Program in Humanistic Studies


  • Director

    • Eric S. Gregory
  • Executive Committee

    • Leonard Barkan
    • William Gleason
    • Barbara Graziosi
    • Emmanuel Kreike
    • Federico Marcon
    • Benjamin C. Morison
    • Marina Rustow

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. 

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.

Informal pathways include Medical Humanities, Urban Humanities and Digital Humanities.

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.


HUM 205 The Classical Roots of Western Literature (See COM 205)

HUM 206 Masterworks of European Literature (See COM 206)

HUM 207 The Bible as Literature (See ENG 390)

HUM 209 Thinking Translation: Language Transfer and Cultural Communication (See TRA 200)

HUM 212 Classical Mythology (See CLA 212)

HUM 213 The Lucid Black and Proud Musicology of Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka (See LCA 213)

HUM 215 Corruption, Conversion, Change: Philosophies and Fictions of Transformation (See CLA 215)

HUM 216 Interdisciplinary Approaches to Western Culture I: Literature and the Arts Fall LA

This course, taken simultaneously with 217, forms the first part of an intensive, four-course (216-219) interdisciplinary introduction to Western culture. Part I extends from antiquity to the Middle Ages. These courses bring together students and several faculty members to discuss key texts, events, and artifacts of European civilization. Readings and discussions are complemented by films, concerts, museum visits, guest lectures, and other special events. Students enroll in both 216 and 217. Three lectures, two discussion sessions. Instructed by: L. Barkan, D. Heller-Roazen, Y. Baraz

HUM 217 Interdisciplinary Approaches to Western Culture I: History, Philosophy, and Religion Fall HA

In combination with 216, this is the first part of a year-long interdisciplinary sequence exploring Western culture. Students enroll in both 216 and 217. All meetings are listed under 216. Instructed by: M. Reynolds, E. Schor, B. Morison

HUM 218 Interdisciplinary Approaches to Western Culture II: Literature and the Arts Spring LA

This course, taken simultaneously with 219, forms the second part of an intensive, four-course (216-219) interdisciplinary introduction to Western culture. Part II extends from the Renaissance to the modern period. These courses bring together students and several faculty members to discuss key texts, events, and artifacts of European civilization. Readings and discussions are complemented by films, concerts, museum visits, and other special events. Students enroll in both 218 and 219. Prerequisites: 216-217 or instructor Instructed by: Y. Baraz, D. Hogan, Y. Mintzker

HUM 219 Interdisciplinary Approaches to Western Culture II: History, Philosophy, and Religion Spring EC

In combination with 218, this is the second half of a year-long interdisciplinary sequence exploring Western culture from the 15th to the 20th centuries. Prerequisite: 216-217 or instructor's permission. All meetings are listed under 218. Instructed by: N. Prizel, S. Morrison, D. Feeney

HUM 222 Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion (See REL 222)

HUM 227 The World of the Middle Ages (See MED 227)

HUM 229 Great Books in Buddhism (See REL 229)

HUM 233 East Asian Humanities I: The Classical Foundations (also
EAS 233
COM 233
) Fall EM

An introduction to the literature, art, religion, and philosophy of China, Japan, and Korea from antiquity to ca. 1400. Readings are focused on primary texts in translation and complemented by museum visits, films, and other materials from the visual arts. The lecturers include faculty members from East Asian studies, comparative literature, art and archaeology, and religion. Students are encouraged to enroll in HUM 234 in the spring, which continues the course from ca. 1400 into the 20th century. Instructed by: B. Steininger, P. Keulemans

HUM 234 East Asian Humanities II: Traditions and Transformations (also
EAS 234
COM 234
) Spring EM

An introduction to the literary, philosophical, religious, and artistic traditions of East Asia. Readings are focused on primary texts in translation. Lectures and discussions are accompanied by films, concerts, and museum visits. Lecturers include faculty members from East Asian studies, comparative literature, art and archaeology, and religion. Instructed by: E. Huang, F. Prichard

HUM 236 The University: Its History and Purpose (See REL 233)

HUM 240 Medical Anthropology (See ANT 240)

HUM 242 Greek Tragedy from Ancient Athens to Ferguson (See CLA 242)

HUM 245 Creation Stories: Babylonian, Biblical and Greek Cosmogonies Compared (also
CLA 246
HLS 245
) Spring LA

This course compares the canonical cosmogonies of ancient Mesopotamia, Israel and Greece. We will study in detail the creation epic Enuma eli¿ and the flood epic Atra-hasis from Babylon, the opening chapters of the Biblical book of Genesis, and Hesiod's Theogony and Catalogue of women; as well as considering related texts from across the ancient Mediterranean. We will ask how the set texts describe the earliest history of the world and what this meant for their ancient audiences, how they relate to each other, and how they inform the long history of human investigation into the origins of the universe. Instructed by: J. Haubold

HUM 247 Near Eastern Humanities I: From Antiquity to Islam (also
NES 247
) Fall EM

This course focuses on the Near East from antiquity to the early centuries of Islam, introducing the most important works of literature, politics, ethics, aesthetics, religion, and science from the region. We ask how, why, and to what ends the Near East sustained such a long period of high humanistic achievement, from Pharaonic Egypt to Islamic Iran, which in turn formed the basis of the high culture of the following millennium. Instructed by: J. Haubold, D. Sheffield

HUM 275 La Serenissima: Music, Culture, and Society in Early Modern Venice (See MUS 275)

HUM 290 Jesus and Buddha (also
REL 282
) Fall EM

This course introduces the study of religion by juxtaposing the narratives, teachings, careers and legacies of the founders of Christianity and Buddhism. While respecting each tradition's unique and distinctive texts, rituals, philosophies, and histories, the course invites us to deepen our understanding of each tradition by looking through the lens of the other. Course readings will include accounts of the lives of Jesus and Buddha, what each taught about how to live and create society, and how each understood the meaning of life and death, suffering and salvation. Instructed by: J. Gold, E. Pagels

HUM 297 Transformative Questions in Biology (See STC 297)

HUM 300 Urban Studies Research Seminar (See URB 300)

HUM 301 Topics in German Drama and Theater (See GER 301)

HUM 304 Plato's Republic (See PHI 305)

HUM 306 Topics in Global Race and Ethnicity (See AAS 303)

HUM 307 The Irish Oral Tradition (See MUS 307)

HUM 309 Political Philosophy (See PHI 309)

HUM 312 The Literature of Medieval Europe (See COM 310)

HUM 315 Incarceration in Antiquity (also
CLA 315
REL 315
HLS 349
) Fall HA

Material and textual data indicate carceral practices were regular features in the ancient Mediterranean. This course begins by discussing select key works in the field of carceral studies, and considers ancient evidence to discuss the challenges of identifying prison spaces, the role of the state in incarceration, and the purpose(s) of incarceration in antiquity. A digital humanities component (mapping carceral sites and producing 3D models) will give students an intricate understanding of ancient carceral geographies and introduce them to digital humanities. The course requires international travel during Fall Break. Instructed by: C. Cheung, M. Larsen

HUM 316 Social Philosophy (See PHI 316)

HUM 317 Dance in Education: Dance/Theater Pedagogy (See DAN 316)

HUM 318 Environmental Conflicts and Indigenous Media (See ENV 318)

HUM 324 Topics in Ancient History (See CLA 326)

HUM 325 The Confessional Self (See FRE 325)

HUM 326 Philosophy of Art (See PHI 326)

HUM 330 Migration, Religion, and Literature: From Genesis to Toni Morrison (See REL 330)

HUM 332 Who Owns This Sentence? Copyright Culture from the Romantic Era to the Age of the Internet (See COM 332)

HUM 336 The Prado Museum: A Virtual Tour of Spain (See SPA 336)

HUM 341 What is Vernacular Filmmaking? - Rhetoric for Cinema Studies (See COM 341)

HUM 343 Some Contemporary Shakespearean Afterlives (See THR 343)

HUM 345 Art and Knowledge in the Nineteenth Century (See ART 345)

HUM 346 Introduction to Digital Humanities (also
AMS 348
LAS 385
COM 336
) Spring LA

Have you ever wondered how to measure the complexity of a literary text? What if you could map the personal connections in a Jane Austen novel or a Shakespeare play? Have you had an intuition that you haven't been able to follow because processing the information was too intimidating? If so, the digital humanities can help you. This course will explore the large and exciting field of digital humanities. You'll learn how to read and understand texts using DH methods and will start your own DH project. Instructed by: C. Wills

HUM 349 The Artist at Work (See ART 349)

HUM 350 Battle Lab: The Battle of Princeton (also
ART 302
AMS 352
) Fall HA

Revolution! Espionage! Alexander Hamilton! George Washington! Cannon fire on Nassau Hall! This fall, think outside of the classroom and explore the past in your own backyard: Revolutionary-era Princeton and the physical remains of the legendary battle between American and British forces on January 3, 1777. What happened on that day? Who died? Where are their bones? Why are lawyers fighting over the land? In this new, interdisciplinary course, you will undertake to answer these questions and help solve the longstanding puzzle of the Battle of Princeton. In the process, you will explore how events of the past persistently shape the present day. Instructed by: R. DeLue, N. Arrington

HUM 351 Archive Writing (See COM 350)

HUM 356 Folk Music Revival (See MUS 355)

HUM 357 The Human Comedy of Anton Chekhov Off and On Stage (In English Translation) (See SLA 357)

HUM 360 The Eagle and the Dragon: Comparing Ancient Rome and Han Empire (See CLA 360)

HUM 365 Freud on the Psychological Foundations of the Mind (also
PSY 365
) Fall EC

Freud is approached as a systematic thinker dedicated to discovering the basic principles of human mental life. For Freud, these basic principles concern what impels human thought and behavior. What moves us to think and act? What is it to think and act? Emphasis is placed on the close study and critical analysis of texts, with particular attention to the underlying structure of the arguments. Two 90-minute classes. Instructed by: S. Sugarman

HUM 368 Literature and Medicine (See SLA 368)

HUM 369 Beyond Crisis Contemporary Greece in Context (See COM 369)

HUM 371 Topics in Comparative Literature (See COM 370)

HUM 372 Love and Violence through Words: Modern Chinese Literature in the Age of Revolution (See EAS 371)

HUM 373 Modern China (See EAS 373)

HUM 374 Afterlives of the Iliad (See COM 374)

HUM 383 The Black Metropolis (See FRE 383)

HUM 384 Museums, Archives, and Audiences in Modern Spain (See SPA 382)

HUM 385 Mapping Gentrification (See URB 385)

HUM 400 Translation, Migration and Culture (See TRA 400)

HUM 401 History of Neuroscience (See PSY 401)

HUM 402 Hope: A History (See CHV 401)

HUM 414 Fear and France (See FRE 414)

HUM 421 Venice and the Mediterranean World (See HIS 421)

HUM 426 Exposure: The Storied Landscape of Bears Ears National Monument and America's Public Lands (See ENV 426)

HUM 432 Art and Music in the Middle Ages (See MUS 432)

HUM 437 Law After Rome (See HIS 437)

HUM 445 Between Desire and Disgust: Victorian Beauty in the Pre-Raphaelite and Aestheticist Traditions (See ENG 445)

HUM 449 Making Sense of the City (See ARC 449)

HUM 456 New Orleans at 300: Invention & Reinvention in an American City (See HIS 456)

HUM 470 Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities (also
ENG 482
MUS 433
) Fall/Spring LA

This team-taught seminar examines texts, objects, periods and themes from an interdisciplinary perspective. Although designed to be the capstone course for students pursuing a certificate in Humanistic Studies, it is open to other students if space is available. The specific topic varies each year depending on the focus of the faculty team. Instructed by: Staff

HUM 476 The Vikings: History and Archaeology (See HIS 476)