Humanities and Love – An Integrated Study

This course is designed to initiate students in the study of the humanities from the point of view of love.  This theme organizes the course’s parallel, integrated narratives that inspire participants to learn more about humanistic disciplines.  Students become aware of how human cultures, and western cultures in particular, impact other cultures and forms of life that are hosted on planet Earth.

The course covers the period from around 1500 to the present time, also known as the Early Modern and Modern Era.  The disciplinary discourses that the course integrates include: a global history from the viewpoint of the Earth and all its people, with emphasis in literature, architecture, the arts, political thought, philosophy, religion, spirituality, cosmology, and science.

The theme of love integrates all disciplinary aspects of the study.  The course is constituted of nine-one hour lectures in global history that are available online.  The lectures are complemented by a selection of readings about love.  The readings come from various literary traditions that offer students direct access to significant voices from the eras and cultures studied.  Participants are therefore exposed to a wide diversity of practices of love and the creative energies that emanate from them.  They also become aware of how the presence of this vital force impacts cultures.  They enjoy the digital and distance access to learning.

This series of nine one-hour lectures for this course covers world history from 1500 to the present.  It is background to the course the Humanities and Love, which integrates all humanistic disciplines. The narrative focuses on Western cultures and their global effects, from the perspective of the Earth and all its peoples.  Listen to the series here.

Each Lecture is correlated with a Test that measures factual knowledge as well as in-depth understanding and analytical observation of correlated aspects.  The test is standardized and can be securely taken online as well.  The portal that serves the course is Canvas.

Readings are organized around periods that reflect global characteristics.  They are based on the periodization proposed by the textbook Traditions and Encounters, that revisits global history based on these two tropes.

For example, the Age of Global Interdependence runs from 1500 to 1800.  It’s a time when the lands and people of the world become more interdependent than was experienced in previous times.  For this age, readings include a selection of sonnets and poems from the discourse of love of the Renaissance.  The selection features authors like Dante, Petrarca, Gaspara Stampa, Veronica Franco, Louise Labe, and William Shakespeare.

Subsequent readings include the French neoclassical tragedy Phedra, by Jean Racine, a selection from Lettres Persanes, whose author, philosophe Montesquieu, is advocate for cultural relativism as part of the Enlightenment, and a selection from The Story of My Life, by 18th century libertine Giacomo Casanova.

The subsequent age, called Age of Revolution, Industry, and Empire, runs from 1750 to 1914.  It is an expanded 19th century, marked by the fire that ignited by the revolutionary era at the end of the previous one, and that extends to the early 20th century before the Great War.   For this period, readings include three selections from the revolutionary period:  one from Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, one from the Romantic Odes by Shelley and Keats, and one from the mock epic Don Juan, by Byron.  They also include two selections from the post-revolutionary period and its bourgeois society: one from the realistic novel by Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, and one from Frederick Engels socialist study of the family, The Origins of Private Property, the Family, and the State.

The last age under study, called Age of Global Realignments, runs from 1914 to the present time.  It is a time when new world powers emerge around which others realign.  For this period, readings include three selections from notable voices in 20th century cultures:  Sigmund Freud’s famous Lecture XXXIII, “On Femininity,” its rebuttal in Betty Friedan’s Introduction to The Feminine Mystique, and bell hook’s plea for a more loving society, in All for Love.

Readings are actively discussed in class.  To each reading, a group of students is assigned, who commit to an in-depth preparation and to leading the class discussion.  The overarching question that organizes the discussion is:  what do we learn from this reading about what it was like to be alive at that time?  Related history lectures in the background can be actively referred to.  All students read and participate actively.

Rubrics in the course include:

An Opening Circle.  Students set intentions for the journey of personal transformation that the course empowers.  They speak their intentions to the group, who becomes supportive of them.

An Introduction.  The teacher introduces the course and explains how all its parts function.  The students practice.

Participation.  Students are responsible for reading texts to be discussed and for attending and participating in class discussions.  They are invited to bring their questions to the class, and to present their analytical observations.  The Leadership Group can address these questions and offer further comments on the observations.

Service.   The students sustain the learning community by assisting with setting p and powering the technical desk in the smart classroom.  They practice being a self-servicing learning community.

Leadership of Class Discussion.  Students actively co-create these steps.

  • Formation of groups, facilitated by the Group’s tab in Canvas
  • Preparation of Panels
  • Panels to lead the class discussions of assigned texts.

Report of Personal Experience and Favorite Reading(s).

  • Students write about their personal experience in connection with one of the readings.
  • They post their report to the Assignment on Canvas
  • They post to their group, group members respond.

Closing Circle.  At this time, the intentions of opening circle are revisited.  “What did I expect from this course?  What did I get?”  Also, students are invited to share their report with the class.

Evaluation.  Students respond to survey designed to evaluate various aspects of the course, including: digital portal, thematic organization, online lectures, class time, rubrics, etc.

Appreciation for this course has been quite high.  Survey responses by students at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, indicate a 78 percent rating of their learning experience as “excellent” or “good.”  Areas surveyed include all distance and presential aspects.  Students also demonstrated their appreciation by protecting the course in the context of the severe budget challenges faced by the university.

As a professor of many years and creator of this course, I am inspired by an artistic hypothesis.  The study of love prepares people for co-creating the amorous society we all would like.  There is a vanishing point where the arts become sciences and vice versa.  I see the humanities as the sciences that help us understand the belief systems we have, the arts as the sciences that help us invent the belief systems we need.

Thanks for listening.  I suspect that vanishing point is  love.  Please consider offering this course.  It can open up that path.

aka Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, PhD
Erstwhile Professor of Humanities and Cinema at UPRM
Convenor of Practices of Ecosexuality: A Symposium
Fellow at the Humanities Institute, University of Connecticut, Storrs (2012-13)
Project: “Amorous Visions: Ecosexual Perspectives on Italian Cinema”

serenagaia • August 5, 2017


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