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Buffalo Humanities Festival takes on gender roles

In the past year or so, few issues have moved into the mainstream cultural conversation with more speed and intensity than gender.

In the wake of Caitlyn Jenner’s big reveal, it seems everyone is thinking or talking about gender – its mutability, its liquidity, and now its place in the commercial landscape – in a new way. Of course, many great scholars and performers have been thinking it about it for far longer. And for four days starting Wednesday, an impressive array of thinkers will bring their informed perspectives to the nascent conversation on gender as part of the University at Buffalo’s Humanities Festival.

This year’s fest, which has expanded from two to four days, is titled “Gender Bender.” The highlight of its busy schedule of talks and performances is an appearance at 8 p.m. Sept. 25 by the popular New Yorker writer and Harvard University professor Jill Lepore, author of the best-selling book “The Secret History of Wonder Woman.”

“Sex and gender – flexible, fluid and changing – are perfect topics to explore through the humanities,” wrote Erik R. Seeman, director of UB’s Humanities Institute. “Using history, literature, and the arts, ‘Gender Bender’ will span the globe and zoom through time to show how nothing is natural or obvious when it comes to gender.”

The extensive program, listed at, includes 15 accessible talks from local academics and performers, including Niagara University professor Doug Zschiegner on a gender-bending version of “Cyrano De Bergerac” and a lecture on the #BlackLivesMatter movement by UB professor LaKisha Simmons. It also features film screenings performances by Michael Hake, Katy Miner and Allison Pippitone.

Ticket price information and a full schedule is online at

–Colin Dabkowski

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