What are the Humanities?
The humanities convey our deepest knowledge about the aspirations and limits of human lives. History, literature, philosophy, theater and the other arts carry us into the life stories and ideas of people in every historical era and culture of the world; and these encounters with others lead us toward new knowledge about ourselves.
The humanities offer insights we need as we develop our values, friendships, and work. They open endless conversations with interesting people who have asked questions that we also want to answer and experienced the feelings that also inspire or baffle us from youth to old age.
The humanities are empowering. They help us think and speak clearly about complex problems, and they teach us how to listen carefully to the voices of different people. They enhance leadership skills and also evoke the wonderful pleasures of human laughter.
The humanities push us to think critically about our goals and beliefs. They explore all the meanings of love, the power of desire and anger, and the causes of personal and public conflicts. They help us respond creatively to the changes and opportunities that constantly reshape our lives; and they contribute to the resiliency and strengthening insights that move us beyond our inevitable setbacks and failures.
The humanities provide wise, consoling perspectives when we struggle with illnesses and mourn the deaths of people we love. They affirm the creative energy of human ambitions and recognize the inescapable reality of human deaths. Knowledge of the humanities gives us narratives to explain why our lives matter.
The humanities help individuals and whole societies become stronger because human freedom, social progress, and democratic cultures depend on relationships among human beings. The humanities therefore give us the knowledge and creative means to imagine and make a better world.
–Lloyd Kramer, Professor of History and Faculty Director of the UNC Program in the Humanities and Human Values
The arts have the singular ability to transcend boundaries, whether those be temporal, national, or cultural. Art gives us the opportunity to enter into dialogue with people whom we will never meet, allowing us to visualize and listen to perspectives different than our own. I believe art is a powerful tool that can be used to interrogate our world as well as ourselves and deeply share Czech art historian Jindřich Chalupecký’s sentiment that “art discovers reality, creates reality, reveals reality, the world we live in and us who live.”
–Meredith Miller, senior art history and history double major
To recognize the important role that the arts and the humanities play in helping us understand and address the major issues of our time, this yearlong initiative will bring special focus to six major themes: Social Justice, An Enlightened Citizenry, Tolerance and Understanding, Global Engagement, Food and the Environment and Storytelling.