By Sean O’Rourke MAT ’68
At Harvard, engineering and information technology are thriving as never before. To remind us that the arts are just as important as the sciences, the Harvard Campaign sponsored a symposium on Friday, May 6, 2016. In his remarks, incoming Dean of Humanities Robin Kelsey discussed creativity in terms of historicity, boundaries and ingenuity.
Professor Martin Puchner and Lecturer Jill Johnson reviewed the status of the new concentration in Theater, Dance and Media (TDM), which at this point remains a very flexible undertaking. This year the program enrolled thirteen concentrators and 65 freshmen—numbers which bode well for the future.
Professor of Music Alexander Rehding led us through the worlds of John Cage, Ezra Pound and Bella Bartok, then introduced us to physicist Wallace Sabine, who pioneered the scientific study of acoustics and is responsible for the fine sound at Symphony Hall in Boston, as well as Sanders Theater in Cambridge.
Professor Emma Dench is an ancient historian, classicist and visiting professor in the Business School. She took an incident narrated in Tacitus’ Annals and asked us to parse it in modern terms. She then used our experiences to enunciate a basic principle of leadership as valid today as it was two thousand years ago.
Novelist and Lecturer Claire Messud reviewed the offerings of the creative writing program. Unfortunately her presentation took place in the dining room of the Faculty Club and she had to compete for our attention with an excellent lunch.
After lunch, Professor of Egyptology Peter Der Manuelian led a tour of the recently refurbished Semitic Museum and demonstrated how he and his staff are using computer technology to preserve and enhance the discoveries of archeology and scientific research.
His and all the other presentations developed and exemplified Dean Kelsey’s opening remarks. In both the sciences and the humanities, creativity involves knowing history, encountering boundaries and using ingenuity to transcend them.