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 Skye Shirley, age 28, Latin Teacher in Boston, MA
“Helen,” by Euripides
While taking Latin in high school, I became fascinated by the story of the Trojan War. I loved the interconnected perspectives of soldiers, royalty, deities, and ordinary people. The family trees and catalogues of soldiers seemed endless, and I was thrilled to discover that each individual inspired stories, plays, and art. As I began to master the intricacies of the myths, I prided myself on recognizing the differences between movies like “Troy” or Disney’s “Hercules” and the original story. I watched eagerly to notice what they got…

by Michael Fontaine, 40 years old, Professor of Classics at Cornell University
The Vatican
A single question changed the course of my life.

When I first began studying Latin in 1996, it was a dead language, no doubt about it. It was pointless to try to speak it; everyone agreed the grammar was just too hard.

Legend had it, though, that a single man—a priest, somewhere in Rome, Italy—could do it. The last man alive who could speak Latin! I had to find him.

And after endless blind turns, I did. It was spring 1997, and I was spending the semester abroad in Rome.

I got up very early one morning because the immortal…

by Carol Quillen, President, Davidson College
Confessions of St. Augustine
Carol Quillen describes how, growing up, her initial insights and perceptions came from what she calls promiscuous reading — reading anything and everything and then finding connections among these very different texts. She consumed Augustine’s Confessions, in the original Latin, which captures and conveys meaning differently than English and enabled her both to grasp and question the complex ways in which language represents reality. These differences in language, like reading, reveal different ways of seeing the world, and by…

by Brooke Andrade, Director of the Library, National Humanities Center
A modern statue of the Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus
I started learning Latin in seventh grade because I decided it was the most difficult course I could take, and I had something to prove. I was an economically disadvantaged student in a wealthy private school, and all of my classmates knew it. I would never live in their mansions, or wear their expensive clothes, or go on their exotic vacations, so I set about making myself at least academically equal. Like most grade school students who read Latin, the poetry of Catullus was some of the first “real” literature I encountered. After the dry,…
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