Arts and Ideas in the Humanities

A Residential College Major

The University of Michigan



Jacopo Pontormo
Moses Receiving the Tables, 1546-56
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence          




The Arts and Ideas in the Humanities Major in the Residential College at the University of Michigan offers students the ability to construct an interdisciplinary major in the arts and humanities. Students in this major can combine either two humanities disciplines or a humanities discipline with an artistic practice. To major in Arts and Ideas in the Humanities, students combine history and theory courses with visual studies, performance, and studio arts courses. To complete the major, students then construct a program of specialized study in two areas of focus. In the specialized study portion of the Arts and Ideas in the Humanities Major, different area combinations are possible, depending on the interests of the individual student. Possible combinations include: sculpture and film theory; art history and English literature; drama and psychology; musicology and South East Asian studies; history and creative writing; or African- American studies and photography.

Arts and Ideas in the Humanities courses stress interdisciplinary and comparative methodologies. Students investigate how different forms of art relate and respond to one another: how they argue or agree, how they overlap or diverge in form and content. These courses often focus on a specific historical moment or context, encouraging students to examine a particular culture through a broad range of different media. In addition, by combining theory with practice, certain Arts and Ideas courses encourage students to reflect on the origins of art and to engage in its contexts, whether productive or historical. Unlike a traditional humanities major, the Arts and Ideas major asks humanities students to construct an interdisciplinary specialization. Unlike a traditional arts major, the Arts and Ideas major expects students to undertake more research in the histories, theories and geographies of the various arts.

Twin goals of the major are to train students in close reading and analysis of different expressive media (whether textual, visual, or acoustic) and to combine the study of art with its practice. Through intensive discussion, writing and production, students become more sophisticated analysts, critical producers and historians of culture.