Public Program

  • Office Space: The History Behind our Modern Workaday Existence
    Nikil Saval
    UIC Forum, Main Hall C, Chicago
    Nov 07, 2015
    Chicago Humanities Festival

The roster of the 2015 fall season presented by the Chicago Humanities Festival includes a program featuring the secret history of the workplace. As any worker bee knows, the beige modularity and low-slung fluorescent lights of today's offices are hardly inspiring. But Nikil Saval's literary flair and fascinating research reveal the intrigue lurking in the spaces where we spend our 9 to 5 lives. From the clerks in Herman Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener" to the design of Herman Miller desk chairs, Saval traces the surprising and illuminating history behind the modern work environment.

Nikil Saval is an editor of the New York-based literary magazine n+1, and lives in Philadelphia. His first book Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace, explores the long-term rise of the office from its roots in nineteenth-century "counting houses" to contemporary "cubicles" where sixty percent of Americans work, and analyzes how such workplaces could be improved in the future.

Alison Cuddy, associate artistic director, joined the CHF staff in May 2014. Before coming to the Festival, she spent more than ten years at WBEZ 91.5 FM, the NPR affiliate in Chicago. There, she helped launched Odyssey, a nationally syndicated talk show of arts and ideas, hosted the morning newsmagazine Eight Forty-Eight, and reported on arts and culture. Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Cuddy moved to Chicago in 1999. She holds an MA in English from the University of Pittsburgh, and a BA in Cinema Studies from Concordia University, Montreal. She is on the advisory boards of the Chicago Film Archive and The Moth, and currently hosts Strange Brews, a podcast about the culture and community around craft beer.

The Chicago Humanities Festival (CHF) celebrates the questions that shape and define us as individuals and communities with year-round programs that explore a breadth of fields—from art to literature, history to anthropology. CHF was the first organization of its kind when it was founded in 1989 and continues to connect the brilliant minds of our time—artists and scholars, poets, and policy makers—with passionate audiences.