Major Requirements

The Humanities Major:

To declare B.A. in Humanities, students must first meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS).

To map out their study plans, students should use this worksheet

Majors are strongly encouraged to enroll in at least one course in literature in a foreign language.

Courses may be drawn from any department or program at Yale College unless otherwise specified.

Majors will meet with the DUS during course selection at the beginning of every term.


Three broad surveys of foundational works of culture are required; at least one must focus on works from the Western tradition; another must examine non-Western works on their own terms.  No more than one may focus on works by a single figure, e.g. a course on Plato’s dialogues, Du Fu’s poetry, or Duke Ellington’s songs.

Core seminars

The major requires two core seminars that model interdisciplinary conversation on questions of “interpretation” and “modernity”. Each seminar is taught by a pair of faculty members in the Humanities Program from complementary disciplines. The two broad themes remain consistent from year to year, but the content and instructors change.

Read more about the Core Courses.

Areas of study in the humanities

One course is required in each subject area: 

  1. Literature
  2. Visual, musical, or dramatic arts
  3. Humanities and the sciences
  4. Intellectual history and historical analysis. 


Students select four additional elective courses to explore a chosen path of specialization in preparation for the senior essay. 

Intellectual Journals

In an effort to spark integrative thinking across a student’s various courses and extra-curricular commitments, students will be required to log entries outlining particularly striking moments in their intellectual lives, whether in courses or outside of them. We encourage students to also keep track of questions they would like to pursue in their studies, insights they come across, and projects they envision for themselves in the future, including possible senior essay topics. These entries may be used as the basis for your periodic discussions with your academic advisors about course-selection and related matters.

A minimum of one journal entry each semester is due to DUS Paul Grimstad by email (please CC At the completion of their studies, students will receive a digital compendium of their journal, which we hope will be a significant memento of intellectual life in college.

The pedagogical goals of this new requirement include the following:

  • Creating a habit of regular prose writing as a means of articulating one’s own thoughts at a meta-level about one’s studies
  • Encouraging students to make connections between their various courses, and between their academic lives and their extra-curricular lives
  • Sparking substantive reflection prior to advising sessions
  • Creating awareness of one’s long-term trajectory and development, and taking responsibility for directing it

Journals should be at least one page in length (12 pt font, double spaced) and can be sent in a Word document or PDF.  They are due each semester by the last day of classes before reading period starts.

Senior Essay:

Students must write a senior essay and are encouraged to consider writing a two-semester essay.

Senior Essay Guidelines