Text messages: ‘HUM sequence’ covers 2,500 years of civilization

Text messages: ‘HUM sequence’ covers 2,500 years of civilization


[MUSIC PLAYING] OSCAR MAHONEY: I
think the first time I heard about the
Humanities Sequence was when I got the literature in the
mail advertising this program, talking about it as
this intensive course. DANIEL GRANBERG: When I
got accepted to Princeton and got my package
with all the stuff, I remembered the pamphlet, the
HUM pamphlet, in particular. And I think it said something
along the lines of hungry for knowledge. And immediately I was
drawn toward that. DENIS FEENEY: The
Humanities Sequence is a yearlong introduction
to the toolkit that you need to understand
the building blocks of Western European tradition. We begin with Homer
in the first semester, and we end with Dante at the
end of the first semester. And then we pick
up the beginning of the second
semester with Petrarch and carry through
to Virginia Woolf. YELENA BARAZ: I gave the
opening lecture on Homer, and I introduced the
students to Homer. In very general terms, I
talked about oral tradition and the origins of the text. It really is a team effort. So for instance, this
semester our group includes an ancient
philosopher, a classicist, a medieval historian,
a Dante scholar, someone who works
in late antiquity, and a comparative
literature professor. All of us have specialties
but we are also learning from each other. And going to each
other’s lectures really creates a kind of flow
where people will pick up on each other’s lectures and
each other’s texts in ways that they might not
otherwise think of. And it goes along very well
with the student experience because we’re experiencing the
course alongside the students. And we are remembering
things from lecture that they are also
remembering, so it creates a kind of
trajectory that really is the distinctive
feature of the course. CRYSTAL LIU: I remember
at the very beginning, I was kind of
apprehensive because I felt like I didn’t really
have any background in ancient texts. And I went to Professor
Baraz and asked her, am I expected to know
some Latin, some Greek? Do you think that not having
those skills would hinder me? And she said absolutely not. We don’t want you to feel
like that’s the case. We want you to learn. That’s exactly why
this course is here. ESTHER SCHOR: When
I saw the syllabus for the first time four
years ago, I was intimidated. And I realized that
you’re not going to address every page of
these books in detail. The point is to have
a sense for what strikes you, what’s important. JAMAL JOHNSON: I
think really being able to sort of historicize
some of the ideas that are prevalent in the thinking,
not just of white males, but of people from a
diverse range of backgrounds is something that was
really valuable for me. CLAIRE ASHMEAD: All the
thinkers we look at, again because they’re
asking questions that are so central,
end up being very useful tools for thought
and for change and for argument for people everywhere. ESTHER SCHOR: Well, we
hear a lot about difference these days. We hear about what
makes people different. Ethnicity can make
people different. Social class can make
people different. Whether your parents
went to college or not can make you different. And we have a lot of
testimony about the difference that difference makes. And the question that
arises in this course is what is this talking back to? I mean, what is this
idea of the human that is being questioned here? What we’re finding is that
we’re listening to human beings across time and we’re
hearing difference across the centuries. DANIEL GRANBERG: After
reading “Antigone” we went and saw
“Antigone” performed. And that was definitely
an experience because it wasn’t
expected, I would say. It was performed in
a very different way than one might see
it being performed when reading the book. And there were
things that really made that an experience that
was able to help me, at least, connect “Antigone,” the
play, to our modern-day life and how this is
related to me today. CASSIE RODRIGUEZ: One
thing that I really enjoyed was going to the Met. We went on a Greek
and Roman tour. And as you walk through the Met
and you look at different art, and being able to use textual
support for your analysis and stuff like that, and
facilitate a connection, I think, is the best part. BENJAMIN MORISON: Going to
the museum you can actually be in touch with the object. You’re looking at the objects
that the ancient Greeks were also looking at or that the
Romans were also looking at. And the skills that
we’ve given the students at reading text and
deciphering details and putting things into context — And I think it really
gave the students a chance to see that this isn’t
just a dead culture that’s on the page. This was a living culture
where the texts were performed, but the texts also
made an impression on the decorative
arts that would have been surrounding the
people that lived in those days. OSCAR MAHONEY: So
we had a small event and we invited all
of the first-semester students in the HUM Sequence
at the moment, the freshmen. And they brought in some
alumni from the program, people that had taken it that
were currently sophomores, juniors, seniors, to talk a
little bit about what they thought about the program
and why they thought it would be a good
idea to continue taking into second semester. To have a foundation to be
able to walk into a seminar and read a text,
whether it’s something that I’ve ever been
exposed to or not, and kind of get those nuances
from other texts in the past, start to see the threads running
through the Western tradition history and be able
to talk about them and add something
new to discussion that I would have otherwise
been completely blind on. Most of the things
are a reflection on what you guys have
already read and experienced in the first semester. So this is why I really wish
that I had taken the first. But if anybody, I think
there are one or two of you, haven’t taken the
first, I absolutely recommend that you
take the second because you’re going to find
yourself thanking yourself. Graduates of the HUM
program have the opportunity to go to either Greece
or Rome on a fall trip. The great thing about it
is that it’s completely paid for by the HUM department. CLAIRE ASHMEAD: I
had the opportunity to go to Greece,
which was amazing. So that was the fall
break of my sophomore year after I’d completed
the HUM Sequence. And going to the origin
of Western culture, because the HUM Sequence starts
with Homer and “The Iliad,” that was really wonderful. I think, not just because it’s
a little bit of a pilgrimage, because you get to
see, this is the place that inspired these thinkers
that are the foundations of why I think the way I do. The HUM Sequence and
the HUM community is something that’s
known on campus. It’s something that
other professors respect. It’s something that
tells them something about who you are when you
tell them that you’ve done it. JAMAL JOHNSON: You
sort of, just grow to be a more
questioning thinker. Someone who’s
equipped with the tool set to really to dig deeper
and trying to find answers to some of those questions. [MUSIC PLAYING]

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

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