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Karina's picture

Again with the posting that disappears thank god there's a copy

What is the value of looking at gender and sexuality through the lens of humanities? I found myself agreeing overwhelmingly with everything that has been said in class regarding the (humanities’) ability to evoke powerful emotion, build personal connections, and allow us to re-imagine ourselves in constructs that are not necessarily possible in the “real” world and allow for change in attitude or perception. All those points are entirely valid. However, there’s something about the way in which the value of humanities is framed in contrast with natural and social sciences that borders on trivialization and this bothers me greatly.
I am (like Kayla and probably quite a few others in the class) most comfortable in dealing with humanities. The biggest distinction I’ve heard so far between humanities and other areas of study is that the sciences – be they natural or social – are more based on facts, on the construction of a “solid” sense of truth. Yes, we’ve all been made aware of and agreed upon the fact that even an area as “inflexible” as natural science is highly dependent on continuous paradigm shifts and is therefore not nearly as steady as we may believe. But nonetheless, when we put the humanities alongside natural science, the former is clearly viewed as “softer” than the latter.
The power of human emotion in an academic setting amounts to nil, let’s be honest here. No one grades us based on how much of an effect the material had on us and how well we allowed ourselves to be connected to and invested in it. No one places value on the depth or scope of feelings we experience or connections we’ve been able make with regard to our sense of self, personhood, and identity. Not unless we’re able to produce something in a 5-7 page format with the appropriate MLA-style bibliography. Not unless we’re able to produce proof. It matters little what sort of wondrous and transformative disease(s) may be inhabiting our minds and bodies due to our honest engagement with what we are learning and the ways in which we are applying what we’re learning unless there are SYMPTOMS.
Humanities works on an asymptomatic level, I think. That is why it is so often the case that one can appreciate a work of literature and connect with it but fail to produce the adequate evidence for the work that is being done. The value of papers about the relationship of humanities and to issues in understanding gender and sexuality hinges on one’s skilled ability to synthesize the appropriate symptoms, to fabricate evidence. A paper on the topic (for that would be the substantiation/proof of the value of humanities) is a perpetual shortcoming, a constant false representation of its value because in the world of academia it would consist of 70% skill in terms of writing a coherent paper (ANY paper) at least 10-20% self-censorship for the benefit of the academic setting – the appropriate language, the forced (re-)organization of ideas so that that fit the standard academic paradigm of how a paper should develop and lay itself out, the appropriation or manipulation of genuine ideas to fit the question being asked if the question is just plain unprovokative – and with any luck 10-20% of unadulterated substance.
Is that pessimistic? Yes, probably. Is it unfair? I’m not sure yet, I’m still in the process of thinking.
What am I going to do about it? Probably put it into yet another paper.


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