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The First Lit Hum Class: Yea, Paradoxes!

mmm, wikimedia commons

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CC first-years made it through their first class!  Here, Joseph Milholland, CC’17, tells us all about what happened beyond those Roone Arledge doors.  If you would like to write about any of the events (or parties) at NSOP, please email

As we entered the Roone Arledge Auditorium, RAs handed out bookmarks, which either listed the Lit Hum authors of 1937-38 or the ones from 2013-14. The “main direction of change” the Director of the Core informed us, has been “fewer texts.” Of course, the primary point of this gathering was to inform us that Literature Humanities would “transform” us.

Enter Professor Christia Mercer, director of Literature Humanities. Referencing Aristotle, Plato, and Columbia’s website, she gave an outline of the goals of Lit Hum. She wanted us to read the books passed down from generation to generation that help us consider the important questions in life. She was helped by a slideshow constructed by a friend with a slightly different vision of the presentation than Professor Mercer. “Yea Paradoxes” the slide proclaimed as Mercer explained the contradictions students face in studying the different attitudes present in western literature.

After she had discussed some art inspired by the Iliad, Mercer came to her thesis on the text, which focused on the concept of “arete” or “excellence.”  She dived deep into the philosophical reasons a culture could develop an idea of excellence based upon skill in warfare. In order to keep the audience’s attention, Mercer connected the Iliad to the pop cultural touchstones of Game of Thrones and Firefly to elicit the most vocal reaction from the audience yet. As Mercer talked about the treatment of women in the Iliad, she even pointed to Orlando Bloom’s feminine performance in Troy as an example of Paris’s complicated role in the culture of excellence. She reassured us that the image of Orlando Bloom naked from the waist up had been show twice before without much distress.

One she gave her point of view on the Iliad, Mercer splitted the entire audience into four groups to talk about four different passages. Earnest talk in mini-groups within the four masses began after some momentary confusion. Individual studens were given a chance to say their group’s opinion on the passages. Loud cries of support came as the students chosen to speak said their hometowns as they introduced themselves. Mercer encouraged each interpretations and urged the freshmen to consider the ideas she had given out throughout their year in Lit Hum.

Key Quotes from Mercer:

  • “Lit Hum will set you on the road to wisdom”
  • “Bratty, sexist guys”
  • “Homer is playing with us”
  • “You don’t mess around with Achilles”
  • “Contextualized the fight of the dudes over the chick”
  • “Hey Helen, do I look fat in this armor?” [imitating Paris]

First result in “paradox” search via Wikimedia Commons

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  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Christia <3

  • Mercer says:

    @Mercer Hi I’m christia mercer look how cool i can make books by referring them to hip thingies and saying penis lol

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