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 (4 total)

by Robert D. Newman, President and Director, National Humanities Center
"When Breath Becomes Air," by Paul Kalanithi
Just as he was completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. When Breath Becomes Air, the memoir Kalanithi wrote in the midst of his illness, traces his journey from brilliant medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” to his life as a patient and new father faced with his own mortality. As his body declines, his spirit expands. “Science may provide the most useful…

by Robert D. Newman, President and Director, National Humanities Center
from "The New York Times Magazine," June 25, 2013
In this video clip, Robert D. Newman shares how his friend Brooke Hopkins found meaning for his life after a tragic accident through his love of literature and teaching. This moving account speaks to how literature and the humanities classroom provide tools for coping with the most pressing of human questions — life and death — and allow us to find meaning and purpose when so many of life's pleasures have been stripped away.

by Robert D. Newman, President and Director, National Humanities Center
Kurt Vonnegut, 1972
In this excerpt of a talk given at the National Humanities Center, Robert D. Newman discusses an exemplary humanities moment, when Kurt Vonnegut responded to the banning and burning of Vonnegut’s book Slaughterhouse Five by school officials in Drake, North Dakota in 1973.Newman notes that this series of historical events involving the kinds of literature we read and teach “reveals the enduring truths in a democratic culture.”

by Robert D. Newman, President and Director, National Humanities Center
Francis Bacon, “Study for Figure at the Base of a Crucifixion”
Robert D. Newman describes the experience of encountering Francis Bacon's paintings for the first time.
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