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.

Browse Items (10 total)

by Stephen G. Hall, Alcorn State University
African American voter registration, 1960s
Throughout their son’s childhood, Stephen Hall’s parents, both children of sharecroppers, crafted a “deeply humanistic perch” from which he could “view the world.” Though possessing none of the benefits of class or race privilege, they harnessed the power of the book, searching for what historian Isabel Wilkerson has called “the light of other suns” in the “recesses of their minds.” Their personal library—including the Bible, Encyclopedia Britannica, and the Great Books—stoked young Hall’s imagination. The harmonies of…

by Hollis Robbins, Johns Hopkins University
Gilgamesh
In 1979, at age 16, Hollis Robbins found herself enrolled at John Hopkins University. Though she was there as part of a program for girls who excelled in math, she signed up for a humanities lecture class. In that day’s class, drawing upon the epic of Gilgamesh, a guest lecturer expounded on the theory of “mimetic desire,” or the idea that we borrow our desires from other people. Unbeknownst to her, the speaker was none other than famed anthropological philosopher René Girard. Yet, Hollis disagreed. In her opinion, culled from reading…

by Nancy J. Hirschmann, University of Pennsylvania
G.W.F. Hegel
As a 21-year-old senior in college, Nancy Hirschmann encountered—and was forever changed by—German philosopher Hegel’s notoriously difficult passages in The Phenomenology of Spirit. Suddenly, she “broke through the wall” of the concept of the “master-slave dialectic” and its notion of consciousness and recognition. The act of reading a text, deciphering it, and understanding how it translates into a significant meaning kindled Hirschmann’s engagement with political theory. For Hirschmann, grappling with Hegel’s work…

by Mab Segrest, Professor Emerita, Connecticut College
Sappho
Growing up in the mid-1960s as a white girl in Tuskegee, Alabama, Mab Segrest attended a segregated private school that her parents had helped found in response to a court order years earlier to integrate public high schools. In the shadows of governor George Wallace’s racist violence, history had “come to [her] front door.” Seeking a better understanding of the U.S. South, she found William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury in the local library. Perplexed by the interior monologue of its opening pages, she forged ahead in…

by Edward J. Balleisen
"Betting on Zero" by Ted Braun
Several weeks ago I had occasion to watch the new documentary, Betting on Zero. This fascinating film presents several interlinked stories, all related to the founding and growth of Herbalife, a multi-level-marketing company that sells nutritional supplements, weight loss concoctions, and the “business opportunity” to distribute these products. Among the narrative threads: the basic business model of this enterprise, which depends on the perpetual recruitment of new salespeople (this task is facilitated by revival-style meetings…

by Morna O’Neill, age 41, art history professor
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
My family always visited art museums when I was a child. I’m not quite sure why, as we never talked about the art, and I wondered, in secret, what exactly we were supposed to be doing there. When I was about eight years old, I read a book that answered that question: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. It is the story of two children—a brother and a sister—who run away from home to solve the mystery of a sculpture: was it a long-lost work by Michelangelo? They hide in the Metropolitan Museum…

by Matthew Booker, associate professor of American environmental history, North Carolina State University
Fishing camp
I like picnics. Picnics take us outside, to share food with people we like. Those are my three favorite things, and picnics offer all three with a minimum of fuss or cost. Every picnic is a special occasion. But one stands out because it showed me how much we can learn from deeply observing the world around us. Such observation joins us to the experiences of those who have come before, and perhaps even see through their eyes. It is a humanities experience. One summer day, to celebrate a birthday, my spouse and I packed up our little girls and…

by Blake Wilson, Dickinson College
Franchino Gaffurio, “De Harmonia Musicorum” (1518)
According to the ancient Greeks, harmony is discord rendered concordant, a concept that applied not just to music but everything from the order of the cosmos to human relationships. I have always loved this idea for two reasons: it was predicated not on the absence or erasure of difference, but the reconciliation of it; and it was perfectly embodied in the activity that had occupied a significant part of my career as a college music professor and conductor—choral singing. Upon my retirement, alumni of my choral group from across the decades…

by Jaroslav Folda, N. Ferebee Taylor Professor emeritus, UNC
Plutarch's Lives
At the end of my sophomore year in high school, during the awards ceremony in June, I received my varsity letter for playing football. And then my history teacher, Mr. Harvey, got up and gave three academic awards. To my complete surprise, I received one of those prizes. It was a book of Plutarch’s Lives, which was inscribed to me in part as follows: “This book ... represents his persistent toil toward clear, precise and meaningful expression in history at the Paris American High School.” In addition, Mr. Harvey had also written…

Phillis Wheatley
In this video Marlene Daut describes how teaching literature to college students enables them to both understand their lives and history better, as well as be inspired regarding their possible futures.
Output Formats

atom, dcmes-xml, json, omeka-json, omeka-xml, rss2