Jonathan Ort

History, Class of 2021

Role(s) held in the Humanistic Studies Program:

Certificate Student, Humanities Mentor

Activities on campus:

Associate Opinion Editor at The Daily Princetonian, Vice President of the International Relations Council, Competitive Member on the Model United Nations team, Director at National High School Model United Nations


Runner-Up in Walter E. Hope Speech Contest, Woodrow Wilson Honorary Debate Panel

Why I decided to study the humanities:

The essential and enduring questions posed by literature and philosophy have always appealed to me. In particular, these fields explore the most visceral, powerful, and important elements of the human experience, such as triumph and oblivion, love and loss. What could be more important than grappling with the themes that define our lives? To paraphrase Seamus Heaney, the arts are paradoxical, for they are artificial, yet also reflect something true—even natural—about human nature. I subscribe to Heaney’s thesis, and, at Princeton, I wanted to engage critically with the topics and authors in which I had always had a vague interest.

What I have gained from the humanities:

More than anything, I have learned that nothing—including the Western canon—is monolithic. For me, this has been a profound realization, both academic and personal. We often think of the humanities as the “Western” books and treatises that stretch from antiquity to modern times. These allegedly European books, however, were shaped by myriad cultures and influences. Although they have been used to bolster fictitious notions about the West, they also reveal much about the interplay of governments, cultures, and people. Some contemporary critics have wondered if the classics still have something to teach us; to me, they do, but not on account of the traditional reasons. Instead, studying the humanities has given me a rich and nuanced understanding of the globe.

HUM Sequence fall break trip:

I participated in the HUM trip to Greece in fall 2018.

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