Humanities Major

The undergraduate program in Humanities guides students in integrating courses from across the humanistic disciplines into intellectually coherent and personally meaningful courses of study. Works of literature, music, history, philosophy, and the visual and dramatic arts are brought into conversation with one another and with the history of ideas. Students in all classes can find options in the varied course offerings, from special seminars for first-year students to the Franke and Shulman Seminars for seniors. Many courses are open to nonmajors.

The major in Humanities asks students to begin with broad surveys of foundational works in at least two different cultural traditions, including at least one course on classical Western European texts. All majors in the Class of 2018 and subsequent classes take two specially-commissioned core seminars, each co-taught by two faculty members from different but complementary fields of study. After taking these core seminars, students in the major share a broad grounding in several cultural traditions, the experience of having grappled with the question of what “modernity” is, and the experience of having spent a term interpreting a single work (or small corpus of works) in great depth. Students then craft an area of concentration according to their interests and with the help of appropriate faculty members. The major offers breadth and interdisciplinary scope even as it encourages depth and intellectual coherence.

Students in the Humanities major will:

  • Become familiar with classical works of Western European culture, and at least one other culture
  • Learn humanistic approaches to the study of nature and human nature
  • Gain expertise in historical modes of analysis
  • Understand ongoing theoretical debates about modernity and the human condition
  • Understand key debates about modes of humanistic knowing - the use of evidence and persuasion, insight, and judgment
  • Draw from and integrate different academic specialties in the study of a particular phenomenon
  • Complete a substantial senior essay in an individually devised field of concentration