This season on What Makes Us Human?, a podcast by the College of Arts and Sciences, producer Prof. Caroline Levine, English explores the central theme of “What do we know about love?”
Levine, who started the podcast in September 2017, seeks to explore the idea that “we’re constantly learning new things about what it means to be human” at a research university like Cornell. The third season launched Oct. 9 and publishes every Tuesday throughout the semester.
Each season has a central question, which guest Cornell faculty members seek to answer in three to five minute episodes, based off their own research on the subject. Guiding questions for past seasons have been “What makes us human?” and “Where is the human in climate change?”
In the first episode, Prof. Robert Sternberg, human development, discussed his triangular theory of love. He explained his theory that love is a “triangle” of intimacy, passion and commitment. His research found that “relationships tend to be more successful when partners’ triangles match — when each partner is looking for more or less the same thing,” he said in the episode.
In the newest episode, released on Oct. 16, Prof. Kim Haines-Eitzen, Near Eastern studies, explores the relationship between love and early Christianity. She explains that one of the most common pieces read at modern weddings is from a New Testament passage written by Paul, but she believes that he and his congregation “would have interpreted this passage very differently from the way contemporary American weddings do,” she explained on the podcast.
Levine said she chose the theme for this season based on an episode in the first season, in which Prof. Laura Brown, English, discussed our pets’ love for us.
“Our pets love us — so why do we think love is a quintessentially human emotion? That got me thinking. Don’t we also feel love for gods? And can we love cars and toys and clothes?” she said.
This led her to ask researchers in departments across the University, including history, psychology, anthropology and business what they know and interpret as love.
Levine said listeners should look forward to audio essays from several professors, including Prof. Durba Ghosh, history, who will discuss “the complexities of love in colonial India’s mixed-race families” and Prof. Kathy LaTour, hotel administration, who will explore “why we develop a love for certain brands or products.”
Episodes on previous seasons have discussed topics ranging from fish sexuality to the microbes that human bodies depend on, Levine said. She also said she had heard from listeners that they were, “surprised that the podcasts drew their interest in topics they didn’t realize would have any appeal.”
Currently, only faculty and staff from Arts & Sciences and staff from Media Relations work on the project, though Levine said she would “love to get students involved at some point.”
Levine also said What Makes Us Human? is being picked up by the local radio station and may become a book proposal in the future.
She currently works with Cornell Broadcast Studios to produce between eight and twelve episodes per season. All episodes are available to download for free on iTunes and Soundcloud and are available to read and stream on the arts college’s website.