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 (5 total)

by Ben Vinson III, Dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, George Washington University
Mount Rushmore
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 in South Dakota.

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…

by William Leuchtenburg, William Rand Kenan Jr. professor emeritus of history, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry," by Harold Bloom
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 they be poets, or composers, or U.S. Presidents. Eventually, he would share these insights in his major work on presidential legacies, In The Shadow of FDR.

by Joan Hinde Stewart, President Emerita, Hamilton College
Joan of Arc, from 'Vie des Femmes Celebres,' c. 1505
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 age and the conflict she felt about reading this biography, as it was unsanctioned by the Catholic church. As she notes, however, “I became positively besotted with The Maid of Orleans. I could do nothing but think about Joan. That’s the way she is. She grabs you, and no matter how well you know…
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