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Major: Culture and History

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Major Culture&History

The Major Culture and History focuses on the academic study of the cultures and histories of people from around the world and across time. The Major has no temporal or geographic concentration. Instead, students sample an exciting range of topics while developing their ability to analyze all kinds of cultural objects, frame strong questions about cultural-historical problems, and produce coherent interpretive arguments – classic humanistic skills that remain relevant to individual reflection, academic research, and global public life. Culture and History's interdisciplinary approach to the humanities combines history, philosophy, anthropology, and the study of art, music, and literature.

The following chart gives you an overview of the modules in the Culture and History Major:

Grafik Culture & History

The chart provides an overview of the Major composition, but the modules are not necessarily listed in the order in which they will be taken. You can find the full description of each module in the Module Handbook. The basic and advanced courses we offer in the above-mentioned modules are listed in the Course Catalog.

Full description

In Culture and History, students explore an array of topics in specific courses, and these topics change from semester to semester, year to year. This is because we do not ask students to amass a body of knowledge about some particular culture or history. Rather, we want students to practice the academic methods that will allow them to understand whatever culture or history they are most interested in. We also want students to develop a sophisticated theoretical background in the humanities. So the intellectual coherence of Culture and History comes from the fact that students are gradually building up their humanities skill set.

In each of the basic modules, Culture and History students are learning how to think and work like a humanist: historically, philosophically, anthropologically, and aesthetically.

For instance, in one year, students might cover the module Culture and History Up to the Early Modern Period with a course called "Empires in the Ancient World." In the next year, the same module might be covered by a course called "Medieval Japan." In both cases, students are learning about how to research pre-modern societies. What are the typical source materials left by such societies? What kinds of questions can these sources answer? How can we interpret them across such a great distance in time?

Two very important modules are focused on theoretical problems in the study of culture and history (Culture as a Topic of Academic Inquiry, History as a Topic of Academic Inquiry). Here students explore questions that cannot be simply answered or resolved, but rather provide continuous stimulus to thinking in the humanities. Why do human groups care about their past? If history is a kind of story-telling, then is it also at least partly fictional? What are the limits of understanding another culture or another time? Is there a responsible way to criticize aspects of someone else’s culture?

In their 3rd and 4th years, students take two courses (modules Specialization Option I & II) with a research orientation, building skills in a specific discipline and preparing for the BA Thesis. This is the point at which students are expected to have developed an intellectual focus that will lead them to further studies and career opportunities.

Culture and History is designed to provide a strong foundation in humanistic academic disciplines while allowing students to pursue their own intellectual passions in a context of critical reflection. The Major prepares students for a range of MA programs in the humanities and related social sciences, particularly those with an interdisciplinary character.

For more information about this Major, please contact Dr. Ryan Plumley: