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.

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by J. Porter Durham, Jr., General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer, Global Endowment Management, LP
William Jennings Bryan campaign poster, 1900
J. Porter Durham, Jr. grew up in the segregated South during a time when public Ku Klux Klan sightings were not uncommon. In this video, Durham describes how a history class at Duke University taught by Lawrence Goodwyn upended his worldview. Professor Goodwyn’s book, The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America, transfigured Durham’s understanding of his local and familial history. For the first time, he was “forced to think anew.”

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 Sally Dalton Robinson
Monument to E. M. Forster in Stevenage, Hertfordshire
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 Wisconsin-Madison who put forth the ten qualities he believed a person would acquire from having a solid liberal arts education. It was the tenth quality on his list that got me. It was “Only Connect,” two words taken from a work by E. M. Forster. By this, the professor meant that a liberal arts education…
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