I approached Dr. Gary Fritz about creating this class last fall, right when I came to EIU. But why? I’m a poet. I basically write about my window: what’s outside it—and what’s beside it, which is my own head.
Sometimes, though, I can acutely feel the limits of what I don’t know.
Five years ago, I started writing this poem, which would later end up being a twenty-page poem that won the Black River chapbook competition. Here’s the beginning:
What small mammals
did we roast in the fire?
What first story did we
tell? Something about
longing. About loss:
The big one.
Within those few lines, I was trying to understand something about myself that my background in literature and creative writing hadn’t quite prepared me for. What have been the major events of our evolution? When did we acquire speech? The ability—even the desire—to tell stories? And how did we evolve from being groups of a few individuals to being participants in a global community?
In this class, we are not going to get to all of those questions. But we are going to
hit upon the tenants of human evolution. In doing so, we are going to ask: What did Darwin actually say? Why did people get so upset? How does the scientific community test ideas and reach consensus?
More importantly, what are the effects and outcomes of this foundational theory on the Humanities?
We will discuss some topics common in the Humanities such as gender construction, social Darwinism, the function of literature and ask: what is the biological perspective on these topics? In age of specialization, it is difficult enough to become an expert in just one field, let alone two. But we don’t have to know everything. Sometimes, we just have to reach out to others and ask the right questions.
What we will see is how these divisions between disciplines is more an organizing principle than it is a truth. We are all connected. This, after all, is what Darwin was getting at back in 1859.