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 (6 total)

by Brian Finke, 21, Student at Texas A&M
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
While I was a teenager about to go off to college, I watched Death of a Salesman at the theater. At the time I was struggling with the transition I was about to embark on, but I found a deep connection to Biff's character. I felt like I was always running a never ending marathon for the amusement of those around me. After seeing Biff finally stand up to Willy and tell him that he was tired of trying to be something that he could not achieve, I felt a sense of clarity. I had to pursue what I wanted in life not just seek the approval of…

by Patricia Matthew, 49, English professor living in Brooklyn, New York
Lucille Clifton
Hearing Lucille Clifton’s poem “won’t you celebrate with me” at a celebration of her work is the Humanities Moment that offered both comfort and a model for how to navigate life as a Black academic. I was a new English professor and was unprepared for the isolation I felt in the academy when a senior colleague invited me to the Clifton event. The evening was packed with more dazzling poets than I can remember, and I really couldn’t take it in. I still don’t remember much about it except hearing this poem and the story behind…

by Nancy Gardner, educational consultant and NBCT teacher
East German citizens climb the Berlin Wall
I remember seeing the images on the television, in newspapers, and in magazines. It was such an epic event. The Berlin Wall was coming down, something I never imagined would happen. As a child in the 50s and 60s, I remember bomb drills during elementary school. Several of my friends had fallout shelters in their homes. I used to be afraid of bombs, of communists, of Khrushchev. I tried to understand how a wall could divide the city of Berlin into two very different places. And then, in 1989, the unbelievable happened. I had just accepted an…

by Scott Gartlan, Executive Director, Charlotte Teachers Institute
Arthur Miller
In this video, Scott Gartlan discusses his reaction to seeing Arthur Miller’s 1947 play All My Sons and seeing deep connections between the play’s narrative and his own life story. He goes on to reflect on the power of storytelling to bridge generations and personal circumstances.

by Ken Burns, documentary filmmaker
from Ken Burns' "America"
In this short video, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns recalls having Robert Penn Warren read a passage from his novel All the King’s Men during the production of the Huey Long portion of his documentary series “Ken Burns’ America.” He notes that it is voices like Warren’s that have helped animate his work, bringing to life his own journey and that which he has tried to share through his films.

by Robert D. Newman, President and Director, National Humanities Center
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.”Below is a transcript of Robert D. Newman's Humanities Moment: December 8th in 1973 when school…
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