Chesapeake, VA
English & Journalism


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About Me

The Humanities Fellows Program and Why It's Sick

November 26, 2017

Greetings and salutations, loyal readers of Spider Diaries! In light of my considerable hiatus, I must apologize. This semester has been my busiest, a fact which I really should’ve seen coming. Nevertheless, I’m surviving and thriving.

I’m going to write a bit about the Humanities Fellows Program class that I’ve been taking this semester with fellow Spider Diarist Cory. It’s one of the most interesting classes I’ve taken in my college career, and undoubtedly the most varied in terms of content.

For this single class, I’ve studied, seen, and read things you wouldn’t believe. Hong Kong movies from 2014 based on 16th-century Chinese novels. Madonna music videos. World War II-era Japanese propaganda magazines marketed to Europeans. I saw a musical in downtown Richmond, then took a train up north and saw poetry slam contest in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, near the Brooklyn Bridge. All those moments will be cemented into my memory, like splashes of orange on a stark white canvas. I was also required to watch the classic 80's sci-fi film Blade Runner — some famous scenes of which may have influenced my writing style - and thereafter viewed it through the lens of the antebellum slave narrative and contrasted its commentary on the measure of humanity with Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It’s been exhilarating, to say the least.

The craziest part? None of all that even begins to touch my main project for the semester. But I’ll get to that by and by. First, let me illuminate a bit about the program itself. It covers a wide scope (as you may have surmised), so please bear with me.

The official name of the class is Interdisciplinary Studies 397: Undergraduate Humanities Seminar. It’s almost three hours long, but we only meet on Wednesday afternoons. It has been taught chiefly by Dr. Abigail Cheever and Dr. Erika Zimmermann-Damer, although about every week we have another professor from one of the humanities department come in to give a presentation on the readings they provided and foment a discussion. I’m an English and Journalism major, but this class has allowed me to study, however briefly, under professors from the Classics, Music, Theater and Dance, and History departments!

I’ve been able to participate on account of my summer research fellowship with UR’s Race & Racism Project, in which you also may recall I also participated with Cory. Its goals are two-pronged: First, we examine, in-depth, the various disciplines of the liberal arts and humanities. This year, the specific focus of the course was human identity — which explored by reading, writing, and discussing the works under the professors whom I’ve mentioned before.

For this interdisciplinary part of the course, my classmates and I traveled to New York City over fall break. We walked up and down Manhattan and took in a sizable chunk of the liberal arts culture it had to offer: a tour of Harlem that visited the Apollo Theater, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Highline, the Museum of the Chinese in America, and the Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe. Quite a lot of ground covered for such a short amount of time!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Museum of Modern Art


Second, the course allows students to continue the research we did over the summer and use it to work toward an essay of twenty-five pages or so. We participated in writing workshops to improve each other’s papers, too. My essay was on a topic that’s not only timely of immense interest to me: how Richmond’s Confederate press was essential in the creation of the “Lost Cause” myth of the Civil War that’s played a role in everything from resistance to the civil rights movement and the Charlottesville white supremacist march in August. Much of my labors for this involved driving over to the Library of Virginia to look over old microfilm of nineteenth-century newspapers, in order to divine the rhetoric of the day. UR also has its own archive of transcriptions of the Civil War-era’s Richmond Daily Dispatch, which was an immense help.

The Humanities Seminar has definitely been the highlight of my junior year so far — and I highly recommend pursuing it when you come to Richmond!

—Hunter, Class of 2019

Call me Hunter, or the chosen one, or Chuck Norris, or the Lone Wanderer from Vault 101, or anything else that's awesome because it would really boost my self-esteem. However you choose to style me, know that my intention is to give you a firsthand impression of life here at the University of Richmond. Late study nights, Saturday evening shindigs, extracurriculars, that sort of thing.

And yes, it has occurred to me that this is an About Me and I've neglected to tell you much about me. So I'm from Chesapeake, Virginia, a place just south of Norfolk that's large enough to be a county but isn't because reasons. There's not much to do in Chesapeake other than going for a dip in the Great Dismal Swamp (ill-advised) or head to a neigboring town to hit the beach, and I think that's part of the reason I spent most of my earlier childhood holed up in my room reading books or playing Playstation. 

I branched out in my high school years, though, and I've developed affinites for genealogy, running, film, and photography. I am not a man of many talents, though among them include the remarkable power to turn my thumb all the way backwards, the ablility to tell you almost everything you'd ever want to know about the Star Wars Expanded Universe (which unfortunately has been declared non-canon, thanks to J.J. Abrams), and the astonishing skill to cook Minute Rice in 58 seconds. My playlist includes mostly oldies, and my favorite movies all came out before I was born. So you might say I'm a bit of a hipster. I've even got my own snazzy red Polaroid camera, which is practically a license to hipster in this day and age, right?

So, yeah, that's me. In conclusion, read on! Hope you enjoy my blog posts!

Why UR?

I'm not a very decisive person. During my senior year of high school, I envied the kids who were certain straight from the get-go where they wanted to go to college. I had applied to several great schools that I thought could offer me a great education, but I had trouble picking which one was the best fit for me. I constantly held debates against myself, weighing the pros and the cons of each school in my head and occasionally and occasionally audibly voicing my concerns a la Gollum: "How about this one?" "No, no, too big. And too far away. Going back and forth to home could prove to be a real bummer." "Good point, but look at their alumni network! They could hook you up with a job fresh out of graduation!" "Ah, true, but check out these student reviews online. You really want to go to a place with this reputation?" "Do you believe everything you read in those reviews?" "Of course I do. They can't put anything on the internet that isn't true." And so on and so on. I still hadn't made a decision by mid-April, so the jury was still out on where I was going just two weeks before the deadline. Pressure from my parents and peers to choose just kept piling on heavier and heavier. Around this time I went to a Richmond Scholars visit, which afforded prospective students who'd been offered scholarships from the University the chance to get a glimpse of life as a student here. The visit was really what sealed the deal for me. The beautiful campus was a joy to explore even in the surprisingly sweltering spring heat. I had the opportunity to sit in on a class, which wasn't very big. Richmond's small class sizes allow for intimate discussions as opposed to drawling lectures and make it rather easy to develop close relationships with professors. I've found that most of them encourage you to meet with them in their spare time, something that might be more difficult to do at a larger institution. While at the Scholars visit, I talked with my host for hours. He gave me a bare bones, down-to-earth explanation of what he thought of Richmond. And I know it's a total cliche, but there's one thing he told me that I really think rings true here at Richmond and life in general: It can be a great and rewarding experience, but only if you put in the effort to make it one. Bottom line, I think Richmond gives students the resources needed to make their college years more than worthwhile, moreso than any other school I checked out. We've got top-notch academics to satisfy any hungry mind, we've got a plethora of extracurriculars to enjoy, tons of chances to broaden our horizons (literally and figuratively), and of course, we've got the chow at D-Hall. All that's really what made me want to spend the next four years of my life here.