Core Seminars

Humanities Majors are required to take one seminar in “Interpretations” and one seminar in “Modernities.”  Both core courses include substantial attention to methodological concerns that are fundamental to the humanities disciplines, and to distinctively humanistic activities such as persuasion, evidence, interpretation and the relevance of media and technologies of knowledge. The objectives of the two courses are  outlined below.


Every version of Interpretations will provide an experience that is lacking in survey courses – sustained, deep engagement with one particular work, and with the interpretive world that arises around it. Courses focus on one or several books or works of art, music or film, on their historical context, on the interpretive questions they raise, on histories of their reception and transformation. 

The goal is to give students the experience of coming to know works very deeply, to grapple with the many ways of understanding a work and with the universe of meanings that can arise from the distinctly humanistic activity of interpretation.


Every version of Modernities will seek to expose students to the provocative question: What is modernity? Nietzsche might say it begins with Socrates, while Weber might say it begins with rationalization.Is it is one phenomenon or many? When does modernity begin? Students should be exposed to a palate of interpretive frameworks for understanding the question.

The course is envisioned as a broad survey that will build on the sort of material covered in foundational courses, with more thematic coherence, historical context, and theoretical self-consciousness.

Core Seminars (2019-2020):

  • HUMS 206: We read the Arabian Nights, discuss its dominant themes, and explore the ways its themes and tales have been adapted and appropriated by later authors. HU

    Fall 2019
    MW 9:00-10:15am
  • HUMS 290: Brazilian and Japanese novels from the late nineteenth century to the present. Texts from major authors are read in pairs to explore commonalities and divergences.  HU  Tr

    Fall 2019
    M 1:30-3:20
  • HUMS 415: An exploration of Chartres Cathedral as a meeting point of various artistic, technological, ritual, literary, intellectual, and social trends in the High Middle Ages. HU

    Fall 2019
    MW 1:00-2:15pm
  • HUMS 352: Survey of major ideas, writings, and cultural movements that have shaped American life and thought from 1880 to 1990: works of fiction, philosophy, social and political thought, and film.  HURP

    Spring 2020
    TTH 11:30am-12:50pm
  • HUMS 288: What makes one thing better than another? How can we make judgments of value? This course will expose students to the theory and practice of valuing.

    Spring 2020
    W 3:30-5:20