Polymathic Pizza, Part I: On Being Human

Fall 2014
Polymathic Pizza, Part I: On Being Human

“‘Maybe,’ I figgered, ‘maybe it’s all men an’ all women we love; maybe that’s the Holy Sperit-the human sperit-the whole shebang. Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’”
—John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

What does being “human” really mean and can we ever plumb the depths of our complexity? Is our humanity a social, spiritual, or biological reality—or perhaps some combination of all three? Do we share a central identity at our core—an Oversoul as John Steinbeck describes it? Or has modern society led to such compartmentalization and fragmentation that we cannot ever hope to unify under shared core tenets what it means to be human? Have we moved, as many recent thinkers argue, toward a posthuman condition? Throughout the fall 2014 semester, we will consider these topics, beginning with the personal and expanding outward to the global implications of our “humanness.” Along with experts in their fields, we will explore how we might better understand what—if anything—defines our humanity.

Tania Modleski
September 3, 2014
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Harman Academy, DML 241

Our 21st-century view of romance is often shaped by media and popular culture; from The Bachelor to rom coms, Austen adaptations to eHarmony ads, we are inundated with images of, rules about, and expectations for relationships. Given this, has our perception and experience of love changed over...

Bruce Smith
October 15, 2014
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Harman Academy, DML 241

“Our bodies are our gardens to which our wills are gardeners.”—William Shakespeare

As modern medicine has permitted a greater understanding of how our bodies function, our perception of them has changed as well. Individuals in the early modern era, like Shakespeare, thought the body was...

Varun Soni
October 29, 2014
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm

What is the soul? Humans have devoted thousands of years seeking to understand it. Is it a collection of particles? An immortal, spiritual entity distinct from our corporeal form? Or perhaps a complex mechanism originating in the left brain, a function of neurons and circuits? Can these two...

Jack Halberstam
November 5, 2014
5:00 pm to 6:30 pm

From Modern Family to car commercials, the media regularly displays and exploits the familial unit in various iterations to appeal to viewers and consumers. But what truly is the “modern family” and how is it shaped by—or in opposition to—its representation in media? Do we feel a...

Shrikanth Narayanan
Tara McPherson
November 19, 2014
5:00 pm to 6:30 pm
Harman Academy, DML 241

Humans are social animals and have survived as a species through the construction of community. Community in our digital age now has multiple forms and meanings. From Facebook to Twitter to Tumblr, we are continually finding new ways to construct and extend communities in the cyber world....

Adlai Wertman
December 3, 2014
5:00 pm to 6:30 pm
Harman Academy, DML 241

The planet faces many challenges both old and new—poverty, educational access, healthcare, and environmental degradation. But how can we approach these problems in a sustainable format that will allow for real progress and change? Surely a key aspect of being human is finding ways to preserve...