Some of the presenters at this year's speedy Humanities Fest: (l-r) Marshall Brown, Gloria Steinem, Trevor Noah, and Yaa Gyasi. Credit: courtesy Chicago Humanities Festival

After this year’s stylish spring edition, the Chicago Humanities Festival is rushing toward its main fall event, literally. This year’s theme, announced yesterday afternoon, is “speed.”

“The theme was chosen because we all have the feeling that we live in a world with one setting: faster,” says Alison Cuddy, the festival’s associate artistic director. “What does that mean? What does it look like? The other side of it is slowing down: the interest in door-stopper novels, the way serial television has become something we can consume over a long period of time or binge-watch all at once, the DIY and Slow Food movements. It felt like a good time to bring together smart and interesting people to talk about the implications of that.”

The festival kicks off October 13 with a lecture by Gloria Steinem at Northwestern Law School. Economist Thomas Friedman will deliver his own lecture at the festival’s annual gala on October 17. And then, finally, the two weeks of presentations, conversations, demonstrations, and performances we’ve all grown to love will begin on October 29 and run through November 12. The festival’s final night will be in Bronzeville in honor of the centennial of the beginning of the Great Migration, as Cuddy puts it, “a rapid mass movement that had a huge impact on American life.”

In addition to Steinem and Friedman, other confirmed presenters include architect Marshall Brown, Daily Show host Trevor Noah, and author Yaa Gyasi, whose first novel Homegoing examines how the rapid transformation of one society—when the slave trade reached 17th-century Ghana—resonated for generations afterward.

The full festival lineup will be announced in September and will include, Cuddy says, scientists, economists, political scientists, pop-culture experts, and novelists who will talk about everything from climate change to philosophies of binge-watching.