledge is generated and used. 11 a.m. Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St., third floor
  • Michael Silverstein, the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor in Anthropology and Linguistics, will moderate a conversation on the multitude of meanings of the Tower of Babel. The discussion will span architecture, art history, Assyriology, anthropology and linguistics and will feature Pauline Saliga, executive director of the Society of Architectural Historians; art history graduate student Ingrid Greenfield; Seth Richardson, Assistant Professor in the Oriental Institute; and John Kelly, Professor of Anthropology. 11:30 a.m., Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St., third floor
  • Authors Orville Schell and Deirdre Chetham will discuss the various impacts-human, cultural, environmental and political-of China's Three Gorges Dam. Immediately after the discussion, Anthony Hirschel, Director of the Smart Museum of Art, will take visitors on a tour of the Smart's new exhibit, "Displacement: The Three Gorges Dam and Contemporary Chinese Art." Noon, Cochrane-Woods Art Center, 5540 S. Greenwood Ave.
  • With an eye on Chicago's upcoming bid to host the 2016 Games, Olympic historian John MacAloon, Academic Associate Dean in the Social Science Division, will discuss the Chicago's Olympic bid and the modern Olympic Games' future. 1 p.m. Max Palevsky Cinema, Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St., first floor.
  • William Wimsatt, Professor of Philosophy, will moderate a discussion of scientists, engineers and philosophers on "emergence"-the way that seemingly unrelated actions create astonishing complexity and patterns. Participants will include University of Pittsburgh philosopher Sandra Mitchell, Nobel Prize-winning Stanford physicist Robert Laughlin and Mark Hereld of the Futures Lab of the University's Computation Institute. 2:30 p.m. Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St., third-floor theater.
  • Charles Newell, Court Theatre's artistic director, will lead a pre-performance discussion of Tony Kushner's play, "Caroline, or Change," which is running at the theatre through Oct. 19. The conversation will include several scholars, including Michael Dawson, the John D. MacArthur Distinguished Service Professor in Political Science. 5:30 - 6:30 p.m., Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Avenue.
  • The University of Chicago Presents will close its 10-day tribute to French composer Olivier Messiaen with its artists-in-residence, the Pacifica Quartet. The award-winning group will perform works by three composers (Ravel, Berg, and Beethoven) whose music resonated deeply with Messiaen. 6 p.m, Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St.

The Hyde Park events are among the first of the Chicago Humanities Festival's season. The festival's theme, "Thinking Big," considers human ambition-the glory (and sometimes folly) of the human pursuit of the grand gesture, the great scheme, the Big Idea. Through the disciplines of visual art, literature, music, film, philosophy, cultural criticism, history, science and performance, the festival will explore the sweep and shape of Big Ideas from across cultures and throughout history.

The events will take place at the University and nearby sites. Tickets start at $5 and are available by calling (312) 494-9509 or through For more information on the Humanities Division's 30th annual Humanities Day, visit

The University's one-day celebration will take place on the Hyde Park campus. Admission is free; however, seating is limited and registration is recommended.