Humanities Courses

To study the humanities is to study how humans make the world meaningful. It is to study the art, music, philosophy, literature, and languages with which cultures have contended with the challenges and approached the limits of human experience. At Harvard, fifteen departments and four undergraduate degree programs offer courses in the humanities.

The breadth of these offerings is exhilarating, but also potentially daunting. Fortunately, there are Harvard courses in the humanities designed especially for freshmen and sophomores. They are taught by faculty members with a superb track record in teaching undergraduates. For students wishing to dive into the humanities, these courses are a great option.

Prof. Luke Menand

Fall 2020

Human 10a: A Humanities Colloquium: Homer to Valeria Luiselli

Humanities 10a: A Humanities Colloquium: From Homer to Valeria Luiselli

Stephen Greenblatt, David Atherton, Glenda Carpio, Jay Harris, Deidre Lynch, Mark Schiefsky
Tuesdays, 10:30-11:45am, plus section

2,500 years of essential works, taught by six professors. Humanities 10a includes works by Homer, Plato, Sappho, Sophocles, Augustine, Murasaki, Shakespeare, Saikaku, Equiano, Mary Shelley, Dickinson, Walcott, Morrison and Luiselli. One 75-minute lecture plus a 75-minute discussion seminar led by the professors every week. Students will receive instruction in critical writing one hour a week, in writing labs and individual conferences. Students also have opportunities to participate online in a range of cultural experiences, ranging from plays and musical events to museum and library collections.

Note: The course is open only to freshmen. Students who complete Humanities 10a meet the Harvard College Curriculum divisional distribution requirement for Arts & Humanities. Students who take both Humanities 10a and Humanities 10b fulfill the College Writing requirement. This is the only course outside of Expository Writing that satisfies the College Writing requirement. No auditors. The course may not be taken Pass/Fail.

This course has a two-step lottery and application process. Enrollment is limited to 90. 

Human 20: A Colloquium in the Visual Arts

Humanities 20: A Colloquium in the Visual Arts
Yukio Lippit, Joseph Koerner, Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, Sarah Lewis, Jennifer L. Roberts, David Roxburgh
Mondays, 12:00-1:15pm, plus section

An introduction to major works of art and architecture from around the world, co-taught by a team of six professors. Subjects include Frederick Douglass and Photography, Hokusai, the Parthenon and Persepolis, Dürer, women artists, Zen Buddhist Art, Muybridge, Beckmann, the EJI Memorial to Peace and Justice, Mughal Painting, Manet, and Hooke. Consists of one 75-minute lecture plus a 75-minute discussion seminar led by the professors every week. Students will also participate in weekly looking labs and special lectures, workshops and screenings outside the class.

Note: The course is open to undergraduate students. Students who complete Humanities 20 meet the Harvard College Curriculum divisional distribution requirement for Arts & Humanities. No auditors are allowed, and the course may not be taken Pass/Fail. Enrollment is limited to 72. 

Human 90: Making It: A Sophomore Seminar in the Humanities

Humanities 90: Making It: A Sophomore Seminar in the Humanities

Robin Kelsey and Suzannah Clark
Monday lecture, 3:00-5:00pm, Tuesday seminar, 12:00-1:15pm

The Sophomore Seminar in the Humanities is a new course for sophomores, regardless of intended Concentration, who wish to deepen their engagement in the humanities. Each week in the seminar, guided by a distinguished guest, we will focus on a particular creative form – the novel, for example – with the aim of refining our powers of observation, interpretation, and articulation. In this way, we will learn new ways to approach the meaning of poems, documents, paintings, photographs, films, arguments, and songs. If successful, the course will not only give us insight into these creative forms, it will also enhance our relationship to the world.

Note: The course is designed for sophomores, who will receive preference through an application process. However, students from all class years are welcome to apply. Applications are due the end of Shopping Week. For more information, visit the course website. Students who complete Humanities 90 meet the Harvard College Curriculum divisional distribution requirement for Arts & Humanities. No auditors are allowed, and the course may not be taken Pass/Fail. Enrollment is limited to 12.

Spring 2021

Human 10b: A Humanities Colloquium: James Joyce to Homer

Humanities 10b: A Humanities Colloquium: From James Joyce to Homer

Stephen Greenblatt, Beth Blum, Jay Harris, Sean Kelly, Jill Lepore, Leah Whittington
Spring 2021: Tuesdays, 10:30-11:45am, plus section

2,500 years of essential works, taught by six professors. Humanities 10b is open only to students who completed Humanities 10a in Fall 2020. Humanities 10b includes works by Joyce, Du Bois, Nietzsche, Douglass, Austen, Marguerite de Navarre, Dante, Virgil, Plato and Homer, as well as the Federalist Papers. One 75-minute lecture plus a 75-minute discussion seminar led by the professors every week. Students continue to receive instruction in critical writing one hour a week, in writing labs and individual conferences. Students also have opportunities to participate online in a range of cultural experiences, ranging from plays and musical events to museum and library collections.

Note: The course is open only to freshmen. Students who complete Humanities 10a meet the Harvard College Curriculum divisional distribution requirement for Arts & Humanities. Students who take both Humanities 10a and Humanities 10b fulfill the College Writing requirement. This is the only course outside of Expository Writing that satisfies the College Writing requirement. No auditors. The course may not be taken Pass/Fail.