The term “liberal arts” has gotten pretty vague over time. Originally, it referred to the trivium, which is the three-part structure made up of grammar (the study of words and phrases), logic (reasoning) and rhetoric (communication skills).
With the rise of higher education in the West, these three areas became increasingly abstracted from other disciplines like literature, music or art. As such, many refer to only the two remaining parts of the liberal arts as the “humanities.” These are typically considered to be fields like history, literature and philosophy.
However, this distinction between humanities and non-humanists is quite recent. In fact, there was no universally accepted definition of what makes something belong under the heading of humanism until recently. This is why some argue that saying someone is not a “true” humanist because they do not include art in their studies is kind of silly!
Art clearly belongs within the realm of the humanities, but how about music? After all, people who learn music at an advanced level certainly apply concepts related to reasoning and communication. Or what about those who play an instrument? Do they not use logical thinking?
In order to truly understand the meaning of the word “humanistic,” we must look beyond simple definitions to see if the field functions similarly to the other lenses in our toolkit for understanding reality. If it does, then it is worthy of being called one.
All of the lenses are important in a liberal arts degree
Like with all academic disciplines, there is not one lens that directly impacts your life more than the others. However, each one does play an integral role in helping you live a healthy mental health lifestyle.
All four of these lenses help develop your understanding of who we are as people, why things happen, how to relate to other people, and what it means to be successful.
Each one helps you understand our world around you and teaches you about yourself and your place in society. You will also find that applying these lenses into your daily life can have significant benefits.
Regular applications of any one of these theories can improve your overall happiness and wellness.
Some examples include
Literature, music, art, and theater all share an underlying theme or message that they convey to their audience.
Music has a lyrics and melody that appeal to different people depending on what type of song is being listened to. A few songs will always make you feel good while others motivate you to do things well. Many use these melodies to promote a mood or tone for the listener.
Literature uses prose to tell stories that emphasize narrative flow and character development. People are drawn in by the characters and how they relate to each other.
Art can be anything from painting, sculpture, or graphic design to engaging in creative expression. It is not necessarily focused on content but rather process.
Theater teaches us about ourselves through its dramatic storylines and representations of various emotions. We learn who we are and what types of behaviors work and don’t work for our growth as individuals and as a society.
All four arts depend heavily on language – both spoken word and written.
History lenses include racial, social, and political
As we have seen so far, the humanities are made up of four major lens types that focus on different areas of history. All four of these lenses explore various aspects of humanity’s past; however, they do so from a diverse set of perspectives.
With the historical lens, your general field is to learn about what happened in the past. This could be studying ancient civilizations or exploring concepts like imperialism and colonialism.
The second major area of the humanities focuses on how people lived out their lives during certain time periods. These studies look at things such as who was powerful politically, what philosophies were popular, and whether there were differences in gender roles and sexuality across eras.
A third important concept in the humanities is culture. This term refers to the products of human creativity–from literature to music to art. We can talk about the effects that one cultural artifact had on its audience, but also the way it influenced other cultures.
Language lenses include grammar and vocabulary
As we have seen, liberal arts students are exposed to many different languages, but they are also taught about the importance of language in our culture. They learn how to use and create complex sentences, what keywords mean, and how to identify important words in various genres.
Students who study art are often asked about their knowledge of color theory. This is an understanding of the relationships between colors when used together. For example, red, green, and blue make up most of our visible spectrum so knowing these three makes sense!
Music students learn about intervals, which are like unities in music; for instance, an octave has two unison sounds (no gap) and a major third has one semi-tone plus another tone. These types of songs and chords can be built off of this basic structure.
History students learn about key concepts, such as cause and effect, repetition, and contrast.
Literature lenses include symbolism and narrative
In addition to using language, literature includes symbolic images and stories that speak about important topics. These are not simply tales with messages, but rather concepts conveyed through an extended metaphor or analogy.
Literature is rich in imagery and storytelling, which both contribute to this process. Both use setting, dialogue, and character to tell their story, making them similar to other modes like visual art and oral communication.
Music also fits into the literature lens as it can be abstract (like a poem) or more structured (like a song). Like poetry, music uses meter and rhythm to convey emotion, which makes it close in relation to verbal expression.
Art is another way literary artists use inspiration from nature, geometry, proportion, and color to express themselves, just like poets and musicians. This link comes down to sharing a passion for creativity and beauty. Artists look at how people showcase such talent and learn from it.
These five points clearly show how literature is linked to other areas of learning and expression. When studying literature, you will find yourself applying these links to new content, which helps make it unique.
Culture lenses include art, cinema, and music
The field of liberal arts is not limited to studying literature, philosophy, and other academic disciplines, but includes exploring different cultures through their respective mediums – art, film, and music. These culture lens studies are an excellent way to learn about various societies and how they function.
Art teaches us about aesthetics, color schemes, styles, and motifs. Cinema teaches us about storytelling, pacing, and timing of events. Music teaches us about rhythm, harmony, and structure. All three apply directly to other areas of study in the humanities and social sciences.
Given that most major cities have at least one movie theater, many have several movie theaters. Many also have museums with organized exhibits and galleries where artists display and discuss their work. There are even apps and software programs that allow you to create your own museum exhibitions!
On top of this, there are always musicians somewhere making music. We can listen to it or make our own. Studying music is a vast subject all by itself, so there’s plenty to explore.
There are many different types of degrees in the liberal arts
Degrees that focus more narrowly on specific fields like art, literature, or history are called specialties. These typically require two to four years to complete depending on how long it takes to graduate from college with an undergraduate degree.
With these specialization degrees, you can find yourself working as an artist, writer, or historian even if you never planned on being professional about your field before going to school. This is great because it means you can still make a living doing what you love!
Another important thing about specialty degrees is that most employers expect you to have at least one year’s experience outside of school under your belt before getting hired. This is why it’s so important to try to be very creative during your undergrad days!
Overall, there isn’t much difference between all specialty degrees aside from what courses they include and what position people take in the field. For example, both artists and writers may not use mathematics too heavily, but otherwise their skills are similar.
Literature, music, art, and language all share similarities with liberal arts.
Literature is like social science because they both teach you about the importance of looking at the world from different angles and perspectives.
Music is similar to ethics in that it teaches you how to evaluate what is right and wrong by listening to them. Art can be linked to politics as it often depicts scenes or concepts that are influenced by current events. And speaking clearly and logically under stress is something that many professionals learn through studying languages.
Art, literature, music, and language all take place in imaginary worlds and settings, which influence how people perceive reality. This effects how people respond to things around them and how well they function in society.
Liberal arts courses combine these modes into one area, so students get the individual focus on each mode, but also their impact together. Students who major in liberal arts will have varied careers due to this.”
As we know, education should not only help you gain knowledge for personal growth, but it should also help you develop skills related to career success. A degree in liberal arts can prepare you for a wide range of professions including lawyer, doctor, accountant, teacher, etc.
This comes down to two main points: the field that your degree is in and the skill sets needed to succeed in that profession. For example, a student could choose to study sociology without taking speech class.