While undergraduate humanities majors have numerous opportunities to study literature, philosophy, history, and related areas of scholarship, other College students sometimes want to engage with the Division beyond their undergraduate Core courses.

That desire for greater access prompted the Humanities Collegiate Division to launch its Signature Course Program this spring. Truth, taught by Chris Kennedy, the William H. Colvin Professor in Linguistics, is one of nine courses in a series that Christopher Wild, master of the Humanities Collegiate Division, hopes will become a permanent feature. Others include Making and Meaning in the American Musical, taught by Thomas Christensen, the Avalon Foundation Professor in Music and department chair, and Science and Aesthetics, by Robert J. Richards, the Morris Fishbein Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Science.

The courses are intended to be inviting: the call for proposals described them as “opportunities for individual faculty members, programs, and departments to demonstrate to the curious, engaged undergraduate the wealth of knowledge that awaits further discovery.” As a result, Signature courses do not require prerequisites, says Wild, because they don’t “presuppose interest in a field, but generate it.” The courses were designed for undergraduates, but are also open to graduate students.

Taught in a hybrid lecture and discussion format, the courses are intended for a class of about 40 students, although Agnes Callard, assistant professor in Philosophy, raised her limit to 80 after her course, Self-Creation as a Philosophical and Literary Problem, received 140 bids.

Signature courses originated in Humanities, but Wild hopes to extend the idea to the humanistic social sciences in the 2017–18 academic year, and possibly further.


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