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, super 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.
- Fall: HUM 216 and HUM 217
A single course covering classical antiquity to the middle ages
- Spring: HUM 218 and HUM 219
A single course covering the Renaissance through the modern period
The Humanities Sequence is designed for first-year students who intend to enroll for both the fall and spring semesters, but is also open to sophomores.
The only prerequisite is to love reading, to be thrilled by the prospect of encountering these demanding and beautiful great books, and to enjoy talking about multi-layered, complicated texts and ideas. It is not necessary to have had a strong background in the Classics or the Western tradition in high school. Fifty percent of the students in the course do not go on to major in the humanities; some are engineers, and others major in the sciences, math, economics, and public policy.
The Sequence attracts a self-selecting group of students who are ambitious, dedicated, and willing to work hard.
By taking the course 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 these multi-layered, complicated 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 the intellectual threads of classical and medieval influences powerfully revealed in the Renaissance and Modern eras. Students who complete the full year will be eligible to apply for international opportunities in the sophomore year.
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 explicitly 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)
There is a great deal of reading in this course; it is a course for students who love to read. The workload, in terms of reading and writing, 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 is comprised of 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) 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 will offer optional 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.
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 are not asked to start over and learn a new kind of task each week. 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.
Introductory lectures and precepts will help you situate the difficult texts in their historical context and give you a number of ways to approach the texts.
Although the Sequence provides a strong foundation for future Classics majors, some students discover the Classics for the first time in this course. It is often the students without a strong background in Classics who can get the most out of taking the Humanities Sequence.
Isabelle Laurenzi ‘15, Religion Major, Creative Writing Thesis
“I was really able to cultivate my skills of close reading and contextual analysis…”
Jamal Johnson ‘16, Politics Major, Scholar in the Nation’s Service
“…through learning to tackle the challenge of reading vast sums of texts…I really grew as a student.”
MicKenzie Roberts-Lahti ‘15, Public Policy Major, Varsity Athlete
“…there’s a sense of accomplishment…knowing that you’ve learned all these incredible lessons…including how to time manage, organize your resources, synthesize information…”
Sample Fall readings have included:
- Homer, Odyssey
- Herodotus, Histories
- Aeschylus, Oresteia
- The Presocratics
- Sophocles (Guest Lecture: Andrew Ford)
- Euripides and Aristophanes
- Thucydides, Peloponnesian War
- Plato, Symposium
- Greek Art
- Plato, Republic I
- Plato, Republic II
- Aristotle, Practical Philosophy
- Aristotle, Theoretical Philosophy
- Plautus, Amphitryo and Pseudolus
- Roman Art
- Lucretius, On the Nature of the Universe
- Virgil, Aeneid
- Livy, History of Rome
- Ovid, Metamorphoses
- Tacitus, Annals
- Hebrew Bible I
- Hebrew Bible II
- The New Testament
- Ancient & Medieval Music
- Augustine, Confessions
- Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy
- Charlemagne and the Carolingian Empire (Guest Lecture: Helmut Reimitz)
- Early Christian and Carolingian Art
- Medieval Thought and God’s Existence
- Chrétien de Troyes, Perceval
- Romanesque and Gothic Art and Architecture
- Medieval Thought and the Question of the Universals
- Dante’s Commedia I
- Dante’s Commedia II (Guest Lecture: P. Adams Sitney)
Sample Spring readings have included:
- Petrarch, The Secretum
- Boccaccio, Decameron
- Alberti, The Art of Painting, and Renaissance Art
- Renaissance Music
- Machiavelli, The Prince
- Erasmus, The Praise of Folly
- Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier
- Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel
- Luther, Three Treatises
- Montaigne, Selected Essays
- Cervantes, Don Quixote
- Shakespeare, The Tempest
- Hobbes, Leviathan
- Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy
- Milton, Paradise Lost
- Spinoza, Theologico-Political Treatise
- Racine, Phédre
- Leibniz, Monadology
- Baroque Art
- Voltaire, Candide
- Baroque Music
- Hume, Dialogues concerning Natural Religion
- Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality
- Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
- Goethe, Faust, Part 1
- Austen, Persuasion
- Shelley, Frankenstein
- Classical Music Hegel, Introduction to the Philosophy of History
- Schopenhauer, World as Will and Idea
- Romantic Music
- Romantic Poetry (Byron, Wordsworth, Keats)
- Pushkin, Bronze Horseman, Mozart and Salieri, The Shot, The Moor of Peter the Great
- Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts
- Mill, On Liberty
- Tolstoy, Master and Man, Father Sergius, After the Ball
- French Impressionist Art
- Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy
- Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
Seats in the Humanities Sequence are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Complete this brief form and you will be notified if a seat is available or if you have been placed on a waitlist.
- Speak to a student Humanities mentor
- For conflicts with other courses or to release your seat in the Humanities Sequence, email the Program Manager
- For advice, special circumstances or detailed information about the Sequence, email the Executive Director