Humanistic Studies

Program Offerings

Offering type
Minor

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.

The minor in humanistic studies is open to students from all majors who wish to pursue their intellectual interests and commitments within an interdisciplinary curriculum. HUM minors are encouraged to reflect on the presuppositions of their major field and to become versatile thinkers and researchers. Some HUM minors prefer to connect disciplines across and within the scholarly humanities (e.g., literature with philosophy); others are drawn to connect the humanities to the creative arts, engineering, or social or natural sciences. Still others engage with such interdisciplinary fields of study as medical, environmental, urban and digital 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 three sequences are historical in sweep. They attend closely to revolutions in thought and politics; to works that grapple with justice, human rights, racism and social transformation; and to how thinkers, writers and artists have imagined relationships among human beings, the natural world, and the built environment.

First- and second-year students study these challenging texts in a supportive, communal setting, and are mentored by upper-level students in the program. Having acquired a strong grounding in an interdisciplinary study, juniors and seniors elect courses that invite them to reflect explicitly on the theory and practice of disciplines and to approach one field with the questions and methods of another. At the advanced level, the program offers team-taught capstone seminars, many of which are taught by faculty from the introductory sequences. When students select courses, we encourage them to be guided by their own intellectual interests and commitments.

HUM students share in a lively and congenial community throughout their years at Princeton. We are committed to values that lie at the heart of humanistic inquiry: critical thinking, reasoned discourse, diversity, civility, empathy and compassion. All HUM minors automatically become members of the Behrman Undergraduate Society of Fellows (BUSF), a monthly enrichment and community-building program which may include student presentations of independent work, dinners with guest speakers, trips to cultural events and performances, museum tours, etc.

Students generally declare their interest in the sophomore spring term after having completed one of the sequence courses, but no later than the spring of junior year. The application is available on the humanistic studies website.

Goals for Student Learning

The Program in Humanistic Studies is a minor about major questions: What is it to be human? What do we do with our humanity? How do we experience difference and what role does it play in the good life? How do tradition and transformation make our lives deeper and more dynamic? We address these questions by inviting students to reflect explicitly on the theory and practice of disciplines and to build bridges among them.

HUM courses forge new paths to knowledge; we take interdisciplinary, comparative and cross-cultural approaches to issues both urgent and timeless. We train students to approach one field with the questions and methods of another. In our three team-taught sequences, students follow the chronological sweep of a tradition, with emphasis on transformation, adaptation, and cross-cultural encounter. In our team-taught “capstone” seminars, such as “Incarceration in Antiquity,” “Medical Story-worlds,” “Witness,” and “When Worlds Collide: Poetry and Computation,” scholars trained in different fields engage students in the lived experience of multidisciplinary exchange. We offer faculty incentives to develop fresh topics not normally taught in departments, as well as innovative pedagogy; many of our courses highlight emerging fields that offer new horizons for humanities research.

Program of Study

To earn the minor in humanistic studies, students must fulfill the following requirements:

  1. At least one semester of a 200-level Humanities Sequence course, whether double-credit (Western Humanities) or single credit (East Asian and Near Eastern Humanities), normally taken in the first or second year. The three sequences fulfilling this requirement are HUM 216-217 and 218-219 (Interdisciplinary Approaches to Western Culture); HUM 233-234 (East Asian Humanities); and HUM 247-248 (Near Eastern Humanities).
  2. Four additional interdisciplinary courses:
    • At least two of the four courses must be HUM courses, originating in the Program in Humanistic Studies.
    • Two of the four courses must be taken at the 300 or 400 level. The capstone seminar for the minor, HUM 470, Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities, is highly recommended as one of these two courses. This team-taught course varies from year to year, depending on the focus of the faculty teams. These courses are a site of innovation and experimentation, offering cutting-edge, hands-on experience with new constellations of texts, objects and images. Designed specifically for HUM minors, the seminars have wide appeal, and seats are always reserved for HUM minors.
    • The four courses must also be drawn from at least two of the following clusters, which demonstrate the broad reach of the humanities. Each semester, students will be furnished with a list of preapproved courses for each cluster and the specific HUM courses and HUM cross-lists included in each; some courses will appear in more than one cluster.

Tradition and Transformation

These courses deepen the study of particular partnerships among the possible combinations of religion, philosophy, history, literature and the creative arts. They pay attention to the landmark achievements in an intellectual tradition, considering continuities as well as societal change, upheaval and transformation.

Global or Comparative Humanities

Illuminating their study of one culture with comparative approaches to other areas of the world, these courses investigate 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.

Engaged or Public Humanities

These courses explore links to the social sciences through such emerging fields as cognitive science, environmental studies, medical humanities, urban humanities, indigenous studies and disability studies, among other fields. Students may pursue community-engaged research and scholarly activism.

Humanities and Sciences in Dialogue

These courses consider how advances in natural science and engineering technology empower us to ask new kinds of questions and forge new kinds of knowledge.

Data and Culture

Addressing an increasingly datafied society, these courses teach the ability to contextualize and interpret data as humanistic skills. This cluster requires HUM 346 / CDH 346, Introduction to Digital Humanities.

Additional Information

Up to two courses may be double-counted with permission of the home department’s director of undergraduate studies and the humanistic studies program adviser.

Students in the Class of 2025 will be the first to be eligible to earn a minor. The Class of 2024 will earn certificates.

Faculty

  • Director

    • Esther H. Schor
  • Executive Committee

    • Tera W. Hunter, History
    • Martin Kern, East Asian Studies
    • Lital Levy, Comparative Literature
    • Rosina A. Lozano, History
    • Carolina Mangone, Art and Archaeology
    • Kinohi Nishikawa, English
    • Laurence Ralph, Anthropology
    • Kim Lane Scheppele, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Esther H. Schor, English, ex officio
  • Associated Faculty

    • Katie Chenoweth, French & Italian
    • Ksenia Chizhova, East Asian Studies
    • Benjamin Conisbee Baer, Comparative Literature
    • Jeff Dolven, English
    • Andrew M. Feldherr, Classics
    • Elena Fratto, Slavic Lang & Literatures
    • Jonathan C. Gold, Religion
    • Brooke A. Holmes, Classics
    • Anna Arabindan Kesson, Art and Archaeology
    • Beatrice E. Kitzinger, Art and Archaeology
    • Eve Krakowski, Near Eastern Studies
    • Carolina Mangone, Art and Archaeology
    • Simone Marchesi, French & Italian
    • Federico Marcon, East Asian Studies
    • Simon A. Morrison, Music
    • Elaine H. Pagels, Religion
    • Esther H. Schor, English
    • Daniel J. Sheffield, Near Eastern Studies
    • D. Vance Smith, English
    • Brian R. Steininger, East Asian Studies
    • Susan L. Sugarman, Psychology
    • Michael A. Wachtel, Slavic Lang & Literatures
    • Trenton W. Wilson, East Asian Studies

For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Courses

HUM 205 - The Classical Roots of Western Literature (also COM 205/HLS 203) Fall CDEM

HUM 206 - Masterworks of European Literature (also COM 206) Spring LA

HUM 209 - Thinking Translation: Language Transfer and Cultural Communication (also COM 209/TRA 200) Fall LA

HUM 210 - Foundations of Psychological Thought (also PSY 210) Spring ECHA

HUM 212 - Classical Mythology (also CLA 212/GSS 212/HLS 212) Fall LA

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. B. Kitzinger, K. Chenoweth, A. Feldherr

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. S. Baralay, S. Marchesi, E. Schor

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. K. Chenoweth, M. Wachtel, B. Sincox

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. C. Mangone, B. Conisbee Baer, S. Morrison

HUM 222 - Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion (also REL 222) Not offered this year EC

HUM 227 - The Worlds of the Middle Ages (also HIS 227/HLS 227/MED 227) Not offered this year LA

HUM 228 - Art and Power in the Middle Ages (also ART 228/HLS 228/MED 228) HALA

HUM 229 - Great Books in Buddhism (also REL 229) Not offered this year LA

HUM 233 - East Asian Humanities I: The Classical Foundations (also COM 233/EAS 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. B. Steininger, T. Wilson

HUM 234 - East Asian Humanities II: Traditions and Transformations (also COM 234/EAS 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. K. Chizhova, X. Xia

HUM 239 - Introduction to African Literature and Film (also AAS 239/AFS 239/COM 239) Fall CDLA

HUM 240 - Medical Anthropology (also ANT 240) CDEM

HUM 309 - Political Philosophy (also CHV 309/PHI 309) Not offered this year EM

HUM 310 - Topics in the History and Theory of the Media (also GER 314) Spring

HUM 311 - Arts of the Medieval Book (also ART 311/MED 311) HA

HUM 312 - The Literature of Medieval Europe (also COM 310/MED 308) Not offered this year LA

HUM 324 - Topics in Ancient History (also CLA 326/HIS 326/HLS 373) Spring HA

HUM 326 - Philosophy of Art (also COM 363/PHI 326) Not offered this year LA

HUM 327 - Topics in Contemporary Italian Civilization (also COM 386/ECS 318/ITA 309) CDLA

HUM 333 - Translating East Asia (also COM 373/EAS 304/TRA 304) Fall CDLA

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." F. Marcon

HUM 341 - What is Vernacular Filmmaking? - Rhetoric for Cinema Studies (also COM 341/ECS 341/VIS 339) LA

HUM 347 - Topics in Global Race and Ethnicity (also AAS 303/GHP 313/GSS 406) Fall/Spring HASA

HUM 364 - Love and Justice (also GSS 338/REL 364) Not offered this year EM

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. S. Sugarman

HUM 369 - Beyond Crisis Contemporary Greece in Context (also COM 369/ECS 369/HLS 369) Fall SA

HUM 371 - Topics in Comparative Literature (also COM 370/ECS 386) Not offered this year LA

HUM 390 - The Bible as Literature (also COM 392/ENG 390/TRA 390) Fall LA

HUM 400 - Translation, Migration, Culture (also COM 409/TRA 400) Spring SA

HUM 409 - Topics in Drama (also ENG 409/THR 410) Fall LA

HUM 470 - Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities (also CLA 470) Spring EM

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. Staff