The course is a multi-perspective interdisciplinary study of the philosophical, political, aesthetic, and cultural factors that are crucial to the historical development and construction of values in the society since the Paleolithic age. In fact, according to Robert Boyd and Peter Richerson, the origin of culture can be traced back to the stone-age period (21). The people came up with unique artistic works and aesthetics. Despite this being an ancient era, the people then had values and norms that guided their daily activities (Boyd & Richerson 23). These values determine the development of both the society and the individual. In doing so, various eras, such as the Romantic era, the Renaissance, Neoclassicism, the Baroque world, and the twentieth century are examined (Cunningham Lawrence & John Reich 15). I have had a lot to learn in this course.
To begin with, the knowledge I have gained about culture has really affected my worldview about the issue. Initially, I viewed culture as simply the way of life of various societies in the world. However, in this course, I have learned that culture is more than the way of life. I have learned that culture is complex as it encompasses customs, laws, morals, arts, beliefs, language, and knowledge and other practices that the society acquires over time (Richard, Nelly 170). Despite the differences, all cultures are normally founded on the previous ones that have developed through the various historical eras. With the knowledge I have acquired in this course, I am now able to view culture as an expression of the social meaning that a member of the society portrays depending on the era they are living in, as well as the social and historical context, not simply as a way of life. For that reason, I have been able to appreciate the aesthetic principles and values associated with various cultures of the world.
In this course, I found it particularly interesting to learn about the differences in art between the people living during the Renaissance and the Baroque eras. While the cultural arts Renaissance era began in the early 1400s, the Baroque one came in the late 1600s ((Boyd & Richerson 22). The Renaissance art was dominated by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo while the Baroque one had Caravaggio and Bernini (Griswold 30). However, it is important to note that the Renaissance artists were more famous than the Baroque ones. Also, human emotion was largely ignored in the Renaissance arts as opposed to the Baroque ones that depicted it more explicitly (Richard 173). Such contrasts made the features of the people living in the two eras very different from each other.
Similarly, different world cultures portray distinct characteristics although they converge at some points. The American and French cultures, for example, are different although each of them is founded on historical developments that have taken place through the different eras. One of the differences between these two cultures is the way they greet people. While a hug or even a simple handshake is enough for the American, things are different for the French. The French kiss family and friends twice or several times on the cheek. The same applies when bidding one goodbye (Gosnell, Jonathan 2029). Another difference is the kind of food taken in both cultures and the aspect of regularly sharing a meal. The French families commonly eat together. They also check what they eat. While fast are common and popular in American restaurants, things are different in a French one. Children are taught from an early age to respect food and watch what they eat. It is no wonder then that there are very few whining children in French restaurants (Gosnell 2034). It is also almost compulsory to eat a dessert in France. Additionally, vacation days are highly respected in the French culture. While American employers and employees do not take vacations seriously, the French do. Due to their cultural orientations, Americans take work with them when going home in the evening, while on vacation and even while on leave. On the other hand, however, the French are oriented to believe that after work, or during a vacation, it is time to relax, not time to work (Gosnell 2038). These are some of the cultural difference sets the two cultures apart, and they are highly representative of the twenty-first century cultural orientations.
This course has taught me a lot about how far the human culture has come. It has also made me realize that the differences that I have often noted among the different cultures represent the unique characteristics of human beings. The course has also taught me to appreciate the different cultures of the world and respect them. This has helped me in developing values that inform my ethical behavior whenever I travel to various places. I once experienced a culture shock when I traveled to Africa. However, with the information and knowledge gained in this course, I now understand humanities and the variety of determinants of cultural orientations, and I can appreciate the variety of human values and expression without considering them as strange. Previously, I learned that culture is simply a way of life. Now, my knowledge of culture is now wider and more explicit. Therefore, this course has been a major eye-opener. It has taught me a lot that I never knew about human culture.
Boyd, Robert, and Peter J. Richerson. The origin and evolution of cultures. Oxford University Press, 2005.
Cunningham, Lawrence S., and John J. Reich. Culture and Values: a Survey of the Humanities. Cengage Learning, 2009.
Gosnell, Jonathan. "Franco-American cultures in a new world perspective". French Politics, Culture & Society, 30. 3, (2012): 2019-2041. doi:10.3167/fpcs.2012.300306.
Griswold, Wendy. Cultures and societies in a changing world. Sage, 2012.
Richard, Nelly. "Humanities and social sciences in critical dialogues with cultural studies". Cultural Studies. 26.1 (2012): 166-177. Informa UK Limited, doi:10.1080/09502386.2012.642608.
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