Program in Humanistic Studies

Academic Unit

Program Information

The Program in Humanistic Studies, under the auspices of the Council of the Humanities, sponsors two kinds of offerings. HUM courses explore interrelated events, ideas, texts, and artifacts of Western and Asian cultures. Students in these courses may work toward a certificate in interdisciplinary studies in the humanities. Journalism courses (subject area JRN) examine topics related to writing and the media, from creative nonfiction to relations between the media and society. Both kinds of courses are described below.

Journalism

These seminars are taught by distinguished writers and journalists from different media who spend a term at Princeton as Ferris, McGraw, and Robbins Professors. Students work closely with these journalists and often visit their news organizations. The program provides grants to undergraduates who undertake summer internships in the media.

The seminars were inaugurated in 1957 by the bequest of former New York Herald journalist Edwin F. Ferris of the Class of 1899. In 1984 publisher Harold W. McGraw Jr. '40 created the McGraw Professorship in Writing and Publishing in recognition of the importance of writing in all disciplines. Other seminars have been sponsored by a gift from the E. Franklin Robbins Trust in honor of the late William G. Michaelson '59 and his daughter Robin L. Michaelson '89. The program committee consists of the chairs of the English and Politics departments, the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, the director of the Creative Writing program, and the chair of the Council of the Humanities.

Humanistic Studies

Humanistic Studies courses offer broad interdisciplinary exploration to students in all fields. Those who wish to pursue this approach beyond their first two years may design a curriculum reflecting their specific interests. The interdisciplinary Program in Humanistic Studies is appropriate for students who are concentrating in a humanities or related social science department and who wish to reflect on the frontiers of disciplines, the bridges that connect them, and the insights that can be gained from approaching one field with the questions and methods of another. In addition to acquiring a strong base in their home departments, students in the program create links to one or more fields that can illuminate their work.

Information and Departmental Plan of Study

Prerequisites for the certificate in Humanistic Studies

Candidates for the program must complete two interdisciplinary courses during their first two years. These might be: (1) HUM 216-217 or 218-219, Interdisciplinary Approaches to Western Culture; or (2) HUM 233-234, East Asian Humanities; or (3) two other, equivalent courses that provide a rigorous interdisciplinary approach to the arts and culture over a span of historical time. (Applicants who seek to fulfill the prerequisites through this third option must submit syllabi of the two courses for which they are requesting approval.) Students are admitted to the program during the second semester of their sophomore year.

Plan of Study

In addition to the two prerequisites, students complete six additional courses, which may also be used to fulfill departmental requirements. Four of these six courses must be explicitly interdisciplinary in their approach and/or subject matter. The remaining two are chosen in consultation with the program adviser to coordinate with the student's individual plan of study. In these courses, students are expected to forge their own interdisciplinary connections and pursue them in their written work. One of the six courses is an interdisciplinary capstone seminar created specifically for certificate students. Students in the program must also complete either a senior thesis in their home departments with an interdisciplinary focus or an interdisciplinary research paper written specifically for the program.

Applicants to the program are encouraged to reflect on the meaningful connections they wish to forge and to propose a curriculum for their junior and senior years that combines the requirements of their home departments with the pursuits that best complement their interests. These individual paths are likely to group into five major trajectories:

1. Bridges among the humanities and arts

Students on this path deepen their study of one particular partnership among the possible combinations of religion, philosophy, history, literature, and the arts.

2. Bridges between the humanities and related social sciences

Students on this path focus on the intersections between a specific branch of the humanities and a neighboring field of anthropology, sociology, or politics.

3. Intercultural studies

Students might illuminate their study of Western culture with comparative approaches to other areas of the world, for example, or study one or more regions through different methodologies. In this pursuit, they might benefit from participating in global seminars or other opportunities for study abroad.

4. Bridges between the humanities and the sciences

These students, while concentrating in the humanities or social sciences, might explore links to cognitive science or other sciences.

5. Digital approaches to the humanities

Students in this group might create new kinds of knowledge by examining some area with the resources and insights of computer science.

Capstone Seminar

HUM 470 Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities

This team-taught seminar examines texts, objects, periods, and themes from an interdisciplinary perspective. The specific topic varies each year depending on the focus of the faculty team.