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UHD Department of History, Humanities & Languages Hosts Virtual Talk March 29


By Sheryl E. Taylor

UHD’s Department of History, Humanities & Languages (housed in the College of Humanities & Social Sciences) is hosting the virtual talk, “‘Oh happy people of the future’: Art, Literature, and Pandemic Death,” featuring Dr. Henry Sayre, 1 – 3 p.m. Monday, March 29.

According to Dr. Edmund Cueva, UHD Professor of Classics & Humanities, this lecture is an “apropos” topic that addresses how humanistic disciplines can help understand disease and death.

“In a world that is suffering through social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a great need to answer questions that have arisen about care and self-care,” Cueva said. “We need to delve into and implement the myriad ways that medicine and the humanities can bring together individuals and communities in ways that larger institutions or governmental bodies cannot. Medical Humanities offers our students the opportunity to engage critically the human contexts of the current crisis and, hopefully, endorse the value of diverse viewpoints in constructing ethical, humanistic, and informed decisions.”

Featured academician and author Sayre, a Distinguished Professor of Art History, Emeritus at Oregon State University, will share his perspective on how the histories of pandemics offer valuable insight.

“In almost all pandemics, people have looked back at previous ones to see what might be learned. Between pandemics, we ignore them—with the exception, however, of the AIDS pandemic,” said Sayre. “Why has that pandemic continued to resonate for 40 years? And there is yet another conundrum. While there is much writing about pandemics, there is relatively little visual art. Is this because figuration seems such a futile exercise in the face of overwhelming loss?”

The title of this talk Oh happy people of the future’ is derived from a letter written by the poet Francesco (Petrarch) Petrarca to his brother in 1348 just after having received word of his beloved’s death of the plague. Petrarch is regarded as the Father of Humanism during the Renaissance Period. A Q&A session will follow the lecture.

Cueva hopes that “participants understand how essential the Medical Humanities discipline can be in equipping us with the necessary knowledge of the social contexts and historical development of attitudes and practices of medicine, health, and illness in ancient and contemporary cultures.”

To attend this virtual event for students, facutly, staff and the general public, register here.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.