Jonathan Mercantini, PhD
Current city/town: Moorestown, NJ
Title/Affiliation: Acting Dean, College of Liberal Arts, Kean University
What's the last page-turner biography you read? What podcasts are keeping you going during those long Turnpike commutes? Which poems or novels do you return to over and over when you need a laugh (or a cry)?
We're asking NJCH staff members, trustees, and community partners to contribute thoughts on their favorite humanities-related books, shows, and sounds. We'll be sharing these contributions on the NJCH website and social media as part of a new regular "Humanities Moment" feature, to create community around the humanities content we love here in NJ.
This week we’re highlighting recommendations from Jonathan Mercantini, a historian and Acting Dean of Liberal Arts at Kean University who joined the NJCH Board of Trustees in October.
"Star Wars" on Disney +
I was four years old when Star Wars arrived in the theaters. There were two movies after that, each released three years apart. And that was all. Still, George Lucas’ creation infused every part of American pop culture. Like millions of kids, I dressed up as Han Solo or other Star Wars heroes and villains for Halloween and watched those movies again and again. And again.
Fast forward to the present, and now there is an astonishing amount of Star Wars content available. Six more Star Wars movies, plus two others from that Galaxy far, far away. There are animated series like Clone Wars and Rebels and live action shows like The Mandalorian or the most recent, and darker, Andor. With more seasons, more shows, and more feature films on the way.
But what does Star Wars have to do with the Humanities? This universe connects to the Humanities in so many ways. First and foremost, this is storytelling and myth creation as part of what Joseph Campbell called ‘The Hero’s Journey.’ These tales are an exploration of good versus evil that seem especially relevant today.
This fantastical universe is an investigation into the impact of technology on society such that we can’t help but relate the Star Wars galaxy to our own world. And, like our own world, the Star Wars universe is incredibly diverse, showing the power of collaboration to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. In these ways and more, Star Wars remains some of my favorite humanities content.