The Major:

Declaring the Humanities Major : In addition to declaring electronically before junior year, students are  also expected to declare in a meeting with the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS). 

Students should use this worksheet to map out their plans of study in the major: record of study form [doc] and [pdf]

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

Majors will meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies during course selection at the beginning of every term.

Hence the “with DUS approval” provisos are not as tedious as they appear.


Three broad surveys of foundational works in any cultural tradition are required with DUS approval; one or two of these foundations courses must be in the classical tradition of Western Europe. These courses may be drawn from any department or program.

Foundational courses are those that focus on seminal works of a particular cultural tradition i.e. “Great Books” or “Canonical Works.” The Humanities major takes an open outlook toward all the world’s great traditions and achievements, both material and intellectual.  Only one of the three courses, however, can be a “single-author course,” e.g. focusing solely on Plato’s dialogues, the novels of Jane Austen, or the songs of Duke Ellington. 

Courses do not qualify if they focus on:

  • A single, specific contemporary issue: e.g.  Topics in American Foreign Policy
  • The application of a theory: e.g. A Marxist reading of…
  • Technical skills: e.g. Intermediate Microeconomics
  • Topics specific to a particular discipline: e.g.  Literary Theory, Methods in Historiogrpahy
  • Pure History: e.g. The Civil War

Core seminars

The major requires two core seminars, one in “Modernities” and one in “Interpretations.” Each core seminar is taught by a pair of faculty members from complementary disciplines. The two broad themes of the seminars remain consistent from year to year, but the material studied and the faculty members teaching change, allowing each class of students to explore the themes in different ways.

Read more about the Core Courses.

Areas of study in the humanities

One course is required in each of four areas: literature; visual, musical, or dramatic arts; science in the humanities; and intellectual history and historical analysis. These courses may be drawn from any department or program in Yale College, with the approval of the DUS


Students select four courses to explore a chosen of specialization in depth. Courses may be drawn from any departments or programs in Yale College, with the approval of the DUS. 

Intellectual Journals

As you may have heard, the Humanities Program is implementing Intellectual Journals this academic year. 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 Norma Thompson by email (please CC At the completion of their studies, students will receive a hardcopy 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.

Capstone Project

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

Senior Essay Guidelines