This semester, the College of the Canyons Humanities Division will present a series of 17 events and activities meant to demonstrate the collective power of the humanities subjects and showcase the vast talents of the college’s faculty, during the second annual Celebrating the Humanities program.
With events taking place on campus throughout March and April, Celebrating the Humanities will feature presentations from college faculty members specializing in subjects including English, philosophy, cinema, modern language, music, political science and sociology.
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During this year’s program, each of the presentations will be related to the overarching theme: Empathy — The World in Multiple Perspectives.
“Ultimately, it is empathy—the ability to feel and see the world as others do—that unites humanity,” said Denee Pescarmona, COC interim dean of humanities. “In an era of divisiveness, we want to showcase that central element that celebrates the commonality of the human spirit.”
As the program’s launch event, the college will host renowned author Susan Straight for a unique presentation about her latest novel “Take One Candle Light a Room” and its elements of authenticity, empathy and redemption, at noon on Thursday, March 22, in Aliso Hall, Room 104, located on the college’s Valencia campus.
Praised by Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Joyce Carol Oates as “a writer of exceptional gifts and grace,” Ms. Straight — herself a former National Book Award finalist — is the author of seven novels, including “Highwire Moon” and “A Million Nightingales,” and a frequent contributor to a number of national publications.
“We could not be happier to have Ms. Straight’s participation in this year’s program,” said COC English professor Jia-Yi Cheng-Levine, who is also one of the event organizers. “Her tireless efforts to help bring social justice issues to the forefront of the literary world connect us to our common humanity, through an ability to empathize with others.”
All of the Celebrating the Humanities events are free and open to the public. Other events highlighting this year’s program include:
“Il Postino” — The Composition and Legacy of Daniel Catán; presenters: Andrea Puente and Michael McMahan; 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 10; location: Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center (PAC)
Abstract: When world-famous composer and College of the Canyons music professor, Daniel Catán died unexpectedly in April 2011, he left behind a rich catalog of music, most notably his last completed opera “Il Postino.” Based on the Academy Award-winning 1994 Italian film of the same name and the 1985 novel “Ardiente Paciencia” by Antonio Skármeta, “Il Postino” tells the story of a shy young postman in a tiny Italian fishing village who discovers the courage to pursue his dreams through his daily deliveries to his only customer, the esteemed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda played by Placido Domingo. A filmed version of “Il Postino” — produced by LA Opera and PBS — will be presented, along with opening remarks about Daniel Catán’s composition process and the legacy of his foundation by his widow Andrea Puente and Michael McMahan, COC professor emeritus and the college’s former Dean of Humanities.
“The Elegance of the Hedgehog” — An Exercise in Empathy. Presenters: Pierre Etienne and Jan Keller; 4-5 p.m. Wednesday, April 11; location: Hasley Hall, Room 233
Abstract: Jan Keller, COC professor emeritus and the college’s former head librarian, will lead a discussion of the best-selling French novel “The Elegance of the Hedgehog.” Containing strong themes of empathy, the novel deals with three characters of different ages, socio-economic backgrounds, and cultures, and depicts how their ability to see kindred souls in each other provides the ability to transform their lives. Attendees will also be invited to a screening of the award-winning French language film “The Hedgehog,” which was inspired by the novel, at 7 p.m. Friday, April 13, in Hasley Hall, Room 101.
American Slaves, Arab Master: Identity and Empathy in the Modern Middle East; presenters: Jennifer Brezina, Majid Mosleh, and Brent Riffel; 1-2 p.m. Monday, April 16; location: Hasley Hall, Room 230
Abstract: This panel will examine the relationship between the U.S. and the Middle East, starting with the events and literary texts of the Barbary Wars and connecting to the present day conditions. The discussion will begin with an analysis of the Barbary Wars, including how Orientalism and the philosophical concept of “Other” work to build, and deny, empathy as national identity is formed. These concepts will then be related to contemporary global politics, in particular U.S./Middle East relations post 9/11.
The Theory of Everything (Holistic Education); presenters: Tory Singer and members of the COC Philosophy Club; 2-3:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 18; location: Hasley Hall, Room 233
Abstract:We are required as rational and educated/scholarly individuals to familiarize ourselves with a wide array of varying disciplines that are extremely applicable to everyone, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or chosen major. The presenters of this panel will argue for and expand on this idea, as well as the idea that, individually, each academic discipline has a great, yet limited, ability to advance and benefit human culture/society, but together (when combined) the potential evolves to infinite possibilities.
Celebrating Art: Toward a Tactile Understanding of Empathy; presenters: Pamela Williams-Paez; 2- 4 p.m. Thursday, April 19; location: Mentry Hall, Room 202
Abstract: Creating art has always been an important facet of society and culture, both reflecting on and shaping our understanding of the world and ourselves. To be able to connect to basic elements through the creative process at times reveals surprising insights into the human condition. Pottery is one art form that can remind us of important aspects of our existence, as well as creating space for articulating new ideas and possibilities. Through a wheel throwing demonstration, a story of our existence as creators and our reflection on our connection to the earth can be told. By participating in this presentation, attendees will learn how notions of centering, exercising patience, connecting to the Earth and having fun are all intrinsic factors related to working with clay.
For more information about the 2012 Celebrating the Humanities program or any of the scheduled events please call Jia-Yi Cheng-Levine at (661) 362-5806 or visit www.canyons.edu/HUMAN.