Cultural Agents

Institution(s): Harvard

Discipline(s): Humanities

Faculty Member(s): Doris Sommer

Keyword(s): Art, Social Justice

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Cultural Agents can be considered a response to the question, “Why the Humanities?” In this course, we study Aesthetics as a mainstay of the Humanities which partners with all fields of study and professional practice (medicine, politics, business, law, education, among others). In collaboration with speakers from a variety of fields, we will examine the writings of several theorists who engage aesthetics. We explore arts and interpretation to develop useful concepts (point of view, technique, context, competing messages, aesthetic effects). Part of the work is to train free, disinterested judgment. This faculty for pausing to step back and take stock is basic to all disciplines. That’s why humanistic training is a fundamental contribution to general research and to social development. Interpreting art, appreciating its power to shape the world, can spur and support urgently needed change. This is not a deviation from humanistic attention to the mechanisms of art production and reception. It is a corollary and a homecoming to civic education.