Arts and Humanities

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How, runs a common critique, can something as seemingly abstract and unusable as the humanities equip students who want to thrive in the digitized, globalized, discovery-driven economy of the twenty-first century?

They are the realm in and around which we define values, form relationships, express our thoughts, feel, imagine, process, and create. The study of the humanities provides a basic toolkit for personal and professional success: how to communicate what we think; how to interpret what we read, see and hear; how to understand and respond to difference. The humanities offers precisely the skills needed to navigate a world marked by rapid change, increasing interdependence, transformative technology, and multimedia communications.

The Arts and Humanities Division is home to eighteen academic departments.

Department Websites Concentration Websites
Classics Classics
Comparative Literature Comparative Literature
East Asian Studies
East Asian Studies
English English
Folklore and Mythology Folklore and Mythology
Germanic Languages and Literatures Germanic Languages and Literatures
History and Literature History and Literature
History of Art and Architecture History of Art and Architecture
Linguistics Linguistics
Music Music
Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Philosophy Philosophy
Comparative study of Religion Comparative study of Religion
Romance Languages and literatures Romance Languages and literatures
Slavic Literatures and Cultures Slavic Literatures and Cultures
South Asian Studies South Asian Studies
Theater, Dance and Media Theater, Dance and Media
Special Concentrations Special Concentrations

Visual and Environmental Studies

Visual and Environmental Studies

The thirty-three departments, program committees, and centers in the Arts and Humanities Division of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences are dedicated to the interpretation of every aspect of human culture and artistic making. From the riches of the world’s languages to the new media at the heart of our digital age, from the artifacts we inherit from the past to their continuing impact in the present, from the analysis of art, literature, music, language, and culture to the search for philosophical and religious truth, our subject is the forms and meanings of human art, argument, and communication.  Ours are the rigorous, reflective, liberal disciplines. Through them, we seek to understand, interpret, and enjoy significant forms of human expression. Through our research and our teaching we transmit an understanding that enables the active, questioning, engaged attitude to life in society we consider essential to good citizenship, good living, and professional success.

Our courses include the critical study of humanistic disciplines such as the classics, philosophy, religion, linguistics, foreign languages and cultures, film and art criticism. They also expose you to art making in music, the visual arts and drama. Ours is a world of critique and performance, thought and practice. We thrive in the diversity of opinions, in the spirited defense of views, and in the patient understanding of difference. We think hard about values, ethics, and aesthetics.

In the Division of Arts and Humanities, you will find a plurality of perspectives with which to think about the world, its riches and its problems. You will join the ongoing conversations which constitute the history of the disciplines with which you are engaging.  You will sharpen your abilities to read with care and lucidity, and to express your thoughts in articulate ways, in spoken and written form. And you will think about big and small questions that deal with the meaning of it all.

Concerned about concentrating in what you really love?

Yes, because if I want to get a job after graduation, I have to concentrate in something practical!

What could be more practical than superior writing skills, strong analytical abilities, a facility for language, and a talent for making creative connections across fields of study and inquiry?  Students of the Arts and Humanities develop deeply useful and transferable skills that are invaluable to employers.  You never know when your ability to speak Mandarin or produce a short video will catch the eye of a potential employer and make your resume stand out from the rest.  Be who you are.  Study what you love.  You will find a way to bring that passion and intelligence into your professional life.

But I might want to go to law school.  Will I be able to get into a good law school if I don’t concentrate in government or economics?

Of the 201 members of the current first-year class at Yale Law School, 64 majored in the Arts and Humanities as undergraduates.  Law schools want students who have a grasp of the sweep of human history and the forces that have shaped human experience, who can think critically and write with grace and skill.  As globalization brings businesses and governments into closer working relationships, an understanding of other cultures, their histories, and their languages is invaluable.  Insight into human character and human societies, crucial for the successful practice of law, can be gained by studying Literature, Classics, Philosophy, Religion and the History of Art and Architecture, and by achieving fluency in other  languages.

But what about medical schools? There’s no way I can get into a good medical school if I don’t major in science.

Of recently surveyed Harvard alumni who are presently enrolled in medical school, after taking a year off following Harvard graduation, approximately 60% were science concentrators as undergraduates and 40% were not.  Of Harvard graduates who went directly to medical school following graduation, approximately 80% were science concentrators and 20% were not.  Exactly half of the Princeton students admitted to medical school last year were Humanities or Social Science majors.

While science requirements for medical school admission do have to be met, many students with other interests besides medicine, or students who are unsure about whether they want to go to medical school, manage to meet these requirements while concentrating or pursuing a secondary concentration in Music, English, NELC, and other Arts and Humanities departments, or in the year following graduation. Non-science concentrators are accepted to medical schools at a similar rate as science concentrators. The emerging field known as Medical Humanities or Narrative Medicine acknowledges the central place occupied by stories and storytelling in the effective practice of healthcare and offers individuals with an interest in writing and literature a unique place in the world of medicine.

I don’t see myself becoming an English professor or going to graduate school in Classics. What can I do with a degree in this concentration?

Of twenty-five Classics majors we recently sampled, only one went on to be a classicist. Two became doctors, nine became lawyers, five became educators and one became a Professor of English. We found the Director of Global Tax Law for a multinational media company, an associate producer at NPR and a trial attorney for the US Department of Justice. Several graduates entered the financial sector and another became managing editor of the Library of Arabic Literature.   

Many English majors pursue careers in writing, editing and education. But just as many in our recent survey followed paths defined by personal passions, like growing grapes and running a vineyard, working in speech pathology and engineering, teaching clinical psychiatry and pediatric medicine, directing an art gallery, designing landscapes, and hosting a popular national television show. We found a Foreign Service Officer for the State Department, a fraud analyst for Facebook and a civil rights policy administrator, as well as a managing director for Goldman Sachs. There were two veterinarians, two critical care physicians and a portfolio manager for an investment company. 

You are more likely to excel, and to graduate with a distinguished transcript that will catch the eye of a prospective employer, when you study what you really love. 

Please visit us at:

Arts and Humanities Division