Humanities Fellows explore Chicago Humanities Festival

Katie-Beth Jackson

The past year’s Humanities Fellows exploring Chicago on March 29, 2019, on an architecture tour.

Professor Michael Theune’s Humanities Fellows traveled north to Chicago for the Humanities Festival. 

The festival is held every year and features a variety of well renowned authors, speakers, poets and activists within the humanities sphere. 

Their mission is to have the, “audiences leave Festival programs transformed—inspired by a shared experience and with new insights and perspectives.” 

It gives students the opportunity to educate themselves about social issues, music, literature, and more by organizing seminars where the students can listen and interact with the speakers. 

This year the students were able to go to a number of seminars, attending four that discussed a range of topics. 

The first speaker was Patti Smith, a singer-songwriter who made the decision to take a year off and travel to focus on writing. 

In the seminar, Smith discussed her memoir Year of the Monkey, and reflected upon her travels.

 “Audiences leave Festical programs transformed-inspired by a shared experience and with new insights and perspectives.”

The next event was a seminar hosted by the philosopher Simon Critchley. 

Critchley’s seminar focused on the value of ancient Greek literature and why educators need to continue to teach and help them understand the fundamentals of the human experience. 

Critchley also argued that educators are not going into enough depth with the classics, and they are not being used to their full potential. 

The third event was titled “Beyond the Binary” featuring Dr. Alex Iantaffi, the author of How to Understand Gender and Life isn’t Binary, and emem obot, an artist, model and organizer for the Brave Space Alliance. 

In this seminar, Dr. Iantaffi and obot discussed the meaning of gender and the damaging effects of how societal values can be formed at a very early age. 

Both individuals are very passionate about social justice and were able to have a constructive dialogue about societal issues including: gender, sexuality and race. 

The final event was a live podcast with Patricia Smith, a Pulitzer Prize finalist who has been called “a literary sensation” by The New York Times.

In this podcast she discussed the necessity of poetry and how it can change the world. 

The festival was a success this year and Kailee Galloway, a student in the fellowship described the festival as, “ sparking great conversation” and “it was helpful to hear many different people from different walks of life come together to learn.’’ 

The humanities fellowship, a gateway class here at Wesleyan, led by Professor Theune, have been focusing on the revival of the humanities within a liberal arts education and what benefits it could provide. 

While the classroom portion of the fellowship only lasts a semester, the students will continue to engage in humanities related activities on and off campus for the rest of the year. 

As they continue to explore ideas and attend seminars on campus, they invite all students to join them and engage in the humanities. 

The humanities are essential to understanding the culture surrounding Wesleyan, but also the people within it.