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Humanities Provide a Sense of Place

Julia Rahimzadeh (C’22)

English Major and Religion, Ethics, and World Affairs (REWA) Minor

I’ve never known a life without the humanities at its heart— as the daughter of an English professor and a history teacher, my childhood was very much entrenched in them.  My sense of self was tied up in every book I read, every play I saw, and every new song I learned to play on piano, and I slowly began to find my academic path among these fragments of the things that I loved.  But though I was passionate about them, that’s exactly what they were—fragments.  I hadn’t yet learned to contextualize the arts in truly meaningful ways, so while I knew how they made me feel as a person in myself, they didn’t tell me very much about the world, or my place in it.

My humanities education at Georgetown provided me with this sense of place.  Though I fully believe that things like theater, literature, and music can be evaluated on their own, simply for what they are, I also believe in the ability of history and culture to lend meaning to them.  How much more powerful was the play How I Learned to Drive after a week of discussing it in Maya Roth’s Ignatius Seminar?  How much less would I know about my faith if I hadn’t considered notions of martyrdom in Fr. Bosco’s Catholic literature class?  How much more would I have appreciated the jazz song I played in my 8th grade piano recital if I had known—courtesy of Anna Celenza—the sheer number of different genres that had to commingle in New Orleans to produce that sound?  Learning about what certain books or music or songs meant to the people or cultures who created them has made me feel like a stakeholder in the arts; any work that lands in my hands is not untethered, but a piece of history that has a narrative of its own—and my experience of it is just one stop along its way.

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