Humanities takes an interdisciplinary and comparative approach to the study of the arts (literature, fine arts, music, and film) within their historical context. Humanities courses look critically at that tradition whose beginning is often defined by Greece and Rome. The deepest tradition of the humanities demands that we learn from the past, but that we also uncover new material, and new areas of the past, in so doing. As students progress through the major they continue to interrogate the assumptions of the Western tradition through a range of specialized courses that seek to broaden the notion of the humanities beyond the Eurocentric. Classes may examine the literatures of Asia, Africa or the Americas alongside European literary traditions. The Humanities Program places strong emphasis on close analytical reading and on writing. Students are encouraged to think critically and to articulate their ideas carefully.
As a direct result of its encouragement of interdisciplinary approaches to the analysis and interpretation of literature, music, film, and art, Humanities offers an opportunity for students and faculty to pursue a wide variety of modes of reflection. As an interdisciplinary program, Humanities is committed to a profoundly comparative perspective enabling students and faculty to bring together not only different arts, but works drawn from different eras and cultures, western and non-western alike. At the same time as it uses historical and generic categories as a means of organizing material, it also provides an opportunity for critically examining these categories, sometimes challenging them, at other times bringing their latent content more fully to light.
In upper-division courses students may focus on various genres (such as tragedy, comedy, the lyric, the epic), periods (such as Classical, Renaissance, Romantic, Modern), cross-cultural encounters in the arts (geographical and/or chronological), and methodologies (psychoanalytic, semiotic, mythological/archetypal, cultural/critical, deconstructive, feminist, philosophical). Many of our upper-division, as well as our introductory, courses explore the theoretical and practical interrelations of the arts: music, literature, the visual arts, film, opera, and dance.
The Humanities major requires students to gain competence (18 hours) in a particular discipline (e.g., English, a foreign language/literature, history, art history, music history, philosophy, film studies) and to spend 12 hours in a second field (e.g., one of the above, women’s studies, journalism, dance, creative writing), as well as studying subjects from an interdisciplinary perspective within The Humanities Program (30 hours). Three areas are thus combined in the Humanities major: interdisciplinary courses, a particular discipline, and a second field. The range of choice available to the Humanities major entails careful advising. Students are required to consult frequently with the undergraduate advisor.