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HUMA01 Final review note.docx

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Ted Petit

HUMA01 Final review notes What are the Humanities? • The study of human culture in all its aspects History, language, literature, classical studies, jurisprudence (law), philosophy, ethics, and comparative religion, as well as the history, theory and criticism of the visual and performing arts As distinguished from the quantifiable, empirical approach of the natural and social sciences, the humanities are mainly analytic, critical, interpretive, and evaluative • Lyn Maxwell White writes that the humanities “offer models and methods for addressing dilemmas and acknowledging ambiguity and paradox. . . . They also give voice to feeling and artistic shape to experience, balancing passion and rationality and exploring issues of morality and value. The study of the humanities provides a venue in which the expression of differing interpretations and experiences can be recognized and areas of common interest explored.” • Courses in the humanities explore such fundamental questions as how we use language, how our ideas and thoughts on the human experience are expressed and interpreted, how we determine value and meaning, how we define ideas such as “truth”, “beauty”, and “art” • They consider ideas about the meaning of life, the reasons for our thoughts and actions, and the values and principles that inform our laws and customs, those both written and unwritten • The humanities, as a broad and diverse collection of academic disciplines, examine how we construct our aesthetic, intellectual, religious, social, and political worlds, and they look comparatively at the differences in such constructions in different times and places, and for different people. • “Through the humanities,” the Rockefeller Commission on the Humanities has noted, “we reflect on the fundamental question: What does it mean to be human? The humanities offer clues but never a complete answer. They reveal how people have tried to make moral, spiritual, and intellectual sense of a world in which irrationality, despair, loneliness, and death are as conspicuous as birth, friendship, hope, and reason.” • Engage with the work of others In pursuing a line of inquiry or research, scholars need to identify and engage with what others have written about a subject. While individual scholars must draw on their own emotional, aesthetic and intellectual responses to a work of art or other cultural artifact, they also contextualize their responses by situating them within the broader conversations taking place among other scholars and readers. Humanities scholars are obligated to examine texts, images and sounds carefully. They must read, view and listen closely and critically and make fair, generous, and assertive use of the work of other scholars. “Engage with the work of others” is part of extending the conversations on a given subject in order to enrich human understanding. 2. Articulate a position The point of engaging with the work of others is to move beyond what has been said before. A university may be a repository of knowledge, but it is also a place where new knowledge gets made. As a student, you are now part of the process of making new knowledge, of reaching new understandings and insights into texts, images and sounds. Like other humanities scholars, you must bring your own intellect and creativity to the issues at hand, while also carefully differentiating your voice from the voices of others with whom you engage. The challenge you face is to provide new interpretations and evidence that advance clear and interesting positions. 3. Situate writing within specific contexts All writers must develop an awareness of their audience and its unique expectations and concerns. For academic writers, this audience is composed of other interested, intellectual individuals. Such readers have their own ideas, arguments, and methodologies, and so you must show your awareness by articulating the reasoning behind your approach and acknowledging potential objections to your analysis or argument. The readers of such papers value complexity and nuance, and they understand that an interesting or worthwhile idea cannot be reduced to a simple black/white, pro/con position. Your audience hopes to learn from your discussion and advance their own thinking on the issue or inquiry at hand. This requires you to develop a strong ethos that suggests you are a thoughtful and fair critic who relies on logos more so than pathos in making your assessments. This audience also expects writing to be presented with care, thought and style, so review, edit, polish and proofread your work as much as possible to make it as perfect as possible. • Teachers, Scholars, Students These three exist in a dynamic relationship Each forms and informs the other (and these categories are rarely mutually exclusive) Professors are teachers and scholars, but they are also learners We learn through research, and this research allows us to add to academic conversations through presentation, publication, and conversing with students Teaching and Scholarship are bound to one another – good teaching requires sound research, which then allows for fuller and more effective teaching! Ideal = The Classroom Community • This raises some important questions What is knowledge? Epistemology: the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion Oxford English Dictionary Online Knowledge ≠ Information Maria Popova (“Are We Becoming Cyborgs?”) expresses concern about the tendency to “conflate information and knowledge” Knowledge = Information processed by a thinking human mind Knowledge (1) expertise, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject; (2) what is known in a particular field or in total; facts and information; (3) awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation Creation of knowledge • Humans create knowledge, so this creation is part of being human University as a unique locale, in which this activity is given special importance The luxury of having time and opportunity devoted to thinking Take advantage of it!! The key to this knowledge is sharing – exchanging knowledge with one another, informing one another, helping each other expand our intellectual horizons Epistemology • Studies in epistemology are especially interested in developing criteria for evaluating claims that one "knows" something • In particular, it considers questions such as: What is knowledge? How do we know what we know? What is the difference between knowledge and opinion or belief? If you know something, does that mean that you are certain about it? Is knowledge really possible? • Knowledge is made in two broad-based ways: Empirical vs. Speculative Analytic/Critical • Human knowledge divided into two major categories: The Empirical Sciences and the Humanities • Empirical Sciences Natural Sciences: Biology, Chemistry, Ecology, etc. Social Sciences: Anthropology, Sociology, Economics, etc. • Humanities Philosophy, Literature, the Visual and Performing Arts, Study of Religion, etc. History is a tricky category • There are facts regarding events that happened in the past • But, in being processed through human minds, the development and propagation of these narratives can manifest in drastically different ways • Example: Dussel, Enrique. “Was America Discovered or Invaded?” • What is at stake when we say that “history is written by the victors”? Empirical vs. Speculative • Quantitative v. Qualitative Different forms of thinking, suited to empirical sciences and humanities, respectively • Let’s consider the etymology of each term Etymology: the study of word origins • “Empirical” came from the Greek word “empirikos,” which means “experience” Empirikos can be divided into two Greek words, en- and peira, which mean “in” and “trial” So the word literally means “experience in trial” • “Speculative” comes from the Greek word “spekulatus”, which means “to look at” Empirical Thinking • Empirical - practical; based on experience Synonyms: experiment, experiential, experimental, factual, observational, observed Practical - realistic, useful Synonyms: applied, both feet on the ground, businesslike, commonsensical, constructive, doable, down-to-earth, efficient, empirical, experimental, factual, feasible, functional, handy, hard-boiled, implicit, in action, in operation, matter-of- fact, nuts and bolts, operative, orderly, possible, practicable, pragmatic, rational, reasonable, sane, sensible, serviceable, sober, solid, sound, systematic, unidealistic, unromantic, usable, utile, utilitarian, virtual, workable, workaday, working Speculative Thinking • Speculative – theoretical Synonyms: abstract, analytical, assumed, conceptive, dangerous, dicey, experimental, formularized, hairy, hazardous, hypothetical, ideal, idealized, ideological, iffy, in theory, intellectual, logical, notional, philosophical, presumed, risky, uncertain, unproven, unsubstantiated • Why does critical thinking matter? Being aware of the potential limits of universalizable truth claims (knowledge qua knowledge), humanities scholars often work to critique, problematize, re- consider, and question structures, ideals, ideologies, and theories. Construction still takes place, but the relation is often one of deconstruction. • Consider this in light of the UofT Mission Statement, above • What does it mean to think critically in this kind of educational space? • A greater understanding of the world, its different groups of people, their histories, the way they interact Knowledge, equality, and justice • Training of the imagination The humanities try to provide a systematic and clear account of what is deemed important in the world, such as questions pertaining to reality and human existence. They have value much more broadly in making lives that are rich in meaning and in illuminating aspects of the world that would otherwise remain hidden. Ideology • sets of ideas which give some account of the social world, usually a partial and selective one; • the relationship of these ideas or values to the ways in which power is distributed socially; • the way that such values are usually posed as “natural”, “obvious”, and “common sense” rather than socially produced • Ideology is the sets of beliefs underlying the customs, habits, and practices common to a given culture To members of that culture, the beliefs seem obviously true, natural, and universally applicable They may seem obviously arbitrary, idiosyncratic, and false to those who adhere to another ideology Within any culture, numerous ideologies coexist; some are marginalized, others are hegemonic, i.e. dominant and the cultural norm. All ideologies are inflected by power relationships, within and among themselves Ideologies may be forcefully imposed or willingly subscribed to Their component beliefs may be held consciously or unconsciously They govern our perceptions, judgments, and prejudices—our sense of what is acceptable, normal, and deviant Ideology causes revolutions; it maintains the status quo; it also allows discrimination, marginalization and exploitation Hegemony • Leadership or dominance, especially by one state or social group over others • Ideologies become hegemonic when they are adopted by the dominant class in a given society Cultural Hegemony: occurs within a pervasive system of assumptions, meanings, and values that shapes the way things look, what they mean, and therefore what reality is for the majority of people within a given culture • Cultural hegemony is how dominant culture maintains its dominant position It does so through persuasive and coercive means through the use of institutions to formalize power the employment of a bureaucracy to make power seem abstract (and therefore not attached to any one individual) the persuasion of the populace to accept the ideals of the hegemonic group through education, advertising, television programming, the Web, and so on • Examples of Ideologies: Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Libertarianism, Liberalism, Conservatism – Any formative construct which defines a considerable group of citizens • This is problematic: it leads to over-simplification of the individuals which make up these categories and groups • Ideologies become hegemonic the moment they become dominant in a society • Capitalism is the hegemonic ideology of the West, as is Democracy • It is very difficult for us to conceive of realistic approaches to social relations and politics outside of these two constructs • Alternatives that are offered are generally ridiculed, or deemed deeply dangerous (e.g. Capitalism v. Socialism) A system of economics or exchange without a profit motive seems foreign and unrealistic, because it is so far removed from the way we are taught to see the world • Adorno: “Conformity has replaced consciousness” • pseudo-individualism • The “Culture Industry”: popular culture is akin to a factory producing standardized cultural goods that are used to manipulate mass society into passivity. Consumption of the easy pleasures of popular culture, made available by mass media, renders people docile and content, regardless of their social status. • (adapted from: • “The concoctions of the culture industry are neither guides for a blissful life, nor a new art of moral responsibility, but rather exhortations to toe the line, behind which stand the most powerful interests.” (Adorno) • An endless reproduction of the same • Evgeny Morozov (“Are We Becoming Cyborgs?”) asks whether internet activism “will displace other forms of activism, and whether people will think they’re campaigning for something very important when they are in fact joining online groups that have very little relevance in the political world – and which their governments are actually very happy with. Many authoritarian governments I document in the book are perfectly O.K. with young people expressing discontent online, so long as it doesn’t spill out into the streets.” Representation • Definition 1: To take or fill the place of • To represent means to stand in for something. You represent your team, your neighbourhood, your university; it means to faithfully carry the identity of an area or group, to do it with honour, and to make others aware • Definition 2: To symbolize (something abstract or intangible, as a quality, concept, etc.), to stand in the place of; to signify, denote • Re-Present • Representation insists that there is a real world—something to be re- presented through representation—but this is always mediated by selection • Representations are therefore always partial • A representation can never be the thing-in-itself • Definition 3: To act as a symbolic sign or substitute for (a person or thing); to symbolize, stand for, or embody • There are always issues of power and control in representations • We must always ask: Who is responsible for the representation? • What is the agenda? • How something is represented matters • To what extent are representations of groups typical of how those groups are in society? • In what ways are all representations stereotypes? • Definition 4: To bring clearly and distinctly before the mind or imagination; to describe, evoke, conjure; to imagine, conceptualize
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