Duane Bruce – About The Humanities: Does The Study Of The Past Have A Future?

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Portraits-along-the-Way-BLOGSaint Anselm College,  April 30, 2014
On April 29, Saint Anselm College celebrated the humanities in a program called “Portraits Along the Way: A Tribute to the Humanities Program.” The afternoon programs marked the full transition from Portraits of Human Greatness to Conversatio, the freshman humanities program that was launched last fall. It features lectures from key faculty members and opportunities for students and alumni to share their experiences of studying memorable individuals and ideas as freshmen and sophomores.
At noon, Duane Bruce, who for many years gave the concluding lecture of second-year Portraits of Human Greatness, addressed students in the Dana Center. Now retired, Dr. Bruce prepared a new lecture for the occasion of the program’s last class meeting. It included a history of the program and a discussion of the purposes and benefits of studying the humanities as an essential component of a Catholic liberal education.

“Today marks the conclusion of your two year sojourn in the Humanities Program, Portraits of Human Greatness. Today also marks the end of the program’s thirty-seven years as the cornerstone of the Saint Anselm College Core Curriculum, the end of Portraits as the core of the core, as it was often called. Beginning in the Fall of 2014, the College will inaugurate a new core curriculum, with Conversatio as its cornerstone.
Our mood today should be celebratory. For surely it’s appropriate for you students to celebrate having completed four semesters of Portraits, having reached the half way point of your college career, having almost completed the 2013-2014 academic year. And just as surely we should celebrate Portraits of Human Greatness for having served the College well for the past thirty-seven years. At the same time, celebrations that mark the end of something are understandably tinged with a little melancholy. Anxious as you are to be done with your finals and conclude the academic year, I suspect you are also a little saddened knowing that in a couple of weeks you will depart campus for the summer and not see some of your friends until classes resume in the Fall. Anxious as the faculty is to see the new core and Conversatio fully implemented, I suspect that those faculty members who enjoyed teaching Portraits and who believe that the program made an important contribution to the academic and intellectual development of our students by exposing them to the narrative of Western culture and by giving them the opportunity to encounter great writers and thinkers from Homer to Camus are at least a little saddened, as I am, by its passing.
My remarks today will be in three parts. First, I will sum up the Humanities Program you have now completed, leaving you with some observations about it. Second, I’ll say a bit about the history of Portraits-how it came into being in the mid 1970s. Finally, I’ll make some observations about the current state of the humanities in American higher education.”

Read more: http://blogs.anselm.edu/about-the-humanities-does-the-study-of-the-past-have-a-future/

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