This year was an incredibly busy and active year in the Humanities and Ethics Center. The Center is working hard to build a unique “divisional culture” in which students majoring in any one of our departments feels a sense of community and connection with the students in other majors and departments. The “Humanities” really is the unifying project that connects all of us, whether we are in History, Philosophy, Religion, English, Communication, or Languages. The more we can share stories, experiences, and approaches to what we do, the better – and stronger – we all are as practitioners.
So what did we do this year? Well, a lot.
We started off with a BBQ kickoff at the new Humanities House. It was a full house – students, faculty, administrators, and even the President showed up. There were great conversations and it was an awesome way to get the year rolling. In case you missed it, Dr. Panza almost burned the house down when the grill he was using on the porch started putting off excessive flames and he couldn’t figure out how to get it to stop!
Never a dull moment, in the Humanities.
Our Speaker Series was a real hit. On March 3rd, we hosted Dr. Adam Potthast, from Park University, who spoke on “The Dark Side of Human Rights: Should We Defend Rape Jokes, Fred Phelps, and Intolerant Cultures?” It was a packed house, and the audience really wanted
to see if Dr. Potthast would dare to defend the right of Fred Phelps to be publicly intolerant! On March 31st, we hosted Dr. Caroline Levine, from the University of Wisconsin @ Madison. She spoke on “Why Democracy Needs the Humanities and the Arts” and we had an awesome discussion afterward about infusing democratic societies with the controversial subjects that the humanities and arts cover.
In both cases, our speakers gave an evening talk and then helped to serve on a panel the next day at the community library. These discussions were filled, and the discussion was great – and in many cases, controversial! Many thanks to the Missouri Humanities Council, which provided a grant to make this possible.
Our Humanities Book Club worked very well. We held five book club meetings spread out across the spring in the Harwood Reading Room in the Olin Library. We had one on Dava Sobel’s Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love, one on Marjane Satrapi, Complete Persepolis, one on Revolutionary Poetry, one on Jhumpa Lahiri’s Lowland, and one on Michael Pollan’s, Cooked.
At one session – the Revolutionary Poetry, we had over 50 attendees! Wow!
We also had an amazing Film Series at the Moxie. We showed and discussed five films – Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (1948), Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal (1952), Chris Rock’s Good Hair (2009), Ki-Duk Kim’s Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter …and Spring (2003), and Ang Lee’s Pride and Prejudice (2000). The
reception from the community was great. At one film, Bicycle Thieves, we almost blew out the theater with respect to capacity – almost 80 people showed up on a beautiful Saturday afternoon to talk about an old foreign film about life in post World War II Italy!
For all of our films, the mix of community members, faculty, and students was ideal. The discussions were long, and they were deep and meaningful.
The popcorn was good too! Thanks to the Missouri Arts Council for a grant that helped to make this possible.
In our Thinking Aloud series, we also held a number of informal talks on different subjects ranging from research to assessment to teaching, trying to bring what we do inside (in terms of teaching) and outside (in terms of scholarship and assessment) the classroom to students in the hopes of eliciting a meaningful dialog about academics in general.
This year, Katie Gilbert talked about writing, Keith Henderson talked about assessing what the Humanities does, Elizabeth Nichols talked about beauty norms, and Chris Panza talked about sports doping and Confucianism.
So what about next year?
Next year, you should expect to see more – and even better – activities from the division. We’re planning as we read this!
See you in the Fall. In the meantime, keep reading the blog, and follow us on Facebook and on Twitter!