Arts and Humanities Major
The arts and humanities take the history of human creative thought and expression and apply it to understanding and contextualizing events, ideas, policies, and human relationships. They foster an appreciation for other ideas, other times and other cultures, as well as new ways of looking at the world.
Arts and humanities scholarship produces better-informed leaders, innovators and global citizens with a social conscience, who are able to express their views persuasively and through different media and forms.
In their first year, Arts and Humanities majors complete their Cornerstone Courses.
In their second year, Arts and Humanities majors enroll in core courses that provide the foundation for the Arts and Humanities concentrations. They also take electives from core courses offered in other majors.
AH110 / Global History
From prehistoric times to the present, human populations have moved across the globe. Driven by environmental, economic, political, and social forces, they have carried with them and have been exposed to new customs, new technologies, and new ideas for structuring societies and interacting with other peoples. They have also brought war, disease, and reduced cultural and biological diversity. Through theoretical and empirical readings about cross-cultural, transnational, and global encounters, this course provides you the analytical tools to examine the large sweep of such events and movements from a variety of perspectives, to understand their causes, their impacts, the counter-currents they engendered, and what we can learn from them.
AH111 / Morality and Justice
Are there moral truths? If so, what are they and why should we accept that they exist? In this course you learn about the origins and enduring justifications for moral beliefs, as well as challenges to the existence of objective morality. We explore how moral concepts, and in particular the concept of justice, provide the foundation for legitimate social and political institutions. We also examine the relevance of moral concepts to the lives of individuals, to their interactions, and to forms of governance across a range of cultures in different parts of the world.
AH112 / The Arts and Social Change
A fundamental characteristic of the arts is that they are transformative. They lead us to see ourselves in new ways, to reconceptualize our world, and to rethink our relationship to it. Consequently, the arts are often harbingers and pacesetters for social change. This course explores the use of creative expression in the visual arts, literature, and music to question and sometimes resist authority, to reassess ideological constructs, and to advocate change in social and political systems as well as in the arts themselves. Under what circumstances are such efforts likely to be successful? How do we determine success? To address these issues, the course draws examples from literature, the visual and performing arts, and music from different parts of the world.
In their third year, Arts and Humanities majors select a concentration, begin taking courses within it and begin work on their capstone courses. They also take electives chosen from other Minerva courses (other concentration courses in Arts and Humanities, core and concentration courses in other colleges). Arts and Humanities offers concentrations shown in the table below.
In the fourth year, Arts and Humanities majors enroll in additional electives chosen from Minerva’s course offerings within or outside the major. Additionally, they take senior tutorials in the major, and finish their capstone courses.
|Humanities Analyses||Humanities Foundations||Humanities Applications|
|Historical Forces||AH142 / Historical Analysis: Challenges and Responses||AH152 / Comparing Societies and Histories: The Impact of Time and Place||AH162 / Uses and Misuses of History|
|Philosophy, Ethics, and the Law||AH144 / Ethical Systems, Moral Dilemmas||AH154 / Ethics and the Law||AH164 / Creating Ethical Political and Social Systems|
|Arts and Literature||AH146 / Decoding Art and Literature||AH156 / Socioeconomic Influences on the Arts and Literature||AH166 / Using the Arts and Literature to Communicate and Persuade|
Each row and each column of the matrix represent a different concentration, as noted above.
AH142 / Historical Analysis: Challenges and Responses
History as a field of study is based on a set of methods to analyze the past, understand the foundations of the present, and at times anticipate the future. Historical analysis focuses on why changes did or did not occur in particular societies at various times, how these changes unfolded, the motivations of participants, and the influence that the past may have on the present. This course examines the creative responses of historians to the challenges they face in uncovering the past. Students deal with questions such as what are the boundaries between historical and fictional narratives? How does who writes history affect what they write? If history is written by those in power, as is often stated, what tools does the historian have to write about the people without a history? What possibilities and limitations are inherent in different kinds of historical evidence, whether ancient objects, written texts, or modern videos?
AH144 / Ethical Systems, Moral Dilemmas
Normative ethics is the study of ethical systems that provide answers to the question of how one ought to act in situations of moral significance. Moral dilemmas involve choices between mutually exclusive alternatives, each of which carries significant burdens. This course introduces you to theoretical frameworks that one can apply to addressing moral decisions and dilemmas, such as those involved in animal rights, climate change, torture, and euthanasia.
AH146 / Decoding Art and Literature
We can gain a deeper appreciation of any work of art, music, or literature by delving into issues of form, structure, and function. In this course students acquire the tools to understand different artistic genres through close analysis of individual works. The course draws examples from both the Western and Non-Western traditions, from diverse historical periods, and from works with different functions that are aimed at different audiences. The goal is to provide students with a broad set of analytical tools that they can apply to a wide range of visual, textual, and musical works.
AH152 / Comparing Societies and Histories: The Impact of Time and Place
What explains why some societies developed successful solutions that differ markedly from the successful solutions found by other societies faced with similar phenomena? Why is it that some societies are more open to change than others? Such questions and scholarly interest in understanding the underlying causes and effects of historical change or resistance to it are at the heart of comparative history in recent decades. The course explores possible answers to these and related questions by means of case studies focused on topics such as comparative empires, revolution, nation-making, and ideologies ranging from those centered on economic systems to those related to gender hierarchies. Along the way, students consider a number of methodological questions, among them, what is gained and what is lost by approaching history from a comparative perspective?
AH154 / Ethics and the Law
What is the law, why should we obey it, and what constitutes an ethical legal system? We examine fundamental legal concepts and practices, as well as the evolution of our understanding of law and its application. We then consider topics in legal theory such as the role of constitutions, the difference between criminal and civil law, the theory of punishment, the purpose of civil disobedience, the relationship between national and international law, and the nature and practice of human rights law.
AH156 / Socioeconomic Influences on the Arts and Literature
For several centuries artistic and literary works were considered the product of the individual creative genius of artists and writers. More recently, scholars have argued that these works are also social products, that they are shaped by the economic, social, and cultural forces of their societies. To what extent and in what ways do socioeconomic and cultural forces influence the arts and literature? This course explores this and related questions as we examine issues such as the relationship between artists, writers, patrons, and clients; the social and cultural functions of different works of art and literature; the education and training of artists and writers; and the organization of labor in the production of art. Who is in and who is out of the process of artistic and literary production? And what implications does this have for participation in the market that emerged in modern times for artistic and literary products?
AH162 / Uses and Misuses of History
"The past is never dead. It's not even past," wrote William Faulkner. The presentness of the past is evident in the controversies that ensue when history is used and misused for public purposes. This course analyzes some of the critical public debates that have occurred over historical issues and over governmental policies enacted in different parts of the world in response to museum exhibits, memorials, the publication of history textbooks, and the making of historical films. It also examines the call for political actions based on a fictitious past as well as the role of historians in opposing such efforts. Students consider questions such as: what constitutes public history and what theoretical issues does it raise? What is the difference between public memory and history? What are the standards and responsibilities of the field? What obligations does the historian have to the living and the dead, and what preparation do historians need in order to be effective in this increasingly important segment of the historical profession?
AH164 / Creating Ethical Political and Social Systems
As individuals, we lead both private and public lives. Political and social institutions provide the framework within which we interact with others and pursue our personal goals and ambitions. What is the proper role of these institutions, and how can we change them for the better? This course explores these questions by examining central topics in social and political philosophy, including democracy, justice, the family, and the nature of social identity. We investigate how political and social systems ought to be designed, with special consideration to international issues including environmental pollution, humanitarian intervention, global poverty, migration, and secession.
AH166 / Using the Arts and Literature to Communicate and Persuade
This course examines how new technology, types of media, and changes in social mores affect how works of art communicate and persuade. It also examines various modes of artistic expression — including protest, propaganda and humor. Our aim is to understand the different ways that works of literary, musical, visual, and multimedia art shed light on the world and communicate with it. How do poems or stories express artistic visions differently than paintings or music? Is a documentary film an effective form of propaganda and is it potentially more or less effective than a photograph? How do these genres vary in their abilities to persuade? The course explores these and related questions, paying particular attention to moving images — films, television shows, and works of digital art. Students apply theory to practice and use the modes of communication analyzed in class that seek to communicate and persuade by producing creative projects, whether they be poetry, creative fiction, musical compositions, graphic art posters, or other works.
In their fourth year, Arts and Humanities majors finish their Capstone Courses.