Divine Anthropomorphism in the Pentateuch

In response to Joel Baden’s Twitter thread about P, I am posting the PDF of my dissertation here (Knafl, Anne Katherine. Forms of God, Forming God: A Typology of Divine Anthropomorphism in the Pentateuch. PhD Dissertation, University of Chicago, 2011). It is also available through my academia.edu profile.

You can purchase a copy of the revised, published version through Eisenbrauns. Or you can ask your local library to purchase a copy. It is available in print through the publisher or as an ebook through Ebsco.

This is happening

Original post March 20, 2020. Edit added March 22, 2020.

To all the administrators out there I just want to say, This is happening.

J.B. Pritzker, the governor of Illinois, just issued a statewide “shelter in place” order until April 7. Thirty minutes before, I received an email inviting me a faculty meeting over Zoom.

This is a global pandemic. This is the end of business as usual. Everything is shutting down. Please stop asking us to do our jobs as if this doesn’t change everything.

My kids are having panic attacks. My spouse and I have lost our appetites from stress. We had to tell our kids that they have to be extra careful when they play because we can’t take them to the hospital if they are hurt. We have to face the reality that this moment will shape their childhood forever. This may be the earliest memories our 5 year old retains. This will almost certainly be the first time for our children that someone they know dies.

So, administrators, we need you to get your shit together and face up to the fact that this is happening. No more Zoom trainings. No more Outlook Teams meetings. No more massive emails outlining halfway responses and plans that are changed 24 hours later. No more prepping for Spring courses. No more assuming Spring courses will (or should) happen.

Because what is happening is a global pandemic. As educators, I believe we have a crucial role to play. But, please, we need time and space to learn what that role will be. We also need you to leave us the fuck alone for 5 goddamn minutes to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. So no, I will not be joining the Zoom meeting.

Edit: I wrote this is a moment of anger and despair. Reading it over now, I see that I’ve set up an us vs. them. I don’t want that. I understand that some of us are coping with this through work. It’s just that many of us don’t have that as an option. And I know that a lot of administrators are being asked to make impossible choices. Please involve the people affected by these choices in decision making. Trust us. I think we all need to take a step back and give ourselves and others space to mourn what we’ve lost and time to process the “new normal.” I am trying to be compassionate to all my co-workers and to myself.

Read/Write/Publish: Hitting Our Stride

By Anne K. Knafl, Bibliographer for Religion, Philosophy, and Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago Library. Anne facilitates the Read/Write/Publish group with her colleagues Holiday Vega and Stacie Williams.

Our second meeting had tacos!

It’s been two months since our first meeting. We’ve met four times. Twenty people have actively participated. Most have participated twice or more, either attending a meeting or engaging through our Slack channel or email reflector. We have 32 members on the Slack channel and 13 people on the email reflector. We’ve settled on a good schedule for meetings that is both consistent and flexible. We’re sending group meeting requests via the reflector to ensure meeting times get on peoples’ calendar and posting our schedule on our intranet news feed. There’s a lot of interest from staff who haven’t been able to participate directly. We’ve got 16 librarians signed on to support our proposal to use our monthly Librarians’ Forum meeting for a RWP session. I think it’s fair to say that we’ve hit our stride and that’s really exciting.

We switched from a private to a public Slack channel so that anyone can join. The switch to a public channel is a little stressful. Ours is a very hierarchical organization. Lots of us feel uncomfortable or even afraid to disagree with our supervisors. Add to that a lack of transparency around policies and their implementation and opening up about your research, interests, and concerns can feel like walking through a mine field. But we decided it was more important to have a channel that anyone can join. People can make their own decisions this way and participate to their level of comfort. We hope that those of us who do choose to share our projects, concerns, and questions can serve to model the open, supportive, non-judgmental work environment we’re striving for. That said, maybe we need some ground rules for what we share on Slack. We’ve been reporting what people are reading and their projects from the meetings on the Slack channel. We should announce that at the start of our meetings for transparency.

Our plan is to meet every second Monday outside the Regenstein Library and every fourth Friday on the A-level of the Reg and always 12-2pm. The goal is to have a predictable schedule that people can put in a calendar but with enough variation to accommodate as many schedules as possible. We’re sticking with the 12-2pm slot since many staff don’t have the flexibility to meet outside their lunch break. We’ve been lucky to have a colleague fund food for two of our Friday meetings. It’d be great if we could get permanent funding for food.

The meeting structure has been very informal; maybe a bit too much. It’s hard to balance a desire to share and socialize with providing time to read and research. It’s also hard to stop talking. Maybe because we work in a library and so much of our work is relational. Maybe there’s some nervous talking as we get comfortable with each other and being quiet together. We’re working to adhere to a stricter schedule: 10-15 minutes to share what we’re working on and the rest of the time spent working on it. Our discussions have confirmed what we thought when we started: we all struggle to make time to read, write, and publish. The goal of the group is to give people time.

Ideally, we can support a space where people can choose how to spend their time based on what they need that day. This happened organically at our last meeting. Someone shared that they were struggling to keep up with their Computer Science classes while working full-time. A little later, someone who’d completed a similar program arrived. The two of them started a conversation, which lead to sharing about local coding groups (Write/Speak/Code, Women Who Code, and Girl Develop It). On the other side of the room, a conversation started about the Slow Scholarship Movement and getting back into reading after a long break. At the same time, the rest of us settled in to our reading. People came and went and soon it was just the sound of typing, page turning, and munching pita chips. It was like magic.

Some of what we’re reading

Mountz, Alison & Bonds, Anne & Mansfield, Becky & Loyd, Jenna & Hyndman, Jennifer & Walton-Roberts, Margaret & Basu, Ranu & Whitson, Risa & Hawkins, Roberta & Hamilton, Trina & Curran, Winifred. (2015). For Slow Scholarship: A Feminist Politics of Resistance through Collective Action in the Neoliberal University. ACME, International E-journal for Critical Geographies. Forthcoming.

McCartin, L., & Dineen, R. (2018). Toward a critical-inclusive assessment practice for library instruction. Sacramento, CA: Library Juice Press.

Books about women’s careers in United States in the 19th century

An unpublished will from 1816 for a transcription project

The Basecamp Guide to Internal Communication

Deloria, V. (1970). We talk, you listen: New tribes, new turf. New York: The Macmillan Company.

Hahn Tapper, A. J. (. J., & Sucharov, M. (2019). Social justice and Israel/Palestine: Foundational and contemporary debates. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Diverse Books & Open Conversations

Guest post by Holiday Vega

On Thursday, January 16th 2020 the University of Chicago Library hosted our first book discussion as part of our new Diverse Books & Open Conversations initiative. We hope that this group provides a space for the UChicago community to engage in critical discussion around diversity and inclusion. Our first book was There, There by Tommy Orange, a fiction book about “Urban Indians” centered mainly in Oakland. (Trigger Warning: some discussion of sexual assault and domestic violence.)

Orange, Tommy. There There. First edition. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018.

One reader started the conversation around the experience of reading the book, and the medium through which we read the book. She had listened to the audiobook, as had I, and she articulated very much the same experience that I had with the audiobook: The audiobook narrators are wonderful, but because the book has so many characters and so many interwoven stories, it was difficult to connect them all. I even had an electronic copy of the book on the Libby app and it was still too disjointed in that format. Those who read the physical book and were able to easily flip back and forth across the pages of the book had an easier time keeping track and connecting the stories together.

Louise Rosenblatt, though the first to discuss the importance of the reader’s perception in the meaning of a text (Rosenblatt, 1960), may not have imagined the implications for readers who engage with the text differently when they experience it in different formats. As readers, we bring our own experiences and perceptions of the world into the works we are reading (or listening to). So the meaning we take from a work may not be what the author intended, or even what other readers understand the work to mean. And I for one am fascinated by how the format with which we experience a book impacts our perception of that book.

As the discussion went on, we shared our thoughts about the book. We had many different points of view with some aspects of the book we all agreed on, and other aspects we had several different, and at times conflicting, thoughts about. We all agreed that There, There tackles the concept of identity and cultural history among Native people living in a city very well. Though we each remembered different moments in the book that indicated the significance of regalia, with one reader discussing the regalia as being of such importance as it begins and ends the book. Another participant believed the most important moment with regalia was the point in the book where one Native character put on the regalia and felt as though he was “pretending” to be Indian, as he wasn’t raised learning about his culture. And yet another discussed the moment a character talks about hating a particular color in a family member’s regalia, and how much she (the character) hates that color, as being a significant moment in the book.

The internet as portrayed in the book also sparked an interesting conversation among the attendees and was a moment of contention in the discussion. Some readers felt that the internet is a negative force in our world, disconnecting people and having detrimental impacts on their health and wellbeing. Other readers felt the book showed the ways the internet helped the Native people in the book connect with their own identity and with each other. And still others felt that the internet has both beneficial and harmful effects, depending on how it’s used.

Another meaningful part of the discussion was around the female characters in the book and how they were portrayed. A few members of the discussion felt that the female characters felt off compared to how the male characters were written. Another reader stated that the experiences of the female characters as victims of rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence didn’t ring true. And while some disagreed and felt that the characters were portrayed as having an accurate response to trauma, another reader felt that the female experience was not well portrayed but it was made up for in how well the author wrote the male characters, especially the teenage boys in the book.

Overall, this first book discussion led to a fascinating discussion on identity, cultural awareness, systems of oppression, and how people of color and women are marginalized in our society.

We also talked about books we’re reading now, and future book ideas for the next discussion. Please vote on our next book selection and stay tuned on when the next discussion will be held!


Orange, T. (2018). There, There. New York, NY: Penguin Random House.

Rosenblatt, L. M. (1960). Literature: The reader’s role. The English Journal, 49(5), 304. https://doi.org/10.2307/810700

Read, Write, Publish

Today was the inaugural meeting of the Read/Write/Publish group at the University of Chicago Library. This represents two years of organizing, collaborating, and connecting with my library colleagues. It is my (latest) attempt to bring together library people to talk about library stuff: the good and the bad. It has been surprisingly difficult to create spaces where we can have these conversations. We are overworked, we are under-supported, we are worried that we aren’t supposed to talk about these things on work time. We are also a group that rarely engages librarianship critically. There are many of us doing exciting work to advance library science and to improve our library but often in isolation or siloed within a specific department or space in the building.

We met in the collaborative study space on the A-Level of the Reg because my colleague Stacie Williams believes it’s important for everyone to see librarians doing research. We met over lunch for our colleagues who have to get permission from their supervisor to attend events during work time. We stayed until 2pm for our colleagues who don’t want to work over lunch. We held a simultaneous Slack chat for our colleagues who wanted to participate but couldn’t physically attend. We created an email reflector for our colleagues who don’t use Slack. We brought print books to show each other because my colleague Holiday Vega believes that it’s not enough to talk about what influences your practice you need to show people.

We talked about how we divide our time, our writing, what we’re reading, what we hope to read, what we’ve published, what we dream of publishing. We talked about how we don’t feel comfortable being seen reading a physical book at work since people might think we’re not doing “real” work. We talked about when we will meet next and what we’re going to read, write, and publish before then.

The library is not a neutral place and we are not neutral actors within it. The goal of this group is to make space. The goal is to provide time for us to reflect on what it means to work in a library. The goal is to read, to write, and to publish because our voices are important and these conversations are needed.

Anne K. Knafl is the Bibliographer for Religion, Philosophy, and Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago Library. Follow her on Twitter @aknafl and on Instagram @4th_floor_librarians.

The Old University of Chicago in the New: The Library

By Anne K. Knafl and Nancy Spiegel

This article is based on research by the authors for an exhibit at the Regenstein Library, which was later developed into a web exhibit “‘A Case for Reparations at the University of Chicago’: Sources.” We would like to thank Caine Jordan, Guy Emerson Mount, and Kai Parker of the Reparations at University of Chicago Working Group (RAUC) for partnering with us to create this exhibit. And thanks to Guy Mount, who gave us the idea to locate the original library of the old University of Chicago in the first place.


The University of Chicago was incorporated in 1856 on ten acres of land at 35th and Cottage Grove, donated by Senator Stephan A. Douglas.[1] The first classes were held on September 9, 1858. Like any “Institution of learning, of high order,” the newly formed University possessed a library. In their annual catalogue for 1859-60, the University reports their Library has 2,000 volumes and a librarian, the Hon. J.Y. Scammon.[2] Early on, its library was notable for is collection of public documents, believed to have also been donated by Stephan A. Douglas.[3] Over the next twenty-seven years, the University grew its collection to approximately 7,000 volumes.[4] These 7,000 volumes formed the basis of the library of the University when it was reestablished in Hyde Park in 1890. They represent a physical connection between the Old University of Chicago in Bronzeville and the “New” University of Chicago that exists today.

When the original University closed in 1886, trustee John A. Reichelt purchased the entire collection with the intention of gifting it back to the University once reincorporated. The “new” University of Chicago acknowledged this contribution in their University Record of 1890, “To Mr. Reichelt, who thus by faith bridged the black and yawning chasm between the Old University and the New, belongs, by virtue of a gift to an institution not yet born, the honorable title of the first ‘benefactor’ of the University of Chicago.”[5] Calling Reichelt the “first benefactor” of the University obscures the interconnectedness of Old and New. Reichelt was a trustee of the original University of Chicago, who acted with his own interests in mind in his work to secure an asset of the University and ensure its safe return to its original owner.

In the interim between Old and New University of Chicago, the books were held by the Baptist Union Theological Seminary in Morgan Park, IL. The Seminary reports, “The library of the University of Chicago…has been purchased by J.A. Reichelt, Esq., and is, at present, in the possession of the Seminary.”[6] Reichelt entrusted his donation to the Seminary due to the historically close relationship between the two institutions. It was, in fact, not the first time the University and the Seminary had collaborated to purchase and process a book collection.

The Baptist Union Theological Seminary received its charter in 1863. The Seminary began by providing theological education to students at the University interested in a career in ministry. In 1865, “Dr. Nethanial Colver gave some lectures to a few students in the University…and in the fall of 1866, assisted by Rev. J.C.C. Clarke, began more regular instruction with eight or ten students.”[7] The Old University and the Seminary operated under separate charters, but both were run by the Baptist Theological Union, who saw their missions as complementary. For the first twelve years, the Seminary and the University overlapped extensively. This included sharing their neighboring campuses. Students at each institution were allowed to take classes at either institution and Seminary students could use the University library, since there appears to have been no dedicated space for a library at the Seminary.[8]

In 1869, University trustee W.W. Everts raised $60,000 to facilitate the purchase of the famed Hengstenberg Collection for the Seminary.[9] His son negotiated the initial agreement. Because the Seminary lacked a library, the collection of 12,000 volumes was “placed in the University buildings” that same year.[10] Entrusting a $60,000 collection to the University reflects the interconnectedness of the two institutions. The University was able to leverage its resources to raise the money for the Hengstenberg Collection and hold the collection until the Seminary was able to accept it. In their 1870-71 Annual Catalogue, the Seminary acknowledges this joint endeavor, “The library of the late Dr. Hengstenberg, of Berlin, though not the exclusive property of the Seminary, has recently been deposited where it is readily accessible to both the professors and students.”[11] The University likewise includes the Hengstenberg library as an asset in their annual catalogues from 1869 through 1875, after which the Seminary moves to Morgan Park, taking Hengstenberg’s collection with it.[12]

On April 7, 1886 (three months before the old University closed), Thomas Goodspeed wrote John D. Rockefeller to update him on plans to reopen the bankrupted University. “We [Drs. Northrup and Goodspeed] have proposed to Dr. Harper to assume the Presidency of our wrecked and ruined University…”[13] Harper represented the connection between the old and the new, the Seminary and the University. Goodspeed explains the interconnected fates of the Seminary and the University. “We could easily excuse ourselves and say ‘we are only responsible for the Seminary and others must look after the University’. But we are not able to do this, and feel as great an anxiety about our University work as about the Seminary. Indeed the University is necessary to train students for us. We are getting our own work on solid ground and we cannot sit down and congratulate ourselves and see the University perish.”[14]

Part of John D. Rockefeller’s patronage included the condition that the Baptist seminary in Morgan Park be relocated to Hyde Park and become the Divinity School. Doing so ensured that the Seminary library of approximately 25,000 volumes, including the Hengstenberg collection, as well as the additional 7,000 volumes from the Old University of Chicago library in the Seminary’s possession, would belong to the University. The Old University Library was valued at $8,000 and counted among the $400,000 matching donations that Rockefeller stipulated that the founders raise.[15] When the “new” University of Chicago reopened in 1890, these books formed the collection for the University of Chicago “Libraries,” now encompassing a group of general and departmental libraries. In 1890, the first librarian of the new University of Chicago, Zella Allen Dixson, began processing the books.[16] The original 7,000 volumes were dispersed amongst these various libraries based on their subject, a majority going to the general collection housed in Haskell Hall. Many of these books can be found on the shelves of the Joseph Regenstein Library today, some bearing their original bookplates from the Old University of Chicago Library; a tangible link between the old and the new.

[1] For a history of the “old” University of Chicago, and its connection to profit made from slave labor, see C. Jordan, G. Mount, and K. Parker. “A Case for Reparations at the University of Chicago,” The Reparations at UChicago Working Group paper, University of Chicago, US History Workshop, May 2017. The paper was originally distributed as part of a guest post on Black Perspectives on May 22, 2017. It was later expanded and published as “‘A Disgrace to all slave-holders’: The University of Chicago’s Founding Ties to Slavery and the Path to Reparations.” The Journal of African American History 103, no.1-2 (2018): 163-178. For a detailed history of the connections between the old and new University of Chicago, see John Boyer, The University of Chicago: A History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015), 5-65.

[2] University of Chicago. Annual catalogue. (Chicago: Church, Goodman & Cushing, 1860), 23, which is part of Old University of Chicago Records, Box 5, Folder 1, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library. For a brief history of the founding of the University, see p.33-34. See page 6 for the mention of the librarian. Jonathan Young Scammon (1812-1890) was a lawyer and abolitionist, believed to have been active in the Underground Railroad. As well as the Old University’s first librarian, Scammon was a regent and active donor. He donated the money to build Dearborn Observatory, which relocated to Northwestern University after Old University of Chicago closed. (Edgar J. Goodspeed, “The Old University of Chicago in 1867,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984), Vol. 3, No. 2 [Jul., 1910], 53.) After his death, Scammon’s second wife, Maria Sheldon Scammon, bequeathed their home and property in Hyde Park to the newly reincorporated University of Chicago. That land is now part of the Laboratory School campus. Scammon Court is located in the quadrangle between Blaine Hall and Belfield Hall, including two bronze reliefs honoring the John and Maria Sheldon Scammon. (“Great University Memorials,” University of Chicago Magazine, Vol. 17, No. 8, June 1925, 321.)

[3] In his introduction to Public Documents of the First Fourteen Congresses, 1789-1871, published in 1900, A.W. Greeley takes note of the remarkably complete collection of early scarce documents possessed by the then young University of Chicago Library, “In the City of Washington there is no complete collection [of US Public Documents] in any one library, whether that of Congress, of the Senate, of the House of Representatives, of the State Department, of the Navy Department, or of the War Department…As to other cities, in the West, the University of Chicago Library contains perhaps the fullest set in the country.” Researchers believe Stephan A. Douglas donated his large collection of government documents to the Old University of Chicago Library. The connection to the new University of Chicago may be inferred, but we have yet to uncover direct evidence linking Regenstein’s near-comprehensive holdings to a Douglas gift.

[4] The University library was greatly expanded in 1870 when the Librarian, Hon. H. M. Thomson, donated his own library, including a complete collection of the Bohn Libraries volumes. Thompson oversaw donations from publishers in London and New York and the personal library of Rev. Elisha Tucker. (University of Chicago. Annual Catalogue. [Chicago: Hazlett & Reed, 1877], 22.) For images of the book plates that acknowledge Thompson’s gift, see “Old University Books” in the web exhibit “‘A Case for Reparations at the University of Chicago’: Sources.”

[5] University of Chicago. The University Record (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1917), 166.

[6] Baptist Union Theological Seminary, Catalogue: 1886-7(Chicago: R.R. Donnely & Sons, 1887), 37.

[7] Baptist Union Theological Seminary, General Catalogue: 1867-1892 (Chicago, 1892), 6. A portrait of Nethanial Colver currently hangs in the main stairwell of Swift Hall on the new University’s campus (University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf1-01773, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library). Swift Hall houses the Divinity School, which originated as the Baptist Union Theological Seminary. The portrait in the Divinity School may have hung in the old University of Chicago. When the University of Chicago was reincorporated, it officially recognized the alumni of the old University as its own (Boyer, 59). These alums formed their own alumni association, which was responsible for multiple fund-raising campaigns. In 1904, the alumni association for the old University of Chicago began a campaign to collect artifacts from the original campus (University Record, Vol 9, No. 2, June 1904, 77 [made available by The University of Chicago Library]). Since the portrait was likely painted during his lifetime and since Colver died in 1870, it is possible that the portrait displayed in the Divinity School today originally hung in a building on the Bronzeville campus. The old University alumni association is also responsible for donating two stones from Douglas Hall, the main building on the old campus. One of these stones was installed into the outer wall of the Classics building and the other in front of the C-bench outside Cobb Hall. See “Old University on Campus,” in the web exhibit.

[8] In 1871, the Seminary reports the presence of a Reading Room “furnished with the best theological and literary periodicals, American and foreign,” but no library (Baptist Union Theological Seminary, Catalogue: 1870-71 [Chicago, 1871], 18).

[9] “Proposed Purchase of a Great Library in Germany for Chicago,” New York Times (1857-1922); Oct. 4, 1869. Ernest Wilhelm Hengstenberg was a German theologian, well-known for his defense of orthodox Protestantism against historical-critical interpretation. See Matthias A. Deuschle Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg: Ein Beitrag Zur Erforschung Des Kirchlichen Konservatismus Im Preussen Des 19. Jahrhunderts (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013). Many of his books were translated into English. His library was considered the most extensive scholarly, theological library of its time. The purchase of the library was well-publicized and helped to solidify the Baptist educational institutions in Chicago as serious players in higher education. It is not surprising that Rockefeller and the founders would want such a significant financial, educational, and cultural asset for their reincorporated University.

[10] University of Chicago. Annual catalogue. (Chicago: Church, Goodman & Cushing, 1870), 35, which is available through the Old University of Chicago Records, Box 5A, Folder 9, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

[11] Baptist Union Theological Seminary, Catalogue: 1870-71(Chicago: Lakeside Publishing and Printing, 1871), 16.

[12] University of Chicago, Annual Catalogue: 1875-76(Chicago: Lakeside Publishing and Printing, 1876), 21. The Hengstenberg Collection officially became part of the Seminary’s collection in 1875. The unique bookplates added to the volumes of this collection are dated 1875, likely to reflect their official transfer to the Seminary from the University space. To see an image of the commemorative bookplate, see “Library Connections,” in the web exhibit. In 1890, this valuable collection became part of the new University of Chicago Library, when the Seminary was incorporated into the University and renamed “The Divinity School.”

[13]Dr. Goodspeed to Mr. Rockefeller,” [p.21] April 7, 1886 (Founders’ Correspondence, Box 1, Folder 1, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library). For more on the events surrounding the closing of the old University, see Caine, Mount, and Parker “A Case for Reparations at the University of Chicago,” 9-11.

[14]Dr. Goodspeed to Mr. Rockefeller,” [p.23] April 7, 1886 (Founders’ Correspondence, Box 1, Folder 1, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library).

[15]Mr. Gates to Dr. Morehouse,” [p59] April 25, 1890. (Founders’ Correspondence, Box 1, Folder 9, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library).

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