John Green is here to save the humanities

UnknownI finally got around to reading The Fault in Our Stars. It’s good! But you knew that.

While we’re on the subject of books and cultural phenomena and John Green, let’s take a gander at a Gawker post from this spring, where Adam Weinstein asks “Where is the Humanities’ Neil DeGrasse Tyson?

Why Adam, he’s right here.

A couple of quick anecdotes for you.

1) I was first introduced to Mr. Green via the Crash Course World History series. I watched all forty videos, then moved on to literature. In one of the literature videos John Green says “was the fault in their stars” of Romeo and Juliet. That made me say ‘huh’ so I googled the man who was narrating the videos and wouldn’t you know it. John Green was the guy who wrote The Fault in Our Stars. I hadn’t read the book but I knew it was a publishing darling that was blowing up the YA charts. I’m a grown-up with a full time job, lots of things and people to keep me busy, and only a cursory interest in history but I watched John Green talk about world history (and then literature and then American history) for hours.

2) A few months ago Neil deGrasse Tyson lectured at the University of Toronto and I was in attendance. He was accepting an award so his lecture was more general interest than hardcore astronomy. He talked a little about world research output, a topic I know a lot about and he had the crowd enthralled. It’s not that he got things wrong exactly. But he was speaking about a topic that while in his wheelhouse is not at all his area of expertise and he took some liberties to make the topic accessible to the audience. And that’s ok.

Back to Adam Weinstein who wants to know: where is the liberal arts rockstar that will make America feel the humanities are as vital NdGT has made the sciences? Who will inspire both children and research funders? Well my friends, what if he’s already among us. Let’s survey the humanities and see where John Green is having an influence.

Classics: Maybe this one’s cheating a bit but we get the lowdown on Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece in two Crash Course videos.

History: Crash course!

Languages: I’m going to give him full points for using the name Lidewij for a major character in TFIOS. It’ll make the kids curious about language, I promise.

Law: Via the Vlog Brothers, Green does occasionally cover legal issues. This introduction to trademark is a great example and has armed me with the knowledge to make me seem like a smarty-pants on at least three separate occasions.

Literature: There’s Crash Course Literature but I think his bigger impact comes from the use of snippets of classic and obscure literary works through his own novels. He makes it cool to quote from Shakespeare or Dickinson. If teenage boys grow up thinking they can impress teenage girls by quoting poetry? That’s half the battle.

“The fault dear Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves”

Performing Arts: Hmm. They made a movie out of his book so … drama?

Philosophy: Oh look, a blog post on objectivism and why he hates Atlas Shrugged.

Religion: It doesn’t always come up directly but Green is quite religious and considered becoming a minister before eventually deciding against it. He famously worked as a chaplain at a children’s hospital and he maintains a strong faith. He addresses his faith directly in a blog post but deals with faith and spirituality indirectly throughout his novels.

Visual Art: Green’s wife has recently started a YouTube series dealing with fine arts but real talk: fine art doesn’t need the help. After all, they have Jay Z.


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