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Humanities Frameworks Courses Earn Good Reviews

Humanities professor Homi K. Bhabha teaches Humanities 11c: Frameworks: The Art of Reading, a new course that allows students to approach reading as a practice of interpretation.
Humanities professor Homi K. Bhabha teaches Humanities 11c: Frameworks: The Art of Reading, a new course that allows students to approach reading as a practice of interpretation. By Arthur S Nguyen
By Indrani G. Das and Jill E. Steinman, Crimson Staff Writers

A semester after several humanities departments joined together to offer broad introductory classes in the field, students and faculty members offered a largely positive evaluation of the courses, which aimed to be experimental and interdisciplinary.

Staffed by professors from a variety of disciplines, Humanities 11a: “Frameworks: The Art of Looking” and Humanities 11b: “Frameworks: The Art of Listening,” were offered for the first time fall.  Humanities 11c: “Frameworks: The Art of Reading” is being offered by humanities professor Homi K. Bhabha this semester.

The professors who developed the curricula for these introductory courses said that the classes aim to offer students a broad approach to the humanities that stresses the everyday relevance of the discipline, an effort which they said they hope to expand with more courses in the works.

“[T]he hope was to make a set of classes that really provide an opening point that is not tied specifically to a specific discipline or department,” said Jennifer L. Roberts, a professor in the History of Art and Architecture department who co-taught “The Art of Looking,” noting that course instructors sought to tailor the classes for a changing student body with less early exposure to the humanities.

Several instructors said the introductory courses, which were targeted at both prospective humanities concentrators and students in non-humanities departments, sought to emphasize the applicability of the humanities to the broader world.

“Listening is around us, we do it all the time, we’re doing it right now, and it’s so fundamental that we don’t even think about it,” said Alexander Rehding, the chair of the Music Department and one of the instructors for “The Art of Listening.”

Roberts said that her class seemed to succeed in engaging students who had experience in a variety of disciplines.

“A large percentage of the students were people who weren’t planning on going into the humanities, that are statisticians or computer science people,” she said. “They were some of the most enthusiastic participants in the course and, in many ways, some of the most positive feedback from what we could tell from the Q [Guide] evaluations.”

Roberts added that she was pleased with the relatively high enrollment of the course and its favorable reception in the Q Guide.

“We were very happy to see in the evaluations again and again that this class changed the way people looked at the world,” she said

All of the students interviewed for this article said that they generally enjoyed the Humanities 11 courses they enrolled in.

“It was a very experimental course. They did a lot of things with section, not a traditional lecture, lecture, section course, but I had a very positive experience taking the class,” said  Luis Gallardo ’14, a Government concentrator.

Darius J. Altman ’17 said that while he does not intend to concentrate in the humanities, he appreciated how “The Art of Looking” offered him a new framework for looking at everyday problems.

“The instructors and TFs highlighted the ability to really critically analyze something and give a nuanced argument—abilities that are sometimes more valuable than a lot of ostensibly more practical disciplines like economics or hard sciences,” he said, adding later, A humanities approach is a lot more relevant and useful than people think it might be because you talk every day and you’re not using calculus every day.”

“The Art of Looking” received an overall Q rating of 4.27, while “The Art of Listening” garnered a 3.73.

—Staff Writer Indrani G. Das. can be reached at Follow her on twitter @IndraniGDas.

—Staff writer Jill E. Steinman can be reached at Follow her on twitter @jillsteinman.

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