Unit 2 Assignment 1 by Lydia Catterall

Texts that are today accepted as “landmarks” in the field of humanities were most likely very controversial in the era in which they were published, just as many important scientific discoveries were controversial in their time. Texts in the humanities often include analyses of society that point out norms that the authors perceive as in need of change. Many people, especially those who hold the most power in society, are resistant when their accepted societal expectations are challenged. Olympe de Gouges’ text, “The Declaration of the Rights of Woman,” exemplifies this controversy and resistance. In the time in which it was published, the document was not received kindly. Women in 1791 were not entitled to the freedom and equality that the United States Declaration had stressed; one can surmise that men in this era were not pleased with the idea of women holding an equal amount of power as men. Two years after the document was published, de Gouges was executed for her radical ideas. Today, however, this document is seen as revolutionary. Beyond that, the message it details – that women deserve as much power as men in both in legal and personal matters – is widely accepted today in the United States. Much like science, it is easy to understand the importance of texts in the humanities today, but the acceptance of these texts most likely required society to have paradigm shifts first. 

Question: To what extent is it possible that extremely controversial theories today could be widely accepted in the future?

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