Past Event

Deconstructing the Latke-Hamantash Debate

First held at the University of Chicago in 1946, the annual Latke-Hamantash Debate has spawned a series of successors at universities and colleges nationwide and remains a mainstay of the campus calendar.

These humorous academic debates, sponsored by the Newberger Hillel Center, feature University of Chicago professors in full regalia arguing the relative merits of two of the greatest culinary achievements of all time: latkes (a kind of potato cake) and hamantashen (a triangular wheat-flour pastry with a sweet filling). Although no one has ever won the debate, a colorful cast of characters has campaigned mightily, displaying sincere devotion even while heartily lampooning academic seriousness.

Why does the debate have such relevance for generations of debaters and audience alike? Most importantly, will this special edition, complete with “greatest hits,” settle the latke-hamantash question once and for all?

About the Participants

  • Philip Gossett is professor of music at the University of Chicago and at the University of Rome “La Sapienza.” He is general editor of The Works of Giuseppe Verdi and of The Works of Gioachino Rossini, and author of Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera. He collaborates with singers such as Patricia Cioffi, Joyce Di Donato, Renée Fleming, Vivica Genaux, and Juan Diego Florez. His work was recently recognized by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
  • Ted Cohen is professor in philosophy at the University of Chicago and a member of the Committees on Art and Design and General Studies in the Humanities. He received his A.B. from the University of Chicago in 1962, his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1972, and has taught at the University of Chicago since 1967. Cohen works mainly in the philosophy of art. Among his recent publications are the book Jokes and the essays “Identifying with Metaphor,” “Metaphor, Feeling, and Narrative,” and “Three Problems in Kant’s Aesthetics.”
  • James Shapiro received his BA in English literature from Harvard College and his PhD in genetics from Cambridge University, where he held a Marshall Scholarship. Since 1973, he has been on the faculty of the University of Chicago, where he is professor of microbiology in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology. A Fellow of the AAAS, he received an OBE from Queen Elizabeth in 2001 for his work on Marshall Scholarships.

Nearby street parking is available. Campus parking lots are free for visitors on weekends. Parking is also available at 5500 S Ellis Ave.

This event is part of the Chicago Humanities Festival’s (CHF) annual fall festival. For more information, please visit the CHF’s website.