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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.

Core Courses

In their sophomore year, Arts and Humanities majors enroll in the three core courses that provide the foundation for the Arts and Humanities concentrations. They also take three to five electives from core courses offered in other majors. The Arts and Humanities core courses are: Global History (AH110), Morality and Justice (AH111) and The Arts and Social Change (AH112).

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 believe in them? 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 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.

Concentrations

In their junior year, Arts and Humanities majors select a concentration, begin taking the three courses within it and begin work on their capstone projects. They also take three electives chosen from other Minerva courses (other concentration courses in Arts and Humanities, core and concentration courses in other colleges). Arts and Humanities offers six concentrations shown in the table below.

In the senior year, Arts and Humanities majors enroll in four additional electives chosen from Minerva’s course offerings within or outside the major. Additionally, they take two senior tutorials in the major, and finish their capstone projects.

  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
Dynamics of the Arts and Literature AH146 / Decoding Art and Literature AH156 / How Economic and Social Forces Influence 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.

Historical Forces

Understand the impact of historical forces by acquiring the analytical tools of historians to solve the challenges posed by a wide range of historical problems; learn about comparative methods to analyze the effects of various forces on different societies; and apply what you have learned as a historian to use history as an instrument to inform public debates on contemporary issues.

Career Possibilities

  • Public policy expert
  • Political consultant
  • History professor
  • Foreign Service officer
  • Investigative journalist
  • Government staffperson

Philosophy, Ethics, and the Law

Delve into the origins of moral beliefs, the relationship of ethics, philosophy, and law to one another, and the relevance of all three to decision-making. Learn about the theoretical frameworks you can bring to bear when addressing moral issues and investigate how ethical and philosophical analysis may be used to change political and social institutions for the better.

Career Possibilities

  • Ethicist at a health care organization
  • Policy director at a think tank
  • Legislator
  • Attorney
  • Management consultant
  • Director of Grants

Dynamics of the Arts and Literature

Acquire a variety of analytical tools to interpret works of art and literature. Explore how the arts and literature interact with the larger society around them, how they are influenced by economic, political, and social forces, and how in turn the arts and literature can be used to communicate effectively and persuade others to bring about change.

Career Possibilities

  • Writer
  • Book publishing editor
  • Music producer
  • Entertainment attorney
  • Film maker
  • Museum curator

Humanities Analyses

Approach the arts, literature, history, ethics, law, and philosophy from an analytical perspective. Learn how to interpret the arts and literature deeply, using careful observation and appropriate theoretical approaches; apply the methodological tools of the historian to interpret the past as well as the present; and examine the theoretical frameworks of ethical systems to understand their relationship to legal systems and contested moral issues.

Career Possibilities

  • Legislative analyst
  • Museum director
  • Humanities professor
  • Trial lawyer
  • Newspaper critic
  • Press secretary for public official

Humanities Foundations

Examine the humanities by putting them into their social, cultural, political, and economic contexts. Examine the divergent responses of different societies to the challenges they faced. Understand the evolution of the arts and literature around the world within their socio-economic, political, and cultural frameworks; and explore how and why our notions of ethical and legal systems, as well as their applications, have changed in response to new ideas about the role of individuals and institutions in society.

Career Possibilities

  • Social commentator
  • University professor
  • Novelist
  • Journalist
  • Officer for a non-profit foundation
  • Marketing writer

Humanities Applications

Explore the uses of history, ethics, the arts and literature to understand the past, influence the present, anticipate new developments, and persuade cultural, social, political, and economic actors and institutions to modify their plans for the future.

Career Possibilities

  • Communications specialist
  • Political scientist
  • Public policy expert
  • Film maker
  • Urban planner
  • Attorney

Concentration Courses

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?

Prerequisite: AH110 Global History

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?

Prerequisite: AH110 Global History

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?

Prerequisite: AH110 Global History

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, abortion, euthanasia, and freedom of speech.

Prerequisite: AH111: Morality and Justice

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.

Prerequisite: AH111: Morality and Justice

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.

Prerequisite: AH111: Morality and Justice

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.

Prerequisite: AH112: The Arts and Social Change

AH156 / How Economic and Social Forces Influence 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?

Prerequisite: AH112: The Arts and Social Change

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 by producing creative projects that seek to communicate and persuade.

Prerequisite: AH112: The Arts and Social Change

Tutorial Courses

AH181 / Fall Senior Tutorial

Discuss a topic you are passionate about with two other students and a professor. Begin by developing your own syllabus, with the professor helping you to drill deeply into your topic. Engage with the other students and professor in ways that are not possible in ordinary class.

AH182 / Spring Senior Tutorial

Discuss a topic you are passionate about with two other students and a professor. Begin by developing your own syllabus, with the professor helping you to drill deeply into your topic. Engage with the other students and professor in ways that are not possible in ordinary class.

Capstone Courses

AH195 / Arts and Humanities Capstone I

Focus on how to define a study topic, research it, understand the various competing perspectives, and discover relevant data and information sources. The study topic or project - presented to the class in the final third of the course - integrates elements from the major as well as the entire curriculum, and in particular from the cornerstone courses.

AH196 / Arts and Humanities Capstone Independent Study I

Carry out an original piece of research or creation of an original work or portfolio in any field of arts and humanities under the guidance of a faculty advisor. By the end of the course, students should present the first draft of their project for critique and guidance.

AH198 / Arts and Humanities Capstone Independent Study II

Building on AH196, continue developing an original piece of research, work, or portfolio under the guidance of a faculty advisor. Continue to iterate on the project until such point that a path to successful completion is evident.

AH199 / Arts and Humanities Capstone II

Revise and complete a written report of the senior capstone project, which should be at a professional level. Present the report before the class to receive critiques and suggestions from student colleagues. Have the final work be assessed by a Minerva faculty member and a second expert reviewer.