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Humanities at Harvard

April 13, 2006  As the world charges into the future, each day bringing new, astonishing technological advances, our society runs the risk of becoming not only Washington Irving's headless horseman, but the heartless horseman as well - eating up the technological miles with little or no reflection as to why we're moving so fast or even where we're going. But both the head and the heart - urgent reflection and deeply felt contemplation about the meanings of these galloping changes - are present in all sorts of venues, not least in the endeavors that are collectively known as the humanities.

At Harvard, the humanities are thriving at a time when they are most needed. This presentation will show how at this university and elsewhere, the humanities flourish, making indelible imprints on lives and livings, on the world at large, on the ways societies change, and on the most profound ethical questions of the day. The humanities are not a pastime or a luxury. As these articles - and Homi Bhabha's eloquent introduction - vividly demonstrate, they are the concerns, the activities, the ways of seeing the world that make us human.

'The sweeping arc of human learning'
Introduction by Homi K. Bhabha, Director of the Humanities Center, Harvard University

Humanities at Harvard photo montage

Marjorie Cohn

Harvard collection:
Lois Orswell, a woman of relatively modest means, amassed a collection of more than 350 modernist paintings, sculptures, and drawings, which are now at the Fogg Art Museum.
Real video/Quicktime

dancers

Gumboots:
Harvard dance troupe celebrates history and rhythmic self-expression by paying tribute to the struggle of South African gold miners under the apartheid regime.
Slide show

Kim Wilson

Kim Wilson:
The founder and front man of the Fabulous Thunderbirds speaks to - and performs for - students in the Extension School course 'The History of the Blues in America.'
Real video/Quicktime

Robert Levin

Music with Levin:
Harvard Professor Robert Levin opens up the world of music to students.
Real video/Quicktime

Nancy Rappaport

Humanist prognosis:
Nancy Rappaport describes how her undergraduate degree in literature fit into her life's work: assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and child psychiatrist.
Real video/Quicktime

Yo Yo Ma

The Silk Road Project:
The Silk Road Ensemble, founded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma '76, brings together ancient musical traditions of Asia and the West.
Real video/Quicktime

kathak dancer

Mathematics in motion:
Pandit Chitresh Das explains Kathak dance during a demonstration at the Sackler Museum.
Real video/Quicktime

Professor DiFabio

A day in the life:
As we accompany Elvira G. Di Fabio, senior preceptor
in Romance languages and literatures, on a typical day, it becomes vividly clear that the life of a humanist is spent, perhaps not surprisingly, as much with humans as with books. Slide show



Humanities and the world
The study of humanities is the study of the world. And without a deep familiarity with humanistic endeavors - that is, art, history, language, music, etc. - a comprehensive understanding of any aspect of our world is impossible.
An invitation to the whole wide world

Humanities and the professions
Their heads aren't in the clouds, nor do they live in ivory towers - or even ivy-covered towers. Humanists are in the thick of what is known as the real world. And many who studied the humanities as undergraduates are now in the front lines of the professions - medicine, law, and business ... as this article demonstrates.
Humanities as prep school for science, law, business

Humanities and social change
This article opens with an eye-popping story about the political power of the humanities, then goes on to show how throughout history, humanists have furnished the platforms from which social changes are launched.
Ideas = action: When the rubber hits the road

Humanities and ethics
Now more than ever, we need the reflectiveness, the depth, the accumulated knowledge - and the wisdom - of the humanities to tackle some of the thorniest ethical problems we've ever faced.
Our greatest task: Do the right thing

Fresh faces in the humanities
Several of the most incisive minds at Harvard talk about how the role of the humanities has changed in the past couple of decades, the need for the humanities in this ever-shrinking world, the humanities as a social engine, and other germane topics.
Fresh faces in the Humanities

 

A flock of humanists
Here is a small, eclectic sprinkling of humanities concentrators.
Notable humanities graduates

 

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