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How Has the Pandemic Changed the World Term Paper

How Has the Pandemic Changed the World Term Paper

How Has the Pandemic Changed the World Term Paper

We are told that the Humanities are all about the experience of being human: “a kaleidoscope through which we rearrange the fragments of our collective experience,” as the quote on the home page says. Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg in “A Manifesto for the Humanities in a Technological Age” and several other writers (Neil Postman, Martha Nussbaum, Richard Franke) whose pieces you have read in this course say that one of the most important factors impacting human experience in our time is technology. This was true when Davidson and Goldberg wrote in 2004 that “if ever there were a time when society was in need of humanistic modes of inquiry, it is today . . . precisely because of the rapid developments in science and technology, we must think carefully about the nature of the human, the ethics of scientific investigation, and the global effects of technological change,” and has become even more true in the last few months in the context of technological measures put in place to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was no escaping previous pandemics — such as the Black Plague (1347-51), the Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia (1793), or the Spanish Flu (1918) — except for those people wealthy enough not to need to go to work and to be able to travel away from the area of contagion. The rest, poorer people, survived, or died. Now in 2020 we are dealing with another pandemic, but the invention of the telephone, credit cards, personal computers, and the world wide web means that we can stay in our own homes and continue life almost as normal: purchase the necessities (food, medication) and even luxuries of life, continue schooling, work office jobs, trade on the stock exchange, even socialize — sort of. In other words, this containment of, and response to, COVID-19 is technology- driven, and could not have happened in 1347, in 1793, in 1918 — or even in 1990!

However, as a result of these necessary technology-driven containment measures, our relationships with one another, with society, and with the world as a whole seem to have rather abruptly changed. Communication through screens (or masks) is now the norm and as individuals we are arguably more isolated: no more experiencing our common humanity as part of a crowd in stores, schools, churches, offices, restaurants, theaters, sports arenas, parks, airports, or anywhere else. Are our lives also more controlled than they used to be as we receive orders to shelter in place, to quarantine, to give information about our past and present whereabouts, to wear masks, to have our temperature taken, and possibly in the future, to be vaccinated and tracked by cell phone? Are we also in the process of losing something of our wholeness as humans as we find ourselves reduced to the level of a fingerprint, an eye, or even just a body temperature — all readable by computer?!

In light of all of this, your assignment is to think about how life in general and your life in particular have changed since the pandemic hit us and about how the Humanities — articles and chapters such as those you have read in this course and creative works of writing, visual art, drama, and music — can help to make sense of all of this. As Robert E. Proctor says, “thinking occurs best through comparison and contrast,” (p. xi) and in Chapter 2 of Defining the Humanities, he gives the example of how Petrarch read Cicero’s letters and Homer’s Odyssey (composed many centuries before) and found something in both of them that he could relate to in his grief and disorientation as the Black Plague swept through Europe wiping away his friends, family, and sense of normality.

Discuss one piece of music/song, one work of visual art (painting, sculpture, photo), one dramatic work (movie or play), and one piece of literature (novel, poem) that speak to you and to the challenge of “being human” and an individual in 2020 in the midst of a pandemic — and explaining why. At least two out of these four examples should be 50 years old or more (to illustrate Proctor’s point that a “dialogue across time stands at the heart of the tradition of the humanities,” p. x), the other two can be more contemporary, if you prefer. Construct it with an introductory paragraph, development, and conclusion, just like any other essay.


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