[Humanist] 24.515 the humanities

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Nov 24 07:56:54 CET 2010

            Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 515.
    Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
           Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

     [1]   From:    Gerda Elata-Alster <gerda at bgu.ac.il>                      (17)
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.511 the humanities

     [2]  From:    Jascha Kessler <urim1 at verizon.net>                        (98)
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.511 the humanities

     Date: Tue, 23 Nov 2010 21:53:29 +0200
     From: Gerda Elata-Alster <gerda at bgu.ac.il>
     Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.511 the humanities

The humanities teach what is best expressed as empathy.,- knowledge of the
other, who is like us, yet not quite, teaching us to relate, accept, and
love  that 'not quite like us.' In Oedipus, we do not only take intellectual
cognition of our own blindness;  the tragic (poetic) form, arousing the
emotions of fear and pity and our Purification of them reaches and changes
us in a way, that no pure intellectual cognition can give.

Poetry from the Greek poiein - to make, not only refers to the poem as
'made', it also makes something happen in the reader:: activating  our
ethical capacity opening our eyes to the 'Other'  and his or her needs.- no
science can do that!  Poetry can make us recognize the other as 'like me''
but not quite. We leave the theater - unschathed, but  'not quite,'
recognizing that 'not quite ' in us as that which calls on us to take care
of  the 'not quite' of the 'Other'. (E. Levinas, TOTALITY AND INFINITY).

Gerda Elata-Alster

     Date: Tue, 23 Nov 2010 17:10:59 -0800
     From: Jascha Kessler <urim1 at verizon.net>
     Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.511 the humanities
Teaching in Emeritude, 1 Quarter per year [one could easily do more, as it
is requested, but only 1 is paid for, and I never worked for free, not even
as a 14 year old caddy summers at a resort], I do for a Frosh group a
seminar that pleases me, in a novel program at UCLA, called FIAT LUX.  Any
prof can do it, and do whatever suits the fancy, for 1 unit, pass/fail,
merely attendance required.  I do THREE FUNDAMENTAL MODES OF POETRY, or,
WHAT A POEM SAYS.  I forbid meaning to enter the discussions; I select at
random 100pp of poems in the modes of basic human speech, Elegiac,
Satirical, Invocational.  I point out that writing [pace digitization] is a
representation of speech itself, and poems a formal kind of speech, the
outpouring or expression of 3 modes of emotion.  NOT ratiocination, but
emotional expression.

The difficulties expressed along this thread about the Humanities, meaning
academic formal disciplines, research and teaching, might be illuminated
with an anecdote.  Decades ago, my late friend Saul Bellow arrived in S Cal
to do a lecture in Pasadena at California Institute of Technology.  You can
all surmise all those types!  Leaving after his fine lecture about what is
done in literature, by the novelist and poet and dramatist, I was pondering,
on the way to his apartment for drinks, one remark he made,  as it were
casually: What does the novelist try to do?  The novelist seeks to tell us
HOW IT IS WITH US.  Tout court, it is the core what Humanities is about. And
then I was passed by two tall women, obviously to me, Cal Tech Science
types, handsome, mature, looking very much in command of LIFE itself...
given the terrific institution they worked at, and one said to the other,
"It's all very well, but I cant see anything in his Nobel Award.  There's
simply no way to prove or demonstrate what he means by HOW IT IS WITH US!

I may not desist with this thread, but I certainly locked my lips then as
they passed me uttering polite further sneers.  As Prince Hal remarked to
himself aloud about those rioters and wastrels he had been hanging out with
for too long, I KNOW YOU ALL.

Jascha Kessler

--Jascha Kessler
Professor of English & Modern Literature, UCLA
Telephone/Facsimile: 310.393.4648

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