Monthly Archives: October 2012

Open Letter to MAPH 2012-2013 – Service and Humanistic Inquiry

Greetings, MAPHers!

Author Nathaniel Dell (MAPH ’12)

I hope this post finds all of you well. I appreciate that some of you may have time to read this, as much as I appreciate that many more of you may not have such time because you are so immersed in your zealous study of those recondite things we call the humanities. Whatever your passion that has drawn you to MAPH, whether literature, philosophy, music or art history—even classics—I trust that you respect the arduous labor of clarifying your thought as a labor of great importance. Between us, this feeling is mutual. However, in my personal experience with the humanities, the relevance of tarrying with the Platonic dialogues is something I have frequent need of renegotiating for myself. What ought I to do with my now clarified, or, more often, sublimely muddled thought? In MAPH, I was guided and fortified by the notion that my philosophizing should advance some common good. Credit that notion to all of the Socratic fan-fiction I’ve read from Plato; blame the generality of that notion to me. At any rate, Maren has graciously invited me to share how my experience in MAPH challenged me to think of how humanistic inquiry has informed my AmeriCorps service. I would also like to share how MAPH challenged me to re-think the spaces in which humanistic inquiry can flourish.

At the outset of my MAPH year last September, I was confident, though not certain, that I would find myself in a year or two attending some Ph.D. program in philosophy. At the same time, I thought it peculiar that I would have spent the past five years contemplating the common good along with my dead Greek friends, Plato, Socrates, and Marx (pretty much an Aristotelian) but doing little direct service towards forming the community I had been imagining. That said, towards the middle of my MAPH year, I became more confident that I would find myself working in some social service organization, which is just what happened. Through AmeriCorps’ Catholic Volunteer Network, I now work as a caseworker for the Guardian Angel Settlement Association at Hosea House in St. Louis, Missouri. GASA’s social services site, Hosea House, provides emergency assistance for persons and families in crisis who may need food, clothing, utilities or rental assistance. Hosea House also partners with other agencies to offer seasonal, public health, senior and back to school programs.

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Project on Civic Reflection – The Reflection

Tim Fosbury, MAPH ’12

Tim Fosbury, MAPH ’12, reflections on the MAPH year and his internship at the Project on Civic Reflection.

Two phrases stick out in my mind from my MAPH year. First is David Wray’s assertion, during one of our first core lectures no less, that we could expect MAPH to be a sort of “P90X for the soul.” Those words stuck right away and proved correct in many ways, most of them good. Second was something I heard from various mentors, advisors, and professors. This was the idea that “as humanities scholars, it is easy to forget that we are actually a part of humanity.” That is, we spend so much time reading, critiquing, and analyzing humanity, that we often inadvertently forget to participate in it.  This separation was something I tried to avoid, but during the drudges of thesis and seminar paper time – those days when I started having imaginary conversations with Cormac McCarthy and the Judge from Blood Meridian began taunting me in my dreams -I began paying more and more attention to those second set of words. So, I then started to look for outlets where I could take my academic training beyond the classroom.

I was lucky when the Project on Civic Reflection was offered as one of the internships this past summer. Based on their website and the internship description, I wasn’t quite sure what I’d be doing with the organization, but there was something that drew me to it. All I knew going in was that PCR facilitated discussions, and trained facilitators to lead their own discussions, with community and civic organizations around the country. But I soon learned that these were not typical discussions that revolved around the illusion of solving large problems in an hour or creating action plans full of empty verbiage. Rather, they were spaces of reflection on why we do the work we do, or what we expect to accomplish in civic work, with no pressure to resolve anything, but only to consider closely these larger themes. And during my internship I was lucky enough to participate in discussions that ranged from education to idealism in non-profit work to racism and segregation in Chicago. What impressed me in each discussion was how the PCR model was able to bring people together from various backgrounds and foster serious and considered dialogue.

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Humanities Day 2012

Mark your calendars! Saturday, October 20th is the 34th annual Humanities Day at the University of Chicago. If you aren’t familiar with Humanities Day, it is an epic day of lectures from some of the heavyweights in the university’s Humanities Division. If you happen to be in town, please consider attending! Friends and family are welcome!

MAPH-affiliated faculty are making a great showing this year. The following talks may be of particular interest to past, present and future MAPHers:

There is also a MAPH reception directly after David’s lecture in the Logan Center, which is a beautiful, brand new building on the south side of campus. The reception will be next door to David’s lecture, in Room 801.

So if you’re looking for a great way to reconnect with your MAPH experience, please join us next Saturday, October 20th, for Humanities Day. Hurry up and register so we can save you a seat!