Past experiences inform societal norms and systems of beliefs that define cultures of different peoples.

DISCIPLINES AND
CULTURAL CONTEXTS
OF THE HUMANITIES

INTRODUCTION

Present behaviors and perceptions of people are shaped by events
making up their conscious past.

Past events directly affect the way people perceive present events that
constitute reality.

It is true that the best way to learn is through experience.

Therefore, at the center of justification of knowledge in all its forms is
human experience.

It is the ultimate source of all knowledge. Over time it has
accumulated in human culture and memory, producing methods of
intelligence and judgment referred to as ‘science’ and reason.

CONNECTING THE DISCIPLINES

Past experiences inform societal norms and systems of
beliefs that define cultures of different peoples.

Concepts and themes across independent disciplines of
the humanities find a common denominator here.

Seeking a humanistic view of various phenomena leads
to overlapping of concepts, hence the connection of the
different fields of human interaction.

Concepts across disciplines can address the same issue,
each more or less differently from the other

INSIGHT

For a better understanding of the inter-connection
achieved across disciplines, I seek to analyze three
creative works from separate disciplines of the
humanities.

The analysis shall be both objective and subjective.

I shall choose a theme and seek to find its
connection with a profession in my field of study.

…………continuation

This is in appreciation of the fact that human experience
that involves participation in events or observation of such
is the basis of all knowledge. For instance, a lawyer and a
doctor may both find themselves in a dilemma that
requires them to apply their express knowledge in order to
get through it.

As such, their judgments may be informed by knowledge
gained through similar experiences, or occurrence of
different events that taught them a common lesson. Such is
the connection that is the subject of interest here.

THE WORKS

The following works shall be explored in
detail:

  1. The Death of Ivan Ilyich-Leo Tolstoy

2.I’m a Loser-Beatles

  1. Oil Paintings by Brenda Goodman

The three pieces of work from different
disciplines all overlap in as far as theme
depiction is concerned.

They all address loss and pain in one way or
the other.

The Death of Ivan Ilyich

A novella, very popular in literature.

Authored by Leo Tolstoy.

First published in 1886.

Has true connection with events in the author’s life,
before and after he wrote it.

His religious conversion shortly before he authored
it and his state of mind before his death in 1910 are
significant in this respect.

I’M A LOSER

Discipline-music.

The song by Beatles stands out as one of his best
compositions.

As opposed to revolving solely on love, it depicts
loss, emotional pain, and the accompanying self-pity
and subsequent soul-searching.

The tune also brings out romantic rejection but pain
and loss form my point of focus.

Oil Paintings

Categorized under Visual Art.

The works by Brenda Goodman bring out strong
themes often informed by true events in her life.

Main themes include loss, pain, death, and longing

She creates imagery that is classically archetypal

CONNECTION TO COMMON
THEME

All mentioned works explore the themes of pain and
loss.

The novella as well as the oil paintings both bring
out the pain of death and the loss caused by it. The
three also broadly address suffering brought about
by real experiences that tend to put subjects in one
bracket.

Due to their shared/overlapping themes, the works
would usually have a similar effect across audiences

………..continuation

I shall concentrate on loss and pain as my themes of
interest and see how each piece of work depicts them.

The themes find relevance in Medicine and Health in
many ways. For instance, medical practitioners like
nurses and doctors are reminded that their acts or
omissions have consequences like suffering and death.
These encompass loss. It goes without saying that pain is
inseparable from these.

The author and artists take their audiences through
experiences that they are able to relate to their personal
lives. How they do this shall be explored in detail.

OBJECTIVE ANALYSIS

Literary Work

The novella is one of the most popular masterpieces of Leo Tolstoy’s
fiction.

Tells about the death of a high-court judge in Russia at the age of 45.

Ivan Ilyich Golovin’s life seems to be going on well till he injures
himself as he hangs curtains in his new apartment that reflects his
family’s superiority in society (Tolstoy, & Carson, 2014).

What follows is a period of agony and great suffering as doctors are
unable to treat him.

It dawns on Ivan and everyone else that he is dying. He reflects upon
his life and the way he used to relate with the rest of the society.

………continuation

He enters a state of panic and is advised by those around
him to stay calm and follow the instructions given by the
doctors.

He does not believe a man who had lived so well can go
through what he experiences; great pain and eventual
death.

He finally accepts it and waits to die. Amid the pain and
suffering, he is able to realize that is as much as his death
shall be painful, and a big loss to his family, other people
who had suffered when he was alive will be relieved that
he will be gone.

Tolstoy’s Technique/Style

His seemingly simple artistic organization of the
narrative drives the reader to make conclusions that
support his moral and ethical beliefs. He begins the
narrative with callous reactions towards Ivan’s
death. Then he proceeds to give an account of the
life of Ivan.

Indeed, this technique is effective since the reader
develops great sympathy for Ivan and is able to
make an ethical judgment based own the universal
understanding of what is right or wrong.

……..continuation

Tolstoy also uses repetitive patterns in his narration to
achieve his desired effect. He repetitiously tells of
Ivan’s evil nature and largely self-centered life. By
making the narrative circular, he demonstrates morally
wrong actions and decisions.

He supports his belief in rejection of bureaucracy and
the need to adopt a simple life by using very concrete
and realistic detail.

He employs realism. An excellent example in this regard
is his description of the smell of disease

ELEMENTS OF LITERATURE IN
THE NOVELLA

Character-the story is told vividly and revolves
around one main character: Ivan. By giving him
certain characteristics, the author is create in the
reader certain attitudes. The actions of the main
character contribute to the plot. Ivan’s selfish and
evil nature is the pillar upon which the narrative
rests since his acts and omissions lead to other
developments in the story.

Plot- By drawing the reader to Ivan’s life, Tolstoy
enables the reader to understand the choices that he
makes and the consequences that come with such.
All events in the narrative flow with cohesion,
hence its complete nature.

………continuation

Theme- Tolstoy develops his story in away that at the end of
it, the reader is able to learn something. The narrative teaches
in many aspects. For instance, one learns that actions and
choices that people make affect other people in society. Also,
pain is brought to the readers comprehension through this
piece of work (Tolstoy, & Pevear, 2009) .

Setting-In as much as the physical location where the story
takes place is important, I shall focus on the emotional
setting of the story. It is not cheerful at the onset, a
characteristic maintained through the rest of the narrative.

This way, the author keeps his readers in a certain emotional
state, to ensure they do not miss what he is trying to bring
forth through his work.

NONLITERARY WORKS

Brenda Goodman’s Oil Paintings

It is a Visual Art.

Her paintings are proof that time, events, and space
are virtual.

She is motivated by own life experiences .

Death of partner’s son, loss of a precious pet, health
issues, and childhood problems are some of the
factors that have motivated her in her works
(Goodman et al,2007).

Her paintings largely present her subjectivity.

Goodman’s Techniques/Styles

She combines abstraction and figuration to achieve the
desired effects (Doll et al, 1990).

Largely, the work’s abstractness is consistent and cohesive even
in her morally figurative works.

Human figure surrogates can be found in all her abstract
paintings in exhibitions

She creates understandable imagery without any irony or
literary pretensions.

The abstract masses of lines or forms she invents suggests an
outline of a figure that appear to be easily altered to whatever
state they are implied to be in, be it happy or sad.

ELEMENTS OF LITERATURE IN
THE PAINTINGS

Theme-She manages to create moving and clearly
profound worlds that touch on the various themes
including death, loss, pain, suffering and self
discovery.

Conflict- Goodman employs conflict to
communicate with her audience. Most of the time,
her works depict conflict, pitting man against nature
or society.

……..continuation

Setting- she setting of her paintings is suggestive of
the mood, and the theme. It suggests a general mood
of sadness.

Object- The object of her drawings can be compared
to characters in a literary piece of work. It is what
she uses to communicate in its complete form.

I’M A LOSER (MUSIC BY BEATLES)

Is a music composition by Beatles.

As opposed to most of his works, it goes beyond
addressing young love.

Theme of loss and hopelessness resulting from
romantic rejection is explored.

It addresses hypocrisy whereby people pretend to be
happy when in reality their world is crumbling
down.

BEATLES’ TECHNIQUE/STYLE

She uses an occasional instrumental break that plays
a role in absorbing the listener’s attention.

Her work is also characterized by a catchy chorus
that is easy to grasp and interesting to even sing
along with. This is very effective since the audience
are able to actively participate in passing on the
theme.

LITERARY ELEMENTS IN THE
MUSIC

Tone-The emotional coloring of the song gives it an
even deeper meaning, emotionally.

Mood-The mood of the piece of music goes hand in
hand with the theme contained therein. It is a sad one, as
would be expected with the portrayed romantic
rejection.

Structure- Beatles presents her work in a well-structured
manner. The acapella opening speeds up to quite a brisk
western-and-country-influenced gallop. The shining
harmonies and a catchy chorus all make up an excellent
piece of work.

Voice- she employs this as her main mode of
communication.

SUBJECTIVE ANALYSIS

Novella

The work is largely successful in pushing the reader
to evaluate their lives.

In examining Ivan’s past life and the turn of events
that culminated in the present situation, the Tolstoy
leaves the reader to conclude for themselves the
futility of life. The work gives them a wake-up call
as regards moral and ethical values in society.

……..continuation

I think the fact that Ivan constantly reflects upon his past
as he lies in his deathbed reflects the futility of life. The
reader is taken through the experience of pain; many
would imagine it as they read the book.

It is this view of life that should inform people to be just
nice since all is vanity, after all. It is indeed sad that
someone else’s death can be celebrated by other people.
This should be a lesson, that the way other people view
us and relate with us is directly influenced by our
decisions and actions that affect them either directly or
indirectly.

……continuation

The mood of the novella is sad/ melancholic. From the
very beginning of the narrative, the callous reactions to
the death of Ivan set the mood that prevails throughout
the narrative.

Standing out as one of the major themes is the futility of
life. This is especially clear when Ivan does not by
himself believe that after all he had had and been in life,
he could still be sick and eventually die(Tolstoy, &
Carson, 2014).

The theme of pain and suffering that everyone has to go
through at some point in life is also depicted. It is clear
in the agony that Ivan goes through from the time he
falls sick to the time he dies.

……oil paintings-mood and themes

Brenda is able to create forms that portray and create
general feeling of sadness and a sense of loss.

Some of her paintings that include Burial, Crossing Over,
Hard Choice share these common themes. They are
mainly abstract environments that can be interpreted as
either exteriors or interiors (Goodman et al, 2007).

In a typical painting, she denotes a face depending on the
theme and mood of the painting. For instance, for a sad
face, a face would be characterized by disturbing stitches
in the position of the mouth. In such a way, she is able to
use abstract forms and lines to present a figure depending
on the prevailing mood.

…….continuation

Through maps she creates painful emotions. In Loss , a
dark huge looming shape steals the attention of the
viewer. However, other smaller figures, whether human
or cats are the image’s driving forces (Doll, & Santa
Barbara Museum of Art, 1990).

She use her paintings to express various phenomena in
life. Though her work is purely artistic, it has been
informed mainly by true events in her life.

Indeed, I have learnt that painting can be a very
powerful mode of communication. In depth feelings and
perceptions can be expressed through painting, in a
similar manner that Brenda does.

The Music….

Addressing romantic rejection, the piece of work has a
sad mood hovering around it.

The line “Behind this smile I am wearing a frown” is the
best example that communicates the prevailing mood
(Beatles, 2003) .

The theme being depicted is that of loss and self-pity.
This results from being rejected by a loved one. The line
“I’m a loser” says it all (Beatles, 2003).

From the piece of music, I learn that it is better for
people to be honest with themselves. There is no need of
pretending to be happy when sadness rules their lives.

RELATING THE WORKS

Tolstoy’s novella, Brenda’s oil paintings and
Beatle’s piece of music all bring out similar moods.

In addition, they go further to communicate other
uncommon themes, each to its own extent.

Loss and pain are common themes displayed by all
the works.

The novella achieves this through the narration of
Ivan’s sickness and accompanying pain that lead to
his eventual death.

……..continuation

The mentioned paintings are largely melancholic owing to the
features mentioned.

The piece of music also expresses emotional pain and loss
associated with a relationship that could not work.

Quite differently from the others, Death of Ivan Ilyich
presents the mood of the uselessness of life. However, I find a
close relation of this piece with most of Brenda Goodman’s
works because in depicting death that is well the destiny of all
people, She somehow shows that indeed, all is vanity. Life
can be meaningless.

All three works are indeed realistic, the moods resonate well
with the themes they bring forth.

My understanding

Analyzing the works has helped me understand the
themes better since in so doing, I was able to look at the
issues from different angles.

This varied yet realistic perspectives have aided me
comprehend better how completely different
occurrences in life can have the same results in the life
of an individual and the society in general.

Also, I have appreciated different artistic expressions
that are helpful in communicating to society issues that
could not be tackled otherwise.

Relating the works to Human
Experience

From the analysis, I have concluded being human
comes with its own baggage. There may be nice
moments in life but all must understand that the road
is not always smooth.

Life in all its stages can be meaningless. Somehow, I
must agree that all are destined to die one day. What
a degree of futility we must face!

In life, everyone strives to attain happiness by
fulfilling the needs of the body and soul(Holler et
al,2011). Where some are not achieved, it is important
to accept that and move on with life.

THEMES AND MY FIELD

True as it is, loss and pain find relevance in Medicine
and Health since as discussed earlier, experience of
whatever kind informs the dynamics of human life in
whatever aspect. More precisely, medical practitioners
can understand the pain of their patients and do all
they can to help them.

In the same light, loss of loved ones can bring great
pain to family members. With this understanding,
doctors and nurses would try to avoid that, and incase
where it happens, they would guide those affected
through sessions of guidance and counseling so that
they may find it easier to cope.

HUMANITIES AND MY FIELD

By understanding humanities, professions within
Medicine and Health can relate human behaviors with
societal situations, therefore gaining the ability to handle
situations more competency.

Insight gained on human behavior and general responses
could help deal with others better, minimizing chances
of conflict in routine interactions.

Knowledge of the effects of people’s acts and omissions
is useful as stakeholders in the field know what and
what not to do as they are aware of the consequences.

CONCLUSION

Events in people’s lives influence their perceptions
and behaviors.

Human experience is the ultimate source of all
knowledge.

Humanity connects all known disciplines, it can also
not be separated from any of them.

As illustrated, all disciplines are interconnected.
Analysis of some selected works shows this clearly.

Life could be simpler if everyone positively
appreciated the various natural phenomena
characterizing it.

References

Beatles. (2003). The Beatles: Guitar chord songbook.
Milwaukee, Wis: Hal Leonard.

Doll, N., & Santa Barbara Museum of Art. (1990).
Inner natures: Four contemporary painters : Gregory
Amenoff, Brenda Goodman, Mary Hambleton,
Michael Kessler. Santa Barbara, Calif: Santa Barbara
Museum of Art.

Goodman, B., Brodsky, J. K., Olin, F., Brody, D.,
Mason Gross School of the Arts (Rutgers University),
& Mabel Smith Douglass Library. (2007). Brenda
Goodman: Self portraits 2003-2007. New Brunswick,
N.J.: Rutgers University.

………continuation

Höller, C., Phillips, L., Gioni, M., Carrion-Murayari, G.,
Moore, J., & New Museum (New York, N.Y.). (2011).
Experience. New York, N.Y: Skira Rizzoli.

Tolstoy, L., & Carson, P. (2014). The death of Ivan
Ilyich and Confession.

Tolstoy, L., Pevear, R., & Volokhonsky, L. (2009). The
death of Ivan Ilyich and other stories. New York: Alfred
A. Knopf.

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