The humanities program at Davidson
In the humanities program at Davidson College, we have explored classic texts and modern aspects of culture to cultivate our definition of the Humanities and revolution.
Through my studies, I have been drawn to the process of framing in the human perspective to regard history and cultural events and insert ourselves into the frame.
The discipline of the Humanities
Humanities is the essential frame we use to identify ourselves as human. It is the history of being human from a philosophical and scientific perspective. It strips being human down to its skeleton to investigate beyond culture and nationality.
Humanities is the frame that we use to understand ourselves and others. It’s how we relate and define with is labels, books, stereotypes, and identities.
While the Humanities attempt to strip being human down to its skeleton to investigate nature beyond culture and nationality, it still draws divisions and groups identities. That is an inherit aspect of the human brain and, thus, and inherit part of studying humanity. Human identity and differences is what sustains the Humanities and defines the frame in which we understand each other. It is impossible to regard a human or a state of being without a preconceived frame.
The changing of those frames; the breaking and reforming of our frames for humanity is revolution.
Revolution Throughout the Course
I. Martin Luther King’s racial revolution and leadership:
Martin Luther King Jr.’s “revolutionary” text Letter from Birmingham Jail hovers between reformation and revolution. As King worked to improve racial and social relationships in America, he did no seek to upheave, destruct, and reconstruct the political structure of America. He merely sought to reform American values to fit the original conceptual scheme of American (being that America is a land of liberty and justice for all).
II. The Copernican Revolution of Science:
The Copernican Revolution introduced the core concept of conceptual schemes. We were able to explore scientific, personal, and spiritual conceptual schemes that simultaneously guide and limit life.
III. The Rwandan Genocide as a result of Rwandan “Revolution”:
The Rwandan Genocide illustrates the aftermath of a revolution. While the revolutionary nature of the Rwandan Revolution is questionable, the Rwandan Genocide revolutionized the conception of the human capacity for violence and the capacity for empathy of other’s experiences.
IV. Celan’s revolution of poetry and the German language:
An artist’s life and work is possibly the most revolutionary human experience, as creating art challenges the artist to see and communicate through different frames of understanding. It is the fullest, most abstract way of knowing an individual’s experience of being human. Art is a sensory experience; it is the most vulnerable form of communication. We may write letters, give speeches, or explain ideas about this concrete world, but the power of abstraction is unmatched. Art is an experience. As one experiences art—whether it be a painting or poem—they see a frame of knowing and interpret their experience based on themselves. The audience must put themselves into the frame to understand it, and, by inserting themselves into the narrative, they change it and themselves.
Celan revolutionized the regard of German language by taking it back after Nazi Germany. With this, he revealed the revolutionary nature of art, and its capacity to communicate and share the darkest experience of humanity.
-Do personal revolutions exists?
-Can one in individual cause a larger revolution?
-Can a revolution occur without a leader?
-Must a revolution be permanent?
-Is revolution exclusive?
-What characteristics distinguish between reformation and revolution?
Lapham’s Quarterly on Revolutions
“We must enter and take possession of the consciences of the children, of the consciences of the young, because they do belong and should belong to the Revolution.”–Plutarco Elias Calles, 1934
This quote is especially potent in regard to the Holocaust and the heritage of that history. Revolution is passed on from generation to generation in the formation of conceptual schemes. Children learn to see the world through their parents’ eyes, so it is the responsibility of the elder generation to disseminate that culture. It is also important to be aware of the narratives we inherit and to challenge them.
“When the people contend for their liberty, they seldom get anything by their victory but new masters.”–George Savile, marquess of Halifax, 1750
This is the most problematic aspect of revolution. While there are many events such as the French Revolution and the Bolsehvik Revolution that are venerated for overturning the existing powers, those changes in power don’t break the cycle of oppression or deeply change the culture or national regard.
Source for quotes:
Lapham, Lewis, et al. Laphams Quarterly: Revolutions. Volume VII, Number 2, American Agora Foundation, 2014.
Revolution ~ I’m frustrated with how we use the word revolution. It’s become a convoluted, cover-all word that we use to represent any hint of change, rebellion, or shift in power; it’s used in self- congratulatory contexts to represent times of change—of movement. But we are dangerously stagnant.
I’m tired of school shootings, racism, sexism, corrupt leadership, and neo-Nazis; I’m tired of watching history repeat itself in what we deem to be an enlightened era. Perhaps ‘revolution’ is a subconscious reflection of this repetition as, though we are moving forward with each tick of the clock, we keep coming back; we hit the same lines and make the same time.
Revolution must be a cultural change; it is an event that has permanently modified the way we regard and inherit society, culture, community, or humanity as a whole. It’s a shaking of the frame that breaks our self regard and institutes a new form of frame.