HUMANITIES I-III, Claire Van Zant, Rochester, MN

Mrs. Van Zant's Humanities Series Reading List

Humanities I, Ancient Athens
  • The Seven Against Thebes, Aeschylus
  • The Ethics, Aristotle
  • The Odyssey, Homer
  • The Crito, Plato
  • The Republic, Plato
  • Oedipus Rex, Sophocles
  • Oedipus at Colonus, Sophocles
  • Antigone, Sophocles
Humanities I, New York and Contemporary America
  • Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
  • 1984, George Orwell
Humanities II, Man and God
  • A Man For All Seasons, Robert Bolt
  • * The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch
  • From Atheism to Christianity: The Story of C. S. Lewis,
    Joel Heck
  • The Discarded Image, C.S. Lewis
  • Out of the Silent Planet, C.S. Lewis
  • Valponi, Ben Johnson
  • Dr. Faustus, Christopher Marlowe
  • Paradise Lost, John Milton
  • The Duchess of Malfi, John Webster
  • * other medium
Humanities II, Measure of Modern Man
  • The Stranger, Albert Camus
  • Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The Visit, Friedrich Durrenmatt
  • The Bucket Rider, Franz Kafka
  • The Adding Machine, Elmer Rice
  • No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre
Humanities III, Beyond Enlightenment
  • Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  • The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Eugenie Grandet, Honore de Balzac
  • Hard Times, Charles Dickens
  • Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
  • * The Temptation of St. Anthony, Pieter Bruegel the Elder
  • Ulysses, James Joyce
  • * other medium

Three passions, simple
but overwhelmingly
strong, have governed
my life; the longing
for love, the search
for knowledge, and
unbearable pity for
the suffering of

- Bertrand Russell

Humanities: Maximizing human potential for lifetime

By CLAIRE VAN ZANT | Having been asked to write an article on the subject of the humanities and its connection to the world of art, I must begin by being emphatic in the belief that humanities education during the formative years and continuing throughout life, whenever and however possible, produces the greatest resource for the world of the arts. We are, of course, talking not only of music, literature and painting but of the arts in the original sense of the word.

The arts of applying science, designing things, constructing social order, pursuing philosophical ideals and exploring the notion of the self, the processes that go into an economically viable and fulfilled society.

Currently in the world of education preference and emphasis is certainly upon the sciences, mathematics, physics-biology-chemistry, computer sciences and technical training of all kinds.

But yet, in a mood of great disquiet emanating from violent eruptions of race hatred, stormy protest, fear of AIDS epidemic and the prevailing persistence of a terrifying drug war, there is an emerging consciousness of the need to provide liberal education which will prepare the student for life as well as for life's work.

This concern and awareness has brought the realization that although the sciences provide the means through which many may achieve survival, the arts and humanities make survival worthwhile.

The reader may be puzzled, as many before have been, to identify the exact boundaries implied by the term "humanities." It seems so often to be used as a convenient umbrella for any kind of interdisciplinary studies.

I am endeavoring to suggest an appropriate and more specific interpretation, pointing toward studies that make life more distinctively and more richly human; studies that maximize the human potential not just for the immediacy of the moment but for a lifetime.

So, what is the humanities? It is the creation of an idea. It is that part of men and women which makes them endure, with heroism, when all hope appears to be lost.

It is the outraged voice of persecution against the iniquities of tyranny and it is the expression of concern for those not usually considered.

It is the sociological commitment of man which goes beyond personal and domestic necessity; it is a response to religion, an involvement of faith. Most importantly it constellates a sense of justice tempered by mercy, and certainly it gives recognition of beauty and wonder in nature.

It is the awesome comprehension of man's potential in achieving for civilization, progress, retrogression or destruction.

It is the embodiment of man's creative genius expressed in sound, words, dimension, movement and paint.

It is above all the responsibility of being humane to oneself, and to all mankind. Modern mankind's great adventure is not merely to explore the outer world; it is to an even greater extent to plumb the depths of the human soul.

With keen perceptions and qualitative ideas abounding, modern mankind must vigorously seek new dimensions which could indeed include a ``kinder gentler'' people not given to the kind of inhumanity that ``makes countless nations mourn.''

The humanities then must be the means of preserving and handing down the heritage of man to future generations. Generations, indeed, who may find even more appreciation, comfort and pleasure in the works of Shakespeare, Bach and the architects of medieval times than we have found, and it is to be fervently hoped, out of that appreciation, pleasure and learning create another Renaissance more glorious, more illustrious than the last.

The cultivation of the arts is an
education of the sensibilities,
and if we are not given an
education of this kind, if our
hands remain empty and our
perception of form is
unexercised, then in idlenesss
and vacancy we revert to
violent crime. When there is
no will to creation, the death
instinct takes over and wills
gratuitous destruction.

-- Sir Herbert Read

Paradise Lost [BBC Radio 4]

Cast: Ian McKellen [Milton]; Simon Russell Beale [Satan]; Frances Barber [Elizabeth]; Jonathan Keeble [Beelzebub]; Ashley Margolis [Adam]; David Seddon [Christ]; Conrad Nelson [Mammon]; Emily Pithon [Eve]; Russell Dixon [God]
Cast: Ian McKellen [Milton]; Simon Russell Beale [Satan]; Frances Barber [Elizabeth]; Jonathan Keeble [Beelzebub]; Ashley Margolis [Adam]; David Seddon [Christ]; Conrad Nelson [Mammon]; Emily Pithon [Eve]; Russell Dixon [God]

[2018] John Milton was a successful poet and political activist. By the time he began writing Paradise Lost in the 1650's he had become blind . Poet Michael Symmons Roberts has turned Paradise Lost into a vital gripping piece of storytelling broadcast in two parts , that will ricochet off the events that are turning our own political and social landscape upside own.

Milton wrote scathing pamphlets against corruption in the Anglican Church and its ties to King Charles. At one point Milton was jailed for recording his thoughts on paper. Paradise Lost, as much as anything, is a series of arguments put forth by the characters.

It follows the exploits of a hero (or anti-hero); it involves warfare and the supernatural; it begins in the midst of the action, with earlier crises in the story brought in later by flashback; and it expresses the ideals and traditions of a people. The poem is in blank verse, that is, non-rhyming verse.

The central story line is built around a few paragraphs in the beginning of Genesis-the story of Adam and Eve. The epic also uses elements from many other parts of the Bible, particularly involving Satan's role. Focusing his poem on the events surrounding the fall of Adam and Eve, Milton intended, in his words, to "justify the ways of God to men," by tracing the cause and result for all involved.

Directed in Salford by Susan Roberts

Milton's mission was to show not only what caused man's fall, but also the consequences upon the world, both bad and good. A concept central to this tale is that of the "felix culpa" or fortunate fall. This is the philosophy that the good which ultimately evolves as a result of the fall leaves us in a better place, with opportunity for greater good than would have been possible without it. The characters in Paradise Lost find themselves in situations which genuinely are political. In directing the Son to create earth, God the Father is conducting an act of ruler ship, which is inescapably political.

Likewise, Satan's attempts to rouse the fallen angels in Book I really are reminiscent of Milton's desire to rally support for the Cromwellian government. Mid 17c was a time of great social and cultural turmoil. A series of political and military conflicts, the English Civil War or the English Revolution raged intermittently between Parliamentarians and Royalists from 1642 to 1651. Many factors contributed to the tensions between Crown and Parliament - Charles' marriage to a Catholic, his desire to be involved in wars with Europe and ideological questions that were being raised about the nature of government and authority . Sounds familiar?

Milton's response to what he perceived as the disintegration of society and turmoil around him was to reach back to the very beginning of time to search for the events that had led to this political and social upheaval to look for answers and ask questions abiut how society had arrived at a place of dysfunction .Staying true to the blank verse, the adaptation will include a blind narrator - Milton , played by Ian McKellen , whose eyesight worsens throughput the development of the drama.

Video Links

Mrs. Van Zant was an early adopter of the use of video in her classroom. She utilized us in the TV Studio regularly to broadcast BBC (naturally) adaptations of the books her classes were reading. Here are links to clips of some of the videos she played in class from 1980-1983. (I threw in "1984" just because I am pretty sure she approved of it.)