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 (27 total)

by Jamie Lathan, 39, teacher and school administrator, husband, father, son, brother, friend.
download-1.jpg
As I grew up in rural South Carolina in the 1980s, baseball was my favorite hobby and pastime. For most of my 7 year Dixie league/recreational league baseball career (ages 5 to 12), my dad was my coach. I don’t remember watching baseball on television because we only had three to four channels and did not have cable.

On my first baseball team, I was the only black player; and then after that most of my teams were majority black. At this time I only had vague notions about race, although I knew that I was black. Because both of my parents…

by Kevin Spencer, 37, PhD student in English at Duke University
Magician-Feist.JPG
When I was young, maybe around 13 years old, I read a fantasy novel by Raymond Feist called Magician. I enjoyed reading since I was young, but I lived in a house where the TV was always on and I was easily distracted. On this occasion, I was reading on my bed in my quiet bedroom. The scene was some kind of chase, in which the main character is running away from something (maybe some monsters?), and he looks totally defeated. But suddenly, the hero's emotions produce some kind of magic effect and he defeats whatever it was that was…

by Sarah Arnold, 38, English Teacher
To Kill a Mocking Bird.jpg
I grew up in a very small town in rural Wisconsin. When I looked at my classmates it was like looking in a mirror. Because of that, I never realized that there were many people who were facing hardships because of their minority status and people who were taking advantage of them. Fast forward to my sophomore year of high school. Mrs. Shaw made it her mission to open our eyes. She wanted to expose us to the realities of this world. While I questioned it at the time, she showed us the entire Eyes on the Prize documentary. She would…

by Stephen Miller, 48, Philosophy Teacher
Hesse
Choosing a Humanities Moment was initially a challenging task. Over the last few years working with the organization PLATO (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization), I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the humanities, liberal arts and a philosophical education. In particular, the so-called crisis of the Humanities, the popularity of STEM fields and the blossoming of a national testing regime prompted me to think a lot about what a good education should entail. In thinking back to my own education, my Humanities Moment both shows the…

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…

Map of Walden Pond
In my late 20s, I knew that I wanted to make a vocational shift, but I struggled to find the courage to do so. One day, I came across the lines of Transcendentalist philosopher Henry David Thoreau. “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation,” he wrote in Walden in 1854. Though Thoreau lapsed into an unfortunate gender bias (as women may lead lives of quiet desperation, too), I still took refuge in his words. Reflecting on my own life (which felt quietly desperate, I realized) imparted me with the audacity to make a change and follow…

by Mirah Horowitz, Russell Reynolds Associates
"The Tragedie of King Lear," William Shakespeare
Mirah Horowitz describes the lessons imparted from her mother, an English professor, on reading and writing as ongoing practices of critical inquiry.

Luis Rodriguez.jpeg
To celebrate its 40th year anniversary of grant making, programming, and partnerships that connect Californians to each other, California Humanities invited a group of 40 prominent Californians to explore what the humanities mean to them. For more information visit calhum.org/about/we-are-the-humanities.

Janet Napolitano.jpg
To celebrate its 40th year anniversary of grant making, programming, and partnerships that connect Californians to each other, California Humanities invited a group of 40 prominent Californians to explore what the humanities mean to them. For more information visit calhum.org/about/we-are-the-humanities.

by Theresa Pierce, Rowan County Early College
Theresa Pierce
Teacher Theresa Pierce discusses how the accumulation and sharing of personal narratives help generate individual moments of realization among students as they also help build a sense of community.

by Deborah Jung, Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District
Deborah Jung
Librarian Deborah Jung describes the moment she discovered libraries and the riches they offer, which fueled her passion for opening the world of literature to children.

by Scott Gartlan, Executive Director, Charlotte Teachers Institute
Scott Gartlan
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 Steve Earle, singer-songwriter
San Antonio Express, September 12, 1964
Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Steve Earle discusses the impact of witnessing his father write a letter to the Texas governor on behalf of a condemned man in San Antonio. Having already begun to reflect on the importance of political engagement and the ethics of capital punishment, Earle felt especially moved by both the book and film version of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood in the late 1960s. In tandem, these experiences contributed to his becoming a passionate advocate against the death penalty.

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…

by Lou Nachman, Charlotte Mecklenburg School District, NC
Lou Nachman
Teacher Lou Nachman discusses how his experiences overseas in the Navy changed him from an indifferent student to embrace life as a teacher and enthusiastic traveler.

by Justin Parmenter, Charlotte Mecklenburg School District, NC
Justin Parmenter
English teacher Justin Parmenter describes how his encounters with essays by Thoreau and Emerson, and later with the poem “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” helped him to understand how literature can provide both an escape from the troubles of life and a connection to others who’ve seen and felt the same things though they may have lived centuries before.

by William Ferris, former Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities
James Joyce, 1915
In this excerpt from a conversation with William Ferris, former Chairman of the National Endowment of the Humanities, he shares how he came to see himself in Stephen Dedalus, the protagonist of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, who declares that he will fly from the nets of “nationality, language, and religion.” He notes that at the time he encountered the character he and Stephen were about the same age and describes how he identified his own struggles as a young Southerner with those Dedalus experiences as…

by Dr. Gil Greggs, Director of Academic Programs, St. David’s School, Raleigh NC
Rembrandt van Rijn, "Portrait of Aechje Claesdr"
In this video, Gil Greggs from St. David’s School in Raleigh, NC, recalls a series of moments in which he came to appreciate the power of literature and the arts to capture and convey the power and subtlety of human experience.

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,…

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.
Output Formats

atom, dcmes-xml, json, omeka-json, omeka-xml, rss2