2 Semesters. 12 Professors. 2,500 Years.

The “Humanities Sequence” is an intensive year-long introduction to the landmark achievements of the Western intellectual tradition, the Humanities Sequence (HUM Sequence) is a team-taught, double-credit, course that examines Western history, philosophy, and literature from antiquity to the 20th century.

Lectures and discussions investigate a wide range of issues and stimulate plural perspectives. They are enhanced by trips to museums, plays, concerts and art galleries both on campus and in New York City. Our distinguished faculty represents a wide variety of humanities departments, ranging across literature, history, religion, music, philosophy, archaeology, and art history.

The HUM Sequence ranges over 2,500 years of civilization.

What to Expect

There are many books in the Humanities Sequence; it is a course for students who love to read.

The workload is intense, and the pace of Princeton’s 12-week teaching semester can seem fast, even though it is followed by a week long reading period and exams. But experience has shown that varsity athletes, advanced math and physics majors, engineers, and others with significant time commitments (e.g., theater rehearsals) perform very well. In fact, students have told us that the highly structured nature of the HUM Sequence makes time management easier, allowing them to plan ahead around travel and rehearsal schedules, and easing the adjustment to multi-tasking college environment.

  • Each semester you will have three 50-minute lectures and two 80-minute seminars a week.
  • The reading load is heavy but manageable (you read excerpts of some texts), and you will write five short papers (5 pages each) and take a final exam.
  • A strong network of peer and faculty support, and a “team” mentality or “boot camp” bonding, will cheer and motivate students through tough times.
  • There are 12 professors, all distinguished teachers, to consult when questions arise.
  • We offer workshops to prepare for the first writing assignment (e.g., how to do a “close reading”), which will ease the anxiety that most first-year students feel, whatever their preparation. No other first-year humanities course at Princeton offers so much support.


Although there is a lot of reading, there is really only one kind of assignment and paper—a close reading of a passage from a text of your choice—so students have the opportunity to slow down and dive deep into the books that interest them most. Over the semester, faculty see that students get better and better at writing the papers, and there is a great deal of feedback and guidance along the way. Sequence grades are not based on a “curve” like many other first-year course grades. HUM is a course where everyone can excel, and where undergraduates and faculty share the experience of encountering books that are as new, as exciting, as powerful, and as beautiful the tenth time you read them as they are the first. We are all their students together.

By taking HUM 216-219 right away, in your first year, you will meet 12 highly distinguished humanities faculty from a variety of disciplines, and you will fulfill a number of general education requirements (two LA, an HA, and an EC). The Sequence provides not only foundation for future studies but also creates for you an immediate community of engaged peers, who will support and enliven your studies not only during the adjustments of freshman year but across all four years at Princeton. Taking the course in the first year allows beginning students to meet and build close relationships with particular faculty in their areas of interest, and sometimes to find a new passion (e.g., philosophy, history, art history, classics, literatures in English French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, etc.). Humanities Sequence students often meet a faculty member with whom they go on to take more advanced seminars in sophomore year and beyond.

The full-year sweep of the course, from ancient to modern, defines the Sequence. A broad survey course that maps the pivotal texts, events, and artifacts of the Western intellectual tradition, it is also an ongoing cultural conversation, with many unique opportunities to place its texts in their material context (including excursions and trips to New York City). In the fall semester, you will gain a strong foundation in classical texts and develop important bonds with faculty and peers. These conversations reach their full fruition in the second semester, as bonds intensify, your reading and writing skills are honed, and you see classical and medieval influences taken up and transformed in the Renaissance and Modern eras. Students who complete the full year will be eligible to apply for international opportunities in the sophomore year, including trips to Greece and Rome.

By completing the HUM Sequence, you will have fulfilled four of the eight course requirements for the new interdisciplinary certificate in Humanistic Studies. So you will be halfway done with the requirements and would need to take only one more interdisciplinary course and a capstone seminar, along with two other courses of your choosing (to create your own path along one of the certificate’s tracks). Enrolling in the Humanistic Studies certificate program will give you priority for popular, advanced seminars that are team-taught by our faculty in small-seminar settings, a continuing community of peers; and guidance in bringing an interdisciplinary approach into your independent work.

Fulfills four distribution requirements:

  • 2 courses in literature and the arts (LA)
  • 1 course in historical analysis (HA)
  • 1 course in epistemology and cognition (EC)


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