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Humanities Festival Examines Many Facets of Gender

Humanities Festival Examines Many Facets of Gender

Posted: September 22, 2015

Wonder Woman, rebellious country singers, drag queens, and Shakespearean characters will be examined under the lens of gender during the second annual Buffalo Humanities Festival, held September 23–26 at Buffalo State, the Burchfield Penney Art Center, the Buffalo History Museum, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

The University at Buffalo’s Humanities Institute is presenting the festival that follows the theme “Gender Bender.” Along with Buffalo State, partners include SUNY Fredonia, Canisius College, Niagara University, the Burchfield Penney, the Albright-Knox, and the Buffalo History Museum.

Jill Lepore, New Yorker writer and Harvard professor, is the featured speaker on Friday, September 25, at 8:00 p.m. at the Albright-Knox. She will discuss her bestselling book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, including little-known facts about the superhero’s creator. Tickets are $20 for the general public and $15 for students.

On Saturday, September 26, participants can choose from among 15 lectures, conversations, and roundtables led by local faculty and experts, starting at 11:00 a.m. and running until 5:00 p.m. Presenters include four Buffalo State faculty members—feminist scholars Jennifer Hunt, associate professor of psychology, and Jennifer Ryan, associate professor of English, who will examine the gender messages of princesses and superheroes; John Draeger, associate professor of philosophy, who will discuss “Tough Guys and Sissies;” and Anthony Chase, assistant dean for the School of Arts and Humanities, who will lead a conversation with Buffalo drag performer Jimmy Janowski.

“Last year, the festival focused on migration, and this year, fittingly, we examine gender,” Chase said. “The festival provides a fun and thought-provoking venue for highlighting the humanities and showing its relevance in meaningful and immediate ways.”

Erik Seeman, director of the Humanities Institute, noted that this year’s theme originated from the rapid changes in the cultural landscape—from the Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage to the much publicized gender change of Olympic Gold medalist Bruce Jenner.

“Sex and gender—flexible, fluid, and changing—are perfect topics to explore through the humanities,” Seeman wrote in his message in the festival program.

Because last year’s festival, the first of its kind for the city, was such a success, the planning committee decided to extend this year’s festival to four days from the original two, Seeman said.

“We received terrific response from participants last year in our online follow-up survey,” he said. “Many pointed out that the presentations were at once sophisticated yet accessible, with the speakers taking pains to make their presentations fun, interactive, and educational.

This year’s festival promises to be more of the same.  It kicks off Wednesday, September 23, at 7:00 p.m. at the history museum with the lecture “Do Clothes Make the Man?” presented by Patrick McDevitt, associate professor of history at UB. This free event includes a reception and exhibit of the gendered nature of men’s fashions.

On Thursday, September 24, the Humanities Festival Book Group meets at 7:30 p.m. at Sweetness 7 Parkside, 301 Parkside Avenue, to discuss The Secret History of Wonder Woman. This event costs $8 and includes appetizers and one glass of wine, beer, or soft drink.

Other festival highlights for Saturday include scenes from Twelfth Night by Shakespeare in Delaware Park actors at 1:00 p.m. in the Burchfield Penney auditorium; a look at the injustices facing African American females presented by Lakisha Michelle Simmons, assistant professor of global gender studies at UB, at 3:00 p.m. in Ketchum Hall, 113; and a performance by alternative rock singer Alison Pipitone at 4:00 p.m. in the performance space outside of Rockwell Hall.

A day pass to all Saturday events costs $15 for the general public and $10 for students and includes a boxed lunch from the West Side Bazaar, if purchased on the Humanities Festival website by September 23. A combination ticket that includes Lepore’s lecture and a Saturday day pass is $30 for the general public and $20 for students. Registration takes place in the Burchfield Penney lobby beginning at 10:00 a.m.

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