Humanities Moments

Humanities Moments

We’ve all had “humanities moments” — when our lives were made richer, more poignant, and meaningful because of the insights the humanities provide.

Items in the NHC Board Members Collection

P.O.W. John Borling Shares Poetry in Code in the Hanoi Hilton
In the Hanoi Hilton, the place where the North Vietnamese imprisoned and often tortured American captives during the Vietnam War, the US prisoners used a tapping code to communicate with one another. But they didn’t just send conversational…

Haunted by Homer’s Sirens
About seven months ago, our son was in a tragic ski accident, and was in a coma for close to a month. And during that really painful time, we didn’t know what was going to happen. Was he ever going to wake up? Was he not going to wake up? I,…

“I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to a van Gogh exhibition”
In what I believe was the latter part of the 1980s, I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to a van Gogh exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum. And for the first time in my life, I wore one of those machines around my neck, where you listen to…

M. H. Abrams, <em>Hamilton</em>, and the Enduring Qualities of Poetry
Thomas Scherer describes two related encounters which speak to the power of hearing poetry performed aloud. The first is an explanatory talk and poetry reading by the great literary scholar M. H. Abrams at the National Humanities Center; the second…

Reading St. Augustine’s <em>Confessions</em> in Latin
Carol Quillen describes how, growing up, her initial insights and perceptions came from what she calls promiscuous reading — reading anything and everything and then finding connections among these very different texts. She consumed Augustine’s…

The First Book I Ever Checked Out of a Library
In this video, Joan Hinde Stewart recalls the first book she ever checked out of a library — a biography of Joan of Arc — a memory triggered by an experience in her sixties. She describes the fascination she felt about Joan of Arc from an early…

On the Anxiety of Influence
In this account, William Leuchtenburg shares the story of a seemingly routine exchange with literary scholars in the late 1970s which spurred him to new insights about the ways iconic figures from the past influence those who succeed them, whether…

Only Connect
Over the years I have been blessed by many humanities moments, but there is one that I especially cherish. Some fifteen years ago, I happened upon an article in The American Scholar written by a professor from the University of…

A Lifelong Passion and Appreciation for History
Ben Vinson III reflects on how an appreciation for history can enrich our understanding of what he calls the “depth to our days.” Specifically, he recalls how the story of Mount Rushmore’s construction kindled his boyhood imagination growing up…

Growing Up with the Humanities
Mirah Horowitz describes the lessons imparted from her mother, an English professor, on reading and writing as ongoing practices of critical inquiry.

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