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Video feature: Text messages: ‘HUM sequence’ covers 2,500 years of civilization

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.

  • Spring: HUM 218 and HUM 219
    A single course covering the Renaissance through the modern period

How to Enroll

Seats in the Humanities Sequence are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Complete the form linked to below and we will notify you if a seat is available.

Reserve a Seat


Who is it for?

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 books, and to enjoy talking about complex and powerful 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 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)

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.


What Students Say About 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…”



Book List for Spring 2017

  • Alberti, The Art of Painting (Penguin, 9780140433319)
  • Bacon, Selected Philosophical Works (Hackett, 9780872204706)
  • Boccaccio, The Decameron (Norton, 978-0393350265)
  • Brontë, Wuthering Heights (Penguin, 9780141439556)
  • Cervantes, Don Quixote (Harper, 9780060934347)
  • Descartes, Selected Philosophical Writings (Cambridge, 978-0521358125)
  • Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground (Broadview, 9781554812219)
  • Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, (Grove Press, 978-0802141323)
  • Freud, Civilization and its Discontents (Norton, 9780393304510)
  • Gandhi, Hind Swaraj [Indian Home Rule] (Cambridge, 9780521146029)
  • Hobbes, Leviathan (Hackett, 978-0-87220-177-4)
  • Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (Hackett, 9780872204027)
  • Kant, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals (Cambridge, 97811070401068)
  • Luther, Three Treatises (Fortress, 9780800616397)
  • Machiavelli, The Prince (Norton, 9780393962208)
  • Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of1844 (Prometheus 978-0879754464)
  • Mill, On Liberty (Penguin, 9780141441474)
  • Montaigne, Complete Essays (Penguin, 9780140446043)
  • More, Utopia (Cambridge, 9780521525404)
  • Milton, Paradise Lost (Random House, 9780375757969)
  • Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals (Vintage, 9780679724629)
  • Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel (Penguin, 9780140445503)
  • Rousseau, The Basic Political Writings (Hackett, 9781603846738)
  • Shakespeare, The Tempest (Oxford World Classics, 9780199535903)
  • Tolstoy, Tolstoy’s Short Fiction (Norton, 9780393931501)
  • Voltaire, Candide and Other Stories (Oxford World Classics, 9780199535613)
  • Wordsworth and Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads (Penguin, 9780140424621)
  • Wollstonecraft, Maria (Norton, 978-0393311693)
  • Woolf, To the Lighthouse (Harcourt, 9780156907392)

Book List for Fall 2016

  • Abelard and Heloise, Letters, tr. McLaughlin (Macmillan: 9781137413642)
  • Aeschylus, Oresteia, tr. Lattimore, ed. Griffith and Most (Chicago: 9780226311470)
  • Aristotle, Poetics, tr. Hutton (Norton: 0393952169)
  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. Irwin (Hackett: 978-0872204645)
  • Augustine, Confessions, tr. Chadwick (Oxford: 9780199537822)
  • Beowulf (bilingual), tr. Heaney (Norton: 978-0393320978)
  • Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy, tr. Walsh (Oxford: 9780199540549)
  • Dante, Inferno, tr. Hollander (Knopf Doubleday: 9780385496988)
  • Dante, Purgatorio, tr. Hollander (Knopf Doubleday: 9780385497008)
  • Dante, Paradiso, tr. Hollander (Knopf Doubleday: 9781400031153)
  • The David Story, tr. Alter (Norton: 9780393320770)
  • Euripides, Bacchae and Other Plays, tr. John Davie and Richard Rutherford (Penguin, 2005: 0140447261)
  • Genesis, tr. Alter (Norton: 978-0393316704)
  • Herodotus, Histories, tr. Marincola-De Sélincourt (Penguin: 0140449086)
  • Homer, The Iliad, tr. Lattimore (Chicago: 9780226470498)
  • Homer, The Odyssey, tr. Fagles (Penguin: 9780140268867)
  • Lucretius, On the Nature of the Universe, tr. Melville (Oxford: 9780199555147)
  • Marie de France, Poetry, ed. and trans. Dorothy Gilbert (Norton: 978-0393932683)
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses, tr. Raeburn (Penguin: 9780140447897)
  • Plato, Republic, tr. Reeve (Hackett: 9780872207363)
  • Plato, Symposium, tr. Nehamas and Woodruff (Hackett: 9780872200760)
  • A Presocratics Reader, ed. Curd and McKirahan (Hackett: 9781603843058)
  • Sophocles, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, trans. Grene (Chicago: 9780226311517)
  • Tacitus, The Annals, tr. Yardley (Oxford: 9780192824219)
  • Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, tr. Warner (Penguin: 9780140440393)
  • Virgil, The Aeneid, tr. Fagles (Penguin: 9780143105138)


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