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, 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 with the analytical tools to examine the large sweep of such events and movements in the period since 1400 from a variety of perspectives, to understand their causes, their impacts, the counter-currents they engendered, and what we can learn from them. Throughout we pay attention not only to what happened in the past, but to how historians have interpreted these developments.
AH111 / Morality, Justice, and the Good Life
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. We conclude considering how, if at all, ancient philosophical theories can inform our ability to live a good life. This course provides the foundations for, and is a prerequisite for, the Philosophy, Ethics and the Law concentration in the Arts & Humanities major.
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 re-conceptualize 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. This course is a foundation and a prerequisite for the Dynamics of the Arts and Literature concentration in the Arts & Humanities major.
AH113 / Dynamics of Design
Design affects the objects, spaces, and ideas of everyday life, from door handles and physical spaces to laws and the virtual spaces in which we experience our lives. Building on a broadly conceived and interdisciplinary understanding of “design,” this course covers approaches to design that are useful for all types of design practice. We explore how people and their technologies and material worlds have co-evolved over time. We also consider ethical questions related to design and practice transferring principles from one design field to other design fields. We conclude by covering recent developments in design studies that will directly equip you to recognize the contingency of different design logics and the intricacies of design trends that emerge in the future. You’ll leave this course with a deeper and more nuanced knowledge of your technological and material worlds, a robust foundation to further practice various types of design, and a nuanced set of tools to participate in the building and crafting of your communities as a designer and/or citizen.
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|
|Historical Forces||AH142 / The Craft of Historical Analysis||AH152 / Comparing Societies and Histories: The Impact of Time and Place||AH162 / Public and Applied History|
|Philosophy, Ethics, and the Law||AH144 / Ethical Systems, Moral Dilemmas||AH154 / Ethics and the Law||AH164 / Social and Political Philosophy|
|Arts and Literature||AH146 / Decoding Art and Literature||AH156 / Socioeconomic Influences on Art and Literature||AH166 / Artistic Communication from Page to Practice|
Each row and each column of the matrix represent a different concentration, as noted above.
AH142 / The Craft of Historical Analysis
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 and addressing these issues. 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 material objects, written texts, or digitized data sets?
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
Historical narratives often rely on implicit comparisons between time periods and societies. In this course, students make these comparisons explicit in order to illuminate differences and similarities in the ways societies have responded to political, economic, social, and environmental challenges. Students combine the fundamentals of historical inquiry with methods and perspectives from sociology and anthropology to examine controversial debates about the relative success and failure of different societies and the responses of different societies to similar challenges from the seventeenth century to the present; they also analyze case studies on topics including empire, nationalism, responses to environmental and political crises, and social movements. Along the way, they consider what is gained and what is lost by approaching historical phenomena 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 Art 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 role of gender and power relations in the creation, production and reception of art; the education and training of artists and writers; the influence of globalization on artistic production and practice; and the organization of labor in the production of art. Who is in and who is out of the process of artistic and literary creation, production, and reception? And what implications does this have for participation in the various art markets that have emerged over time? Finally, how can an understanding of the social and economic processes influencing the arts and literature help us become more informed creators and consumers of art today? Drawing on key cultural and socioeconomic theoretical frameworks to ground our understanding, this course focuses on artistic and literary works from different time periods and locales, and ranging from popular and to elite traditions, in order to explore in greater depth a diversity of styles as well as interpretive perspectives.
AH162 / Public and Applied 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 / Social and Political Philosophy
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 / Artistic Communication from Page to Practice
This course examines various modes of artistic expression and communication—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 a wide range of different communities and constituencies. To address this goal, we will ask questions such as: 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 to communicate and persuade by producing creative projects, whether they be poems, works of creative fiction, musical compositions, graphic art posters, or other works.
In their fourth year, Arts and Humanities majors finish their Capstone Courses.