Humanities

The Bachelor of Science in Humanities (Course 21) offers students six interdisciplinary areas of study from which to choose:

  • American Studies
  • Ancient and Medieval Studies
  • Asian and Asian Diaspora Studies
  • Latin American and Latino Studies
  • Russian and Eurasian Studies
  • Women's and Gender Studies

All options for this major are by special arrangement and must be approved by the Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Students must file a proposal that identifies all the subjects to be taken in the chosen program. Contact information for each program is included in its description.

American Studies

American Studies at MIT offers students the opportunity to organize subjects from various fields (e.g., history, anthropology, literature, political science, music, art, architecture, and urban planning) into personally constructed interdisciplinary programs as a way of gaining an integrated understanding of American society and culture. Students can focus on any of several areas of interest, such as American literature; folklore and popular culture; black history and culture; women's studies; American history, politics, or law; the history of science and technology; and American art, architecture, or music. Thus, a program in American Studies is ideal for preparing students for further work not only in the various humanistic fields, but also in law, urban planning, management, architecture, engineering, medicine, teaching, and the media.

The program has three primary objectives:

  • To understand the underlying system of beliefs that informs every aspect of American culture—its myths, institutions, politics and literature, its characteristic dreams and rituals.
  • To understand the uses and limits of different methods and intellectual disciplines as tools for exploring the complexities of a culture.
  • To understand the American present in relation to the American past.

As noted in the degree chart, the program includes a pre-thesis tutorial (21.THT), a thesis (21.THU), and a minimum of nine restricted electives (108 units) selected from at least two of the following three disciplinary areas:

  • Area I: Humanities and the Arts
  • Area II: Social Sciences; Science, Technology, and Society
  • Area III: Historical Studies

Up to six subjects (72 units) may be used for both the major and the GIRs, but the units from those subjects may not count toward the 180 units required beyond the GIRs. No more than one subject that counts toward the distribution component of the HASS Requirement may also be counted toward American Studies requirements. In addition, at least eight of the subjects required for the program cannot count toward any other major or minor.

The list of restrictive electives below is not exhaustive. Additional information can be obtained from the American Studies advisor, Professor Christopher Capozzola, E51-284, 617-452-4960, or from the SHASS Academic Administrator, Andrea Wirth, 4-240, 617-253-4441.

Restricted Electives
Select 9-12 subjects from at least two of the following areas:
Area I: Humanities and the Arts
American Literature
The Film Experience
Understanding Television
Modern Poetry
The American Novel
Race and Identity in American Literature
American Authors
Music of the Americas
Jazz
Musicals of Stage and Screen
Film Music
American Popular Music
Writing about Race
Black Matters: Introduction to Black Studies
Area II: Social Sciences; Science, Technology, and Society
Introduction to the American Political Process
Congress and the American Political System I
Congress and the American Political System II
Electoral Politics, Public Opinion, and Democracy
Public Opinion and American Democracy
US Social Policy
American Foreign Policy: Past, Present, and Future
US Military Power
American Dream: Exploring Class in the US
Technology in American History
The Civil War and the Emergence of Modern America: 1861-1890
African Americans in Science, Technology, and Medicine
The History of MIT
Gender, Power, Leadership, and the Workplace
The Science of Race, Sex, and Gender
Area III: Historical Studies
American Urban History I
American Urban History II
The War at Home: American Politics and Society in Wartime
Introduction to Asian American Studies: Historical and Contemporary Issues
American History since 1865
The American Revolution
America in Depression and War
The United States in the Nuclear Age
War and American Society
Metropolis: A Comparative History of New York City
Riots, Strikes, and Conspiracies in American History
Constitutional Law in US History
American Classics
The Black Radical Tradition in America
American Consumer Culture
Race, Crime, and Citizenship in American Law
Gender and the Law in US History
Downtown
Christianity in America
History of Manufacturing in America
The Civil War and the Emergence of Modern America: 1861-1890

Ancient and Medieval Studies

Through a wide variety of subjects drawn from a number of disciplines, this program provides a curricular framework for exploring topics in ancient and medieval studies which range from the history of ideas and institutions to that of material artifacts, literature and certain of the original languages. The chronological span of the program includes some 6,500 years between 5000 B.C. and 1500 A.D.

The goal of this program is to develop knowledge and understanding of the more distant past both for itself, in its uniqueness, and as an object of specifically modern questions and methods of inquiry. We are interested in the structure of institutions and social systems, and in relationships between the social order and learned traditions, values, ideologies and ideas. Ancient and medieval studies derive a special claim to our interest from the fact that the record is so full and multiform and that much of it is of exceptionally high quality at once in substance and form.

The program in Ancient and Medieval Studies is designed for students who are seeking a fuller understanding of the forces which shaped the ancient and medieval world. The geographical and chronological scope of the program is broadly conceived and is intended to be comparative. Subjects range in content from Classical Greece and Rome, and the ancient societies of Asia and South America, to medieval Europe and Japan. Students will be required to demonstrate intermediate level language proficiency in either Greek, Latin or a medieval vernacular, but they need not concentrate their other subjects on the area associated with that language. Students are also expected to have some distribution across the ancient and medieval time periods. We expect that students will consult closely with the program advisor in order to devise a coherent program of study.

As noted in the degree chart, the program includes a minimum of nine subjects (108 units) beyond the pre-thesis tutorial (21.THT) and thesis (21.THU). The nine subjects must include one language subject in Area I (or equivalent proficiency); the eight remaining subjects must be selected from at least two of the three other disciplinary areas (Areas II–IV), with at least one subject in both Ancient and Medieval periods. To satisfy the communication-intensive (CI-M) component of the program, students may select two subjects from among 3.990 Seminar in Archaeological Method and Theory, 21H.331 Julius Caesar and the Fall of the Roman Republic, 21H.240 The World of Charlemagne, 21H.390 Seminar in Historical Methods, or any Literature seminar (21L.715-21L.715) with an ancient or medieval focus.

  • Area I: Languages
  • Area II: Arts and Architecture
  • Area III: Literary Studies
  • Area IV: Material and Historical Studies

Up to six subjects (72 units) may be used for both the major and the GIRs, but the units from those subjects may not count toward the 180 units required beyond the GIRs. No more than one subject that counts toward the distribution component of the HASS Requirement may also be counted toward the requirements of the Ancient and Medieval Studies program. In addition, at least eight of the subjects required for the program cannot count toward any other major or minor. 

The list of restricted electives below is not exhaustive. Additional information can be obtained from the advisor for the program, Professor Anne McCants, E51-263, 617-258-6669, or from the History Office, E51-255, 617-324-5134.

Restricted Electives
Area I: Languages 1, 2
Select one of the following for a total of 12 units:
Old English and Beowulf 3
Latin I
and Latin II
Two intermediate-level subjects in Greek, Latin, Italian, Norse, or Arabic 4
Select eight subjects from at least two of the following disciplinary areas. At least one subject must be taken in both the Ancient and Medieval periods:
Area II: Arts and Architecture
Ancient
A Global History of Architecture 5
The City of Athens in the Age of Pericles
The City of Rome in the Age of the Caesars
Medieval
Architecture in the Islamic World
Early Modern Architecture and Art
Medieval and Renaissance Music
Area III: Literary Studies 6
Ancient
Foundations of Western Literature: Homer to Dante 5
Comedy 5
Ancient Authors 5
The Bible
Medieval
Arthurian Literature
Old English and Beowulf 3
Area IV: Material and Historical Studies
Ancient
Communities of the Living and the Dead: the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt
The Ancient Andean World
Ancient Mesoamerican Civilization
The Human Past: Introduction to Archaeology
Human Evolution: Data from Palaeontology, Archaeology, and Materials Science
Archaeology of the Middle East
Empire: Introduction to Ancient and Medieval Studies 5
The Ancient World: Greece
The Ancient World: Rome
Julius Caesar and the Fall of the Roman Republic (CI-M)
Early Christianity 5
The Making of a Roman Emperor
Medieval
The Medieval World: CE 200-1500
Medieval Economic History in Comparative Perspective
Islam, the Middle East, and the West
The Vikings
The World of Charlemagne (CI-M)
Technology and the Global Economy, 1000-2000
How to Rule the World: The Promises and Pitfalls of Politics, War, and Empire 6
1

Students are required to take at least 12 units in a pre-modern language. Two six-unit subjects in a pre-modern language may be combined to satisfy this requirement (e.g., Latin I and II or, for students who enter with strong Latin from high school, two different iterations of 21L.xx Latin Readings). Latin and Old English are currently offered at MIT, but students may substitute another pre-modern language taken elsewhere. 

2

Students with equivalent proficiency in a pre-modern language may substitute the Area I requirement with one more subject from areas II–IV.

3

Counts as Area I or III, but not both.

4

MIT does not offer these languages; consult with advisor concerning appropriate coursework at Harvard University or Wellesley College. Arabic is required for students proposing a specialty in the medieval Islamic world.

5

Counts as either Ancient or Medieval, but not both.

6

Any seminar-tier subject in Literature with a substantially ancient and/or medieval focus counts toward Area III and satisfies a CI-M.

Asian and Asian Diaspora Studies

This program is designed for students interested in serious intensive research on the languages, history, politics, and cultures of Asia and/or the Asian diasporas. The geographic region of Asia includes countries such as Bangladesh, China, India, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. In consultation with the program advisor, students may focus their coursework on a sub-region of Asia, on one of the Asian diasporas, or design their program to offer a comparative study across different regions and/or cultural groups. The goal of the program is to provide balanced coverage of language, humanistic and social science offerings on the region and to expose students to some comparative perspectives within the region. The MIT Departments of Global Studies and Languages, History, and Political Science offer a substantial number of subjects related to Asia and the Asian diasporas.

As noted in the degree chart, the program includes a minimum of nine subjects (108 units) beyond the pre-thesis tutorial (21.THT) and thesis (21.THU). The nine subjects must include two language subjects in Area I (or equivalent proficiency); the seven remaining subjects must be selected from at least two of the three other disciplinary areas (Areas II–IV).

  • Area I: Language
  • Area II: Humanities and the Arts
  • Area III: Social Sciences
  • Area IV: Historical Studies

For the thesis requirement, students choose a topic in consultation with an MIT faculty member whose specialty falls within Asian Studies; the thesis research may include knowledge of an Asian language.

Up to six subjects (72 units) may be used for both the major and the GIRs, but the units from those subjects may not count toward the 180 units required beyond the GIRs. No more than one subject that counts toward the distribution component of the HASS Requirement may also be counted toward the requirements of the Asian and Asian Diaspora Studies program. In addition, at least eight of the subjects required for the program cannot count toward any other major or minor.

The language requirement can be satisfied by taking two intermediate (Levels III and IV) subjects in an Asian language. Students with proficiency at this level in the spoken and written language can either take two more advanced language subjects (highly recommended), or two more courses from Areas II, III and IV. Chinese and Japanese are taught at MIT. Subjects about Asia and the Asian diaspora, as well as subjects in Asian languages, are also available from Harvard University and Wellesley College through cross-registration. Students must receive permission from the advisor prior to registering for a class at another institution.

The list of restricted electives below is not exhaustive. Additional information can be obtained from the advisor for the program, Professor Hiromu Nagahara, E51-255G, 617-324-4977, or from the SHASS Academic Administrator, Andrea Wirth, 4-240, 617-253-4441.

Restricted Electives
Area I: Language 1
Select two subjects in the same language from among the following:
Chinese III (Regular) 2
Chinese IV (Regular)
Chinese V (Regular): Discovering Chinese Cultures and Societies
Chinese VI (Regular): Discovering Chinese Cultures and Societies
Chinese III (Streamlined)
Chinese IV (Streamlined)
Chinese V (Streamlined)
Intermediate Chinese I: Very Fast Track (9 units)
Intermediate Chinese II: Very Fast Track
Japanese III 3
Japanese IV
Japanese V
Japanese VI
Two intermediate-level subjects in another Asian language 4
Select seven subjects from at least two of the following disciplinary areas: 5
Area II: Humanities and the Arts 6
Topics in Indian Popular Culture
Visualizing Japan in the Modern World
Introduction to East Asian Cultures: From Zen to K-Pop
Advertising and Media: Comparative Perspectives
China in the News: The Untold Stories
Gender and Japanese Popular Culture
A Passage to India: Introduction to Modern Indian Culture and Society
Classics of Chinese Literature in Translation
Modern Chinese Fiction and Cinema
Anime: Transnational Media and Culture
Introduction to Japanese Culture
Japanese Literature and Cinema
Chinese Youths and Web Culture
Music of India
South Asian America: Transnational Media, Culture, and History
Science, Caste and Gender in India
Area III: Social Sciences
Chinese Foreign Policy
International Relations of East Asia
Japan and East Asian Security
The Rise of Asia
Politics and Policy in Contemporary Japan
Cultures of East Asia
Images of Asian Women: Dragon Ladies and Lotus Blossoms
Area IV: Historical Studies
Introduction to Asian American Studies: Historical and Contemporary Issues
Global Chinese Food
The Global Chinese: Chinese Migration, 1567-Present
Traditional China: Earliest Times to 1644
Modern China: 1644 to the Present
Pre-modern Japan: Earliest Times to 1868
Modern Japan: 1600 to Present
The Making of Modern South Asia
Shanghai and China's Modernization
World War II in Asia
South Asian Migrations
Colonialism in South Asia and Africa
1

The language requirement can be satisfied by taking two intermediate (Levels III and IV, or Very Fast Track equivalent) subjects in an Asian language. Students with proficiency at this level are encouraged to take two more advanced language subjects, such as 21G.105 Chinese V (Regular): Discovering Chinese Cultures and Societies and 21G.106 Chinese VI (Regular): Discovering Chinese Cultures and Societies or 21G.505 Japanese V and 21G.506 Japanese VI. Alternatively, they may take two more subjects from Areas II, III, and IV. In cases where the student is specializing in an Asian country where English is one of the official languages, in an English-speaking region of the diaspora, or is a native speaker of an Asian language, the Area I component would be replaced by other subjects in consultation with the program advisor. 

2

21G.173 Chinese III (Regular)—Globalization may be substituted for 21G.103

3

21G.573 Japanese III (Regular)—Globalization may be substituted for 21G.503.

4

Other languages may be taken at Harvard or Wellesley through cross-registration, with the permission of the advisor, or at other institutions during IAP or the summer, with permission from the relevant transfer credit examiner.

5

Students who are not required to take Area I subjects (see footnote 1 above) must take all subjects from Areas II, III, and IV, with at least one subject from each area.

6

21G.590, 21G.591, 21G.592, 21G.593, and 21G.596 are acceptable alternatives for 21G.027[J], 21G.039[J], 21G.064, 21G.065, and 21G.063, respectively. 21G.190, 21G.192, 21G.193, 21G.194, and 21G.195 are acceptable alternatives for 21G.036[J], 21G.046, 21G.030[J], 21G.038, and 21G.044[J], respectively. These 13-unit alternatives include a research project that is conducted in the language of study.

Latin American and Latino Studies

This program is designed for students interested in the language, history, politics, and culture of Latin America and of Hispanics living in the US. Students are encouraged to develop a program that is both international and comparative in perspective and that takes into account the heterogeneous cultural experiences of people living in the vast territory encompassed by the term Latin America, as well as of those people living in the United States who identify themselves as Latino/a.

As noted in the degree chart, the program includes a minimum of eight subjects (96 units) beyond the introductory course (17.55[J] Introduction to Latin American Studies), the pre-thesis tutorial (21.THT), and thesis (21.THU). The eight subjects must include two language subjects in Area I (or equivalent proficiency); the six remaining subjects must be selected from at least two of the three other disciplinary areas (Areas II–IV).

  • Area I: Language
  • Area II: Humanities and the Arts
  • Area III: Social Sciences
  • Area IV: Historical Studies

Up to six subjects (72 units) may be used for both the major and the GIRs, but the units from those subjects may not count toward the 180 units required beyond the GIRs. No more than one subject that counts toward the distribution component of the HASS Requirement may also be counted toward the requirements of the Latin American and Latino Studies program. In addition, at least eight of the subjects required for the program cannot count toward any other major or minor. 

Subjects in Latin American and Latino Studies are also available from Harvard University and Wellesley College through cross-registration. Students must receive permission from the program advisor prior to registering for a class at another institution.

The list of restricted electives below is not exhaustive. Additional information may be obtained from the advisor for the program, Professor Paloma Duong, 14N-238, 617-324-5075, or from the SHASS Academic Administrator, Andrea Wirth, 4-240, 617-253-4441.

Restricted Electives
Area I: Language 1
Select two subjects in the same language from among the following:
Spanish III 2
Spanish IV 3
Advanced Spanish Conversation and Composition: Perspectives on Technology and Culture
Spanish Conversation and Composition 4
Advanced Communication in Spanish: Topics in Language and Culture
Spanish for Heritage Learners
Portuguese III
Portuguese IV
Select seven subjects, including 17.55[J], from at least two of the following disciplinary areas: 5
Area II: Humanities and the Arts
Subjects taught in English:
Latin America and the Global Sixties: Counterculture and Revolution
Topics in Portuguese Popular Culture
Introduction to European and Latin American Fiction
Subjects taught in Spanish:
Advanced Topics in Hispanic Literature and Film
Introduction to Contemporary Hispanic Literature and Film
Literature and Social Conflict: Perspectives on the Hispanic World
Globalization and its Discontents: Spanish-speaking Nations
The New Spain: 1977-Present
Subjects taught in Portuguese:
Topics in Modern Portuguese Literature and Culture
Area III: Social Studies
Introduction to Latin American Studies (Required)
Additional options:
The Ancient Andean World
Ancient Mesoamerican Civilization
Political Economy of Technology and Development in Latin America
The Anthropology of Politics
Area IV: Historical Studies
Latin America: Revolution, Dictatorship, and Democracy, 1850 to Present
Appropriate subjects offered at Harvard or Wellesley
1

Two language subjects beginning at Levels III and IV, either in Spanish or Portuguese, satisfy the Area I language requirement. MIT offers Levels II and IV of Spanish every semester and offers Level III of Portuguese during IAP and Level IV every spring semester. Students who demonstrate competence beyond Level IV may either take two advanced language subjects (highly recommended) or two more subjects from Areas II, III, and IV.

2

21G.773 Spanish III—Globalization may be substituted for 21G.703 Spanish III.

3

21G.774 Spanish IV—Globalization may be substituted for 21G.704 Spanish IV.

4

21G.792 Spanish Conversation and Composition—Globalization may be substituted for 21G.712 Spanish Conversation and Composition.

5

Students who are not required to take Area I subjects and opt not to take advanced language subjects (see footnote 1 above) must take all subjects from Areas II, III, and IV, with at least one subject from each area.

Russian and Eurasian Studies

This program is intended for students seeking an interdisciplinary program of study centered on Russia and Eurasia. The program is regional in spirit, meaning that students can take courses in a wide range of countries of East/Central Europe, the Slavic states, and Central Asia.

As noted in the degree chart, the program includes a minimum of nine subjects (108 units) beyond the pre-thesis tutorial (21.THT) and thesis (21.THU). The nine subjects must include two language subjects in Area I (or equivalent proficiency); the seven remaining subjects must be selected from at least two of the three other disciplinary areas (Areas II–IV). At least six subjects must be MIT subjects or subjects taken at Harvard or Wellesley under cross-registration. (Students must receive permission from the program advisor prior to registering for a class at another institution.) The program includes four areas of study:

  • Area I: Language
  • Area II: Humanities and the Arts
  • Area III: Social Sciences
  • Area IV: Historical Studies

Up to six subjects (72 units) may be used for both the major and the GIRs, but the units from those subjects may not count toward the 180 units required beyond the GIRs. No more than one subject that counts toward the distribution component of the HASS Requirement may also be counted toward the requirements of the Russian and Eurasian Studies program. In addition, at least eight of the subjects required for the program cannot count toward any other major or minor. 

The list of restricted electives below is not exhaustive. Additional information may be obtained from the advisor for the program, Professor Elizabeth Wood, E51-282, 617-253-3255, or from the SHASS Academic Administrator, Andrea Wirth, 4-240, 617-253-4441.

Restricted Electives
Area I: Language 1
Russian III (Regular)
Russian IV (Regular)
Select seven subjects from at least two of the following areas: 2
Area II: Humanities and the Arts
Introduction to the Classics of Russian Literature - Russian Language Option
Introduction to the Classics of Russian Literature
Appropriate subjects offered at Harvard or Wellesley
Area III: Social Sciences
Russia's Foreign Policy: Toward the Post-Soviet States and Beyond
Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society: 1917 to the Present
Appropriate subjects offered at Harvard or Wellesley
Area IV: Historical Studies
Imperial and Revolutionary Russia: Culture and Politics, 1700-1917
Appropriate subjects offered at Harvard or Wellesley
1

Two intermediate (Levels III and IV) subjects in the Russian language are required to satisfy Area I. Students with the equivalent proficiency, but who are not native speakers, can either take two advanced language subjects beyond Level IV (highly recommended) or two additional subjects from Areas II, II, and IV. Native speakers may substitute other subjects with the permission of the program advisor.

2

Students who are not required to take Area I subjects must take all subjects from Areas II, III, and IV, with at least one subject from each area.

Women's and Gender Studies

This program offers students an academic framework for the study of women, gender, and sexuality using the analytical tools and methodologies of a variety of disciplines in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. It includes a minimum of seven subjects (84 units) beyond WGS.101 Introduction to Women's and Gender StudiesWGS.301[J] Feminist Thought, the pre-thesis tutorial (21.THT), and thesis (21.THT). However, students may request a two-class substitution for the pre-thesis/thesis requirement for a total of 11 courses in that case.

Up to six subjects (72 units) may be used for both the major and the GIRs, but the units from those subjects may not count toward the 180 units required beyond the GIRs. No more than one subject that counts toward the distribution component of the HASS Requirement may also be counted toward the requirements of the Women's and Gender Studies program. In addition, at least eight of the subjects required for the program cannot count toward any other major or minor. 

The list of restricted electives below is not exhaustive. Students interested in this interdisciplinary program should consult with the Women's and Gender Studies program manager, Emily Neill, Room 14E-316, 617-253-2642, and then arrange a meeting with the current director, Helen Lee.

Restricted Electives
Tier I
Introduction to Women's and Gender Studies (Required)
Tier II
Select seven subjects, including at least one from each category below: 1
Humanities (HASS-H) and Arts (HASS-S) subjects 2
Women and Global Activism in Media and Politics
Sexual and Gender Identities
Gender and Media Studies
Gender and Technology
Race and Identity in American Literature
International Women's Voices
Narrative and Identity: Writing and Film by Contemporary Women of Color
Gender and Japanese Popular Culture
Gender and the Law in US History
Black Matters: Introduction to Black Studies
Women and Gender in the Middle East and North Africa
Science, Caste and Gender in India
Writing about Race
New Culture of Gender: Queer France
The Invention of French Theory: A History of Transatlantic Intellectual Life since 1945
Classics of Chinese Literature in Translation
Introduction to East Asian Cultures: From Zen to K-Pop
Jane Austen
Social Science (HASS-S) subjects
Games and Culture
Gender, Power, Leadership, and the Workplace
Gender, Health, and Society
Identity and Difference
For Love and Money: Rethinking the Family
Reproductive Politics and Technologies
Women in the Developing World
Women and War
The Science of Race, Sex, and Gender
Psychology of Sex and Gender
Violence, Human Rights, and Justice
Dilemmas in Biomedical Ethics: Playing God or Doing Good?
Images of Asian Women: Dragon Ladies and Lotus Blossoms
Cultures of Computing
Tier III
Feminist Thought (Required)
1

One of the Tier II subjects may be taken at Harvard, Wellesley, or Cambridge with the permission of the director.

2

 Subjects 21L.430, 21L.460, 21L.512, 21L.702, 21L.704, 21L.705, 21L.715, and 21W.745 may be taken for credit as a Women's and Gender Studies subject when their content meets WGS criteria. For more information, consult the program office.

3

 With the permission of the director, an advanced Women's and Gender Studies subject may be substituted for WGS.301[J].