Program in Humanistic Studies



  • Tera W. Hunter (acting)
  • Esther H. Schor

Executive Committee

  • Yelena Baraz, Classics
  • William A. Gleason, English
  • Tera W. Hunter, History
  • Martin Kern, East Asian Studies
  • Lital Levy, Comparative Literature
  • Rosina A. Lozano, History
  • Kinohi Nishikawa, English
  • Laurence Ralph, Anthropology
  • Marina Rustow, Near Eastern Studies
  • Kim Lane Scheppele, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
  • Esther H. Schor, English, ex officio

Associated Faculty

  • Elizabeth M. Armstrong, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
  • Yelena Baraz, Classics
  • Sandra L. Bermann, Comparative Literature
  • Joshua H. Billings, Classics
  • D. Graham Burnett, History
  • Katie Chenoweth, French & Italian
  • Branko Glisic, Civil and Environmental Eng
  • Anthony T. Grafton, History
  • Lara Harb, Near Eastern Studies
  • Johannes Haubold, Classics
  • Brian W. Kernighan, Computer Science
  • Paize Keulemans, East Asian Studies
  • Beatrice E. Kitzinger, Art and Archaeology
  • Michael Koortbojian, Art and Archaeology
  • Melissa Lane, Politics
  • Daniela E. Mairhofer, Classics
  • Meredith A. Martin, English
  • Sarah E. McGrath, Philosophy
  • Yair Mintzker, History
  • Simon A. Morrison, Music
  • Efthymia Rentzou, French & Italian
  • Daniel J. Sheffield, Near Eastern Studies
  • Susan L. Sugarman, Psychology
  • Moulie Vidas, Religion
  • Stacy E. Wolf, Lewis Center for the Arts
For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Program Information

The Program in Humanistic Studies, under the auspices of the Council of the Humanities, hosts courses that take interdisciplinary, comparative, and cross-cultural approaches to the humanities. At the introductory level, we offer three year-long, team-taught "humanities sequences" exploring the events, ideas, texts, and artifacts of Western, Near Eastern, and East Asian cultures, respectively. These sequences attend closely to revolutions in thought and politics, human rights, racism, and social transformation. First- and second-year students study challenging texts in a supportive, communal setting, and are mentored by upper-level students in the program. At the advanced level, the program offers team-taught capstone seminars and a certificate in interdisciplinary studies in the humanities. 

The certificate in Humanistic Studies is open to students from all concentrations who wish to pursue their intellectual interests and commitments via interdisciplinary curriculum. Having acquired a strong grounding in an interdisciplinary study, juniors and seniors elect courses that reflect explicitly on the frontiers of disciplines, the bridges that connect them, and the insights gained from approaching one field with the questions and methods of another. Drawing on their experience in their home departments, humanistic studies students move across established disciplines and engage with emerging fields of study, such as medical, environmental, urban, and digital humanities. 


Candidates for the program must complete, during their first two years, two interdisciplinary courses that study history, literature, arts, and/or culture over a span of historical time. 

Most students present as prerequisites one of the following pairs of courses: (1) Any two HUM-designated courses (e.g., HUM 346, Introduction to Digital Humanities); (2) HUM 216-217 or 218-219, Interdisciplinary Approaches to Western Culture; (3) HUM 233-234, East Asian Humanities; or (4) HUM 247-248, Near Eastern Humanities. While these are the usual ways to fulfill the prerequisite, any 200- or 300-level HUM designated course may serve as a prerequisite. If a student wants to fulfill the prerequisites with other courses, they must submit syllabi of the two courses they are proposing as prerequisites.

Plan of Study

In addition to the two prerequisites, students complete six additional courses, four of which must be explicitly interdisciplinary in intellectual focus. (In most cases, these courses may also be used to fulfill departmental requirements; students must attain approval from their director of studies.) The remaining two courses are chosen in consultation with the program adviser and tailored to the student's individual plan of study. In these courses, students are expected to forge their own interdisciplinary connections and pursue them in written work. One of the six courses is a team-taught capstone seminar created specifically for certificate students. Program students must also complete either an interdisciplinary senior thesis in their home department or an interdisciplinary research paper written specifically for the program.

Students pursuing the certificate chart individualized pathways guided by their intellectual interests and commitments. In consultation with the program adviser, applicants to the program propose a curriculum for their junior and senior years that combines the requirements of their home departments with courses best suited to develop their interests. Here are five examples of pathways followed by students in humanistic studies; we invite you to invent your own.

1. Bridges within the humanities and arts. Students on this path have deepened 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 have focused on the intersections between a specific branch of the humanities and a neighboring field of anthropology, sociology, or politics.

3. Intercultural studies. Students have illuminated their study of one culture with comparative approaches to other areas of the world, for example, or have studied one or more regions through various methodologies. To enhance their intercultural studies, program students have benefited from participating in global seminars or other study abroad opportunities. 

4. Bridges between the humanities and the sciences. These students, while concentrating in the humanities or social sciences, have explored links to cognitive science, environmental studies, or other sciences.

5. Digital approaches to the humanities. Students in this group, with or without a background in computer science, have learned how new media and new technology empower us to ask new kinds of questions and forge new kinds of knowledge.

HUM 470, Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities, is the required capstone seminar. This team-taught course varies from year to year, depending on the focus of the faculty team. Typically these courses are a site of innovation and experimentation, offering cutting-edge, hands-on experience with new constellations of texts, objects, and images.


HUM 204 The Byzantine Empire (See HIS 205)

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

HUM 206 Masterworks of European Literature (See COM 206)

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

HUM 210 Foundations of Psychological Thought (See PSY 210)

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: M. Vidas, D. Heller-Roazen, B. Kitzinger

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: J. Lahiri, B. Graziosi, M. Delvaux

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. Instructed by: M. Vidas, M. Kronfeld, E. Schor

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. All meetings are listed under 218. Instructed by: Z. Chaudhary, Y. Mintzker, C. Mangone

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

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

HUM 229 Great Books in Buddhism (See REL 229)

HUM 230 Music and Language (also
CGS 230
PSY 209
MUS 229
) Spring EC

Music and language offer unique pathways into studying the human mind. This interdisciplinary course explores the parallels and differences between music and language by investigating their functions and structures, as well as the variety found in each across the globe. We will examine how both past experiences and cognitive processes shape perception in real time. Through a variety of interdisciplinary readings, guest lecturers, and hands-on activities, the course aims to highlight current lively debates and provide students with the background and tools needed to study the relationship between music and language from multiple perspectives. Instructed by: A. Goldberg, E. Margulis

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, M. Kern

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 239 Introduction to African Literature and Film (See COM 239)

HUM 240 Medical Anthropology (See ANT 240)

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

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: D. Sheffield, J. Haubold

HUM 249 The Science of Roman History (See CLA 247)

HUM 251 Identity in the Spanish-Speaking World (See SPA 250)

HUM 252 Narrating Pandemics Now (See SPA 252)

HUM 253 Pompeii (See CLA 250)

HUM 261 Christianity and Classical Culture (See CLA 260)

HUM 297 Transformative Questions in Biology (See STC 297)

HUM 300 Urban Studies Research Seminar (See URB 300)

HUM 301 The 'Hidden Causes' of History: Integrating the Social and the Economic (See FRE 328)

HUM 304 Plato's Republic (See PHI 305F)

HUM 306 Seeing Health: Medicine, Literature, and the Visual Arts (See SLA 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 313 Christians and Incarceration (See REL 308)

HUM 314 Where are we? Maps, Travel, and Wonder (See ENG 317)

HUM 316 Social Philosophy (See PHI 316)

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

HUM 318 Kings and Tyrants: Greece and the Near East, ca. 1000-450 BCE (See CLA 318)

HUM 319 Vital Signs: Writing On and About the Body (See CWR 312)

HUM 321 Excavate/Illuminate: Creating Theater from the Raw Material of History (also
THR 362
AMS 331
AAS 324
) Spring HALA

Excavate/Illuminate will guide students' archival research and collaborative exploration of US history, journalism, and performance, focusing on the pivotal Tulsa Race Massacre (1921) as a case study. We will read several examples of documentary theater to see how artists create theater from the raw materials of history. For the first half of the semester, students will work in small groups, exploring online resources in order to develop and perform original scripts in the style of Federal Theatre Project Living Newspapers. During weeks 7-12, students will select collaborators and historical topics of interest to devise final performances. Instructed by: C. Young

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 329 Topics in Race and Public Policy (See AAS 306)

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 334 Race in France (See FRE 334)

HUM 335 A Global History of Monsters (also
EAS 376
HIS 334
) Fall CDHA

This class analyzes how different cultures imagine monsters and how these representations changed over time to perform different social functions. As negative objectifications of fundamental social structures and conceptions, monsters are a key to understand the culture that engendered them. This course has three goals: it familiarizes students with the semiotics of monsters worldwide; it teaches analytical techniques exportable to other topics and fields; it proposes interpretive strategies of "reading culture" comparatively beyond the stereotype of "the West and the Rest." Instructed by: F. Marcon

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

HUM 337 Styles of Literature and Science in 18th- and 19th-Century Europe (See FRE 337)

HUM 338 Poetries of Resistance (See COM 335)

HUM 340 Musical Theatre and Fan Cultures (also
MTD 340
AMS 440
SOC 376
) Fall LASA

Why do people love Broadway musicals? How do audiences engage with musicals and their stars? How have fan practices changed since the 1950s alongside economic and artistic changes in New York and on Broadway? In what ways does "fan of" constitute a social identity? How do fans perform their devotion to a show, to particular performers, and to each other? This class examines the social forms co-created by performers and audiences, both during a performance and in the wider culture. Students will practice research methods including archival research, ethnographic observation, in-depth interviewing, and textual and performance analysis. Instructed by: S. Wolf, E. Armstrong

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

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

HUM 346 Introduction to Digital Humanities (also
ENG 256
) Spring LAQR

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: Staff

HUM 347 Topics in Global Race and Ethnicity (See AAS 303)

HUM 348 Race and the Inhumanities (See CLA 342)

HUM 349 The Artist at Work (See ART 349)

HUM 351 Archive Writing (See COM 350)

HUM 353 Uyghur History: A Survey (See EAS 353)

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 358 Democracy and Education (See FRE 348)

HUM 359 Sappho: Her Work and Influence from 600 BCE to the Present (See CLA 357)

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

HUM 364 Love and Justice (See REL 364)

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 367 Kierkegaard Everywhere (See PHI 367)

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 378 South Asian Migrations (See URB 378)

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 389 Environmental Film Studies: Research Film Studio (See ECS 389)

HUM 390 The Bible as Literature (See ENG 390)

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

HUM 406 Ethics in Archaeology (See ART 402)

HUM 409 Topics in Drama (See ENG 409)

HUM 414 Fear and France (See FRE 414)

HUM 417 Historical Structures: Ancient Architecture's Materials, Construction and Engineering (also
ART 408
CEE 415
HLS 417
) Fall HASN

The students will pursue inquiry beyond the conventional boundaries of the two respective disciplines (ART amd CEE): to learn and master relevant elements of structural engineering and to understand, appreciate, and solve myriad problems of realization of large structural works, including their design, structural analysis, and construction; and, concomitantly, to pursue a fully historical contextualization of architectural structures, including the technological developments, sociological aspects, and aesthetic traditions in which these monuments find their place. Students will work in mixed groups and collaborate on their course projects. Instructed by: B. Glisic, M. Koortbojian

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

HUM 422 Roman Religion: Sources and Methods (See CLA 422)

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

HUM 433 Fashioning the Self, Rendering Others: Literary and Visual Portraiture, 18th C to the Present (See ENG 432)

HUM 434 Counterworlds: Innovation and Rupture in Communities of Artistic Practice (also
VIS 434
ECS 434
ART 404
) Fall LA

Co-taught with renowned artist Josephine Meckseper, this seminar will explore the dynamics of creative collaboration through case studies of utopian communities of artistic practice in 20-c. Europe and the US (Worpswede, Bauhaus, Black Mountain) and the architecture of modern cities planned and imagined. We'll consider how utopian and dystopian ideas emerged historically, and bring critical perspectives to bear on concepts of utopia in relation to colonialism and capitalism. We'll not only study but also practice collaborations across disciplines and media. Seminar guests will include artists and writers. Enrollment by application; see below. Instructed by: B. Doherty

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 448 Early Modern Amsterdam: Tolerant Eminence and the Arts (See ENG 448)

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

HUM 450 Empathy and Alienation: Aesthetics, Politics, Culture (also
ART 482
ARC 450
ECS 450
) Fall HALA

In 19- and 20-c. debates that crossed borders among disciplines including psychology, sociology, anthropology, art history, philosophy, and political theory, empathy and alienation emerged as key terms to describe relations among human beings, works of art, and commodities. This seminar addresses the dynamics of empathy and alienation across a range of discourses and artifacts in European culture. Our explorations of how relationships between empathy and alienation were variously conceptualized in psychological aesthetics, psychoanalysis, and critical theory will aim to open up new perspectives on recent debates about identity and affect. Instructed by: B. Doherty, S. Papapetros

HUM 452 Global Publishing: Translation, Media, Migration (See COM 450)

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

HUM 457 Ways of Knowing: Philosophy and Literature (See COM 457)

HUM 462 Difference and Deviance in the Early Middle Ages (See HIS 462)

HUM 470 Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities (also
MUS 470
CLA 470
) 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: D. Feeney, W. Heller

HUM 471 Abraham Lincoln and America, 1809-1865 (See HIS 470)

HUM 475 Data and Literary Study: A Research Lab (also
ENG 475
) Spring LAQR

This seminar will explore methods in the sociology of literature and computational literary criticism--two methodologies that approach literary works as part of larger systems of relations between people, texts, technologies, and institutions. We'll look at the data of literary study--from colonial lending library records to course syllabi--and what such they can tell us about how cultural works are produced, consumed, consecrated, and distributed. We'll learn advanced techniques in computer-assisted reading and situate them within a longer genealogy that includes book history, critical archival studies, and Marxist literary theory. Instructed by: S. Eckert

HUM 476 The Vikings: History and Archaeology (See ART 478)

HUM 491 Fertile Bodies: A Cultural History of Reproduction from Antiquity to the Enlightenment (See HIS 491)