That’s one of the best, most fitting slogans of any of the 125+ graduate liberal studies programs across North America. Here is how they tell the story of their program at Hamline University in St. Paul:
The Graduate School of Liberal Studies promotes the ideals and values of liberal arts learning. It encourages meaningful dialogue and inquiry across disciplinary boundaries, enabling students to gain a deeper understanding of the human cultural heritage and the issues of contemporary life. The Graduate School of Liberal Studies also prepares students who wish to specialize in creative writing for adults or for children and young adults and to teach writing at the college level.
There are a number of translations available on the web of Anna Akhmatova’s prose introduction to “Requiem,” a sequence of poems that take place during the worst of Stalin’s oppressions of his political opponents. I’ll cobble together a rough one here based on clues provided by the others. She describes a moment when someone on the street realizes that she is the writer Akhmatova:
In the terrible years of the Yezhov purges, I stood each day for seventeen months in the visitors’ line outside the Leningrad prison. One day someone recognized me there. A woman standing near me in the line was startled to hear my name; she shook herself free of the dull, heavy weight of standing in that line, suffering more than enough each day and fearing worse. She spoke to me – she whispered, we all whispered there:
“Can you describe this?” And I said that I could. Then something like a smile passed over what once had been her face.
What could more plainly demonstrate our need to speak the meaning of our lives and to be aided by others who can help speak it. To witness and have the help of other witnesses. People love to figure out the pattern of their lives – at least until it’s beaten out of them, worn out of them – and they love to speak it.
Speech and community are implied here. I see from the dictionary that alienation comes from a Latin word meaning other. You are made into the other, you are cast out, you are locked away, you are thrown out of the community – you are outside the circle of speech and meaning. Your identity vanishes. The psychological weight is immense. No wonder even in a prosperous country people become so angry when they realize their voice hardly matters.
Contributed by Ken Smith.