Humanistic Studies

Department Description

We often divide the liberal arts into different disciplines (for example, history, literature, philosophy) in order to make teaching and studying them easier. In truth, they interconnect, which means that it is impossible to obtain a thorough knowledge of one without at least some knowledge of the others.

Founded in 1956, the interdisciplinary program in Humanistic Studies presents the liberal arts as a unified, interrelated body of knowledge. It explores the various elements that have molded and expressed culture by interweaving the study of history, literature, philosophy, theology, and art so that the student perceives the shape of culture as a whole.

The program consistently stresses Christianity’s dynamic role in forming Western thought, society, and art. To broaden the student’s cultural perspective, the program also recognizes the vital contributions of global and non-Christian societies. Works by and about women receive special notice as well.

To develop skills in critical and creative thinking, reading, writing, and speaking, students meet in small classes that stress reading and discussion. They write often and in a variety of styles. Over the years, our graduates have successfully used their education as a preparation for a broad range of careers, including law, education, business, data analysis, communications, the creative arts, and health care.

Study Abroad

Saint Mary’s has a long history of providing quality international programs as an essential part of our educational mission—forming women leaders who will make a difference in the world. As this world becomes increasingly interdependent, the College offers an expanding range of semester, year, semester break, and summer study and service programs in a wide variety of countries, and encourages students to take advantage of them. Learn more about the various Study Abroad opportunities.

Double Majors/ Minors

Many students combine a major in Humanistic Studies with a major or minor in another discipline such as economics, English, political science, history, philosophy, psychology or religious studies. With careful planning, students have double-­majored in the fine arts, science, or business.

Department Chair

Laura Williamson Ambrose
147 Spes Unica Hall
574-284-4465

Faculty

L. Williamson Ambrose, J. Bird, P. Hicks

Humanistic Studies Student Learning Outcomes for the Major

  • The student can identify the plot, characters, and major themes of selected landmarks in European literature since Greco-Roman antiquity and compare these works to one another.
  • The student can identify the major themes in European intellectual, political, artistic, and religious history since Greco-Roman antiquity, based on primary and secondary sources.
  • The student can employ aspects of critical thinking, namely, asking searching questions of course materials, evaluating the relevance of individual facts and texts to larger themes, distinguishing between analysis and summary, and showing originality and insight in her interpretations.
  • The student can solve intellectual problems posed by the subject matter in the major by designing and implementing research projects that investigate those problems.
  • The student can speak with clarity, organization, and supporting evidence, and listen with attentiveness and sympathy.
  • The student can write with precision and style in a variety of academic genres and can organize her thoughts around a central thesis supported by evidence.
  • The student can synthesize examples, facts, issues, or theories from literature, history, and art into a coherent whole.

Humanistic Studies Student Learning Outcomes for the Minor

  • The student can identify the plot, characters, and major themes of selected landmarks in at least one epoch of European literature since Greco-Roman antiquity.
  • The student can identify the major themes in at least one epoch of European intellectual, political, artistic, and religious history since Greco-Roman antiquity, based on primary and secondary sources.
  • The student can employ aspects of critical thinking, namely, asking searching questions of course materials, evaluating the relevance of individual facts and texts to larger themes, distinguishing between analysis and summary, and showing originality and insight in her interpretations.
  • The student can speak with clarity, organization, and supporting evidence, and listen with attentiveness and sympathy.
  • The student can write with precision and style in a variety of academic genres and can organize her thoughts around a central thesis supported by evidence.
  • The student can synthesize examples, facts, issues, or theories from literature, history, and art into a coherent whole.

Humanstic Studies Courses

HUST 103  Lives and Times  (3)  

This introductory course explores the interaction of people from the past with their cultural milieu through a study of works that have cultural or historical importance.

HUST 190  Special Topics  (1-4)  
HUST 197  Myth, Legend, and History  (1-3)  

This course studies the ways people talk about the past, specifically (in)famous women, through myths, legends, and history by focusing on subjects such as Eve, Mary, the Amazons, Cleopatra, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Joan of Arc, and Columbus, among others.

HUST 203  East Meets West  (3)  

An introduction to the cultures of Korea, China and Japan through literature, history, and film.

HUST 205  History of Famous Women  (3)  

This course looks at the lives of women such as Joan of Arc, Elizabeth I, and Abigail Adams, and places them in the tradition of exceptional women. It examines that tradition as a form of both women’s history and feminist argument, from Roman antiquity to the present.

HUST 212  High Society  (3)  

A social and cultural history of European aristocracy and monarchy from medieval times to the present.

HUST 220  Humanities at Work: Using Your Humanities Training in the 21st Century  (3)  

This class will help you connect the dots between your love of books and your curiosity (anxiety?) about life after college, between analyzing a text and analyzing a data set. It will equip you with answers to big questions like what do we mean when we say the "humanities" and what can you do with a humanities degree?

HUST 290  Topics in Humanities  (3)  

Topics in Humanistic Studies not covered in regular department offerings. May be repeated with a different topic.

HUST 292  Reclaiming the Classics for a Diverse and Global World  (3)  

This course looks at the main elements of Greek and Roman culture in a global context through a variety of works: historical, philosophical, and literary. Special attention is paid to the role of women in Greek and Roman society.

HUST 321  Cultural History I: Ancient and Medieval Culture  (3)  

A social, political, intellectual, and artistic history, from Greco-Roman antiquity to the High Middle Ages, focused on Europe in a global context with special attention paid to the role of Christianity. Topics include the “golden age” of Athens, the cultural influence of the Roman Empire, the rise of Christianity and Islam, monasticism, the medieval world view, the rise of royal government, the twelfth-century cultural revolution, and Gothic architecture. Corequisite: HUST 323.

HUST 322  Cultural History II: Medieval and Renaissance Culture  (3)  

A social, political, intellectual, and artistic history, from the Late Middle Ages to the Italian Renaissance, focused on Europe in a global context with special attention paid to the role of Christianity. Topics include the Black Death and its impact, the power of Italian city-states, Renaissance humanism, the cult of the individual, Europe's global interaction, and the evolution of Renaissance art. Corequisite: HUST 324.

HUST 323  Colloquium I: Ancient and Medieval Literature  (3)  

Major literary works from Greco-Roman antiquity to the High Middle Ages. Readings may include Homer’s Odyssey, Sophocles’s Antigone, Virgil’s Aeneid, Augustine’s Confessions, the Life of Muhammad, The Song of Roland, and The Romance of Tristan. Corequisite: HUST 321.

HUST 324  Colloquium II: Medieval and Renaissance Literature  (3)  

Major literary works from the Late Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Readings may include The Travels of Marco Polo, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Petrarch’s My Secret, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Boccaccio’s Decameron, and Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier. Corequisite: HUST 322.

HUST 390  Special Topics  (1-3)  

Topics in Humanistic Studies not covered in regular department offerings. May be repeated with a different topic.

HUST 461  Cultural History III: Early-Modern Culture  (3)  

A political, intellectual, and artistic history, from the Northern Renaissance to the Age of Napoleon, focused on Europe with special attention paid to the role of Christianity. Topics include the Reformation, English constitutional history, baroque culture, the Enlightenment, and the French Revolution. Corequisite: HUST 463.

HUST 462  Cultural History IV: Modern Culture  (3)  

A political, intellectual, and artistic history, from the nineteenth century to the present, focused on Europe with special attention paid to the role of Christianity. Topics include ideology in the age of industry, the modernist movement, the world wars, the Cold War, and the post-modern outlook. Corequisite: HUST 464.

HUST 463  Colloquium III: Early-Modern Literature  (3)  

Major literary works, from the Northern Renaissance to the Age of Napoleon. Readings may include More’s Utopia, Montaigne’s Essays, Shakespeare’s Othello, Voltaire’s Candide, Aphra Behn's Oroonoko, Equiano's Interesting Narrative, and Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Corequisite: HUST 461.

HUST 464  Colloquium IV: Modern Literature  (3)  

Major literary works, from the nineteenth century to the present. Readings may include Romantic poetry, Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents, Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, Camus’s The Plague, and Allende’s The House of the Spirits. Corequisite: HUST 462.

HUST 490  Special Topics  (1-3)  

Topics in Humanistic Studies not covered in regular department offerings. May be repeated with a different topic.

HUST 497  Independent Study  (1-3)  

Independent study for outstanding students. May be repeated.

HUST 499  Internship  (1-3)  

Practical experience in a field related to Humanistic Studies. Graded S/U. May be repeated.

Four-Year Plans in Humanistic Studies

Humanistic Studies Major Requirements (24 credit hours)

Humanistic Studies examines literature, people, events, art, and ideas from antiquity to the present. Students complete eight discussion-based classes over the course of four semesters in which ‘great books’ seminars are paired with cultural history courses (see “upper-level tandems”). The major is easy to combine with just about any other major on campus and adapts well to study abroad plans since students can begin the major in either their sophomore or junior year. Students interested in the major typically enjoy reading, writing, and discussing, want a major that combines ‘everything’, and are interested in how different academic fields fit together to form the ‘big picture.’

Humanistic Studies Minor Requirements (15 credit hours)

The minor consists of 5 courses (excluding HUST 497, 499), including 6 credits from one of the four tandems (co-requisites): HUST 321/323, HUST 322/324, HUST 461/463, HUST 462/464. The remaining 12 credits can be introductory electives or upper-level tandems.

Humanistic Studies First Year Courses

HUST 103: Lives and Times (CTS)
Instructor: Prof. Laura Williamson Ambrose

What’s your place in the world? How will you tell your story? This lively discussion-based class will introduce you to the power of storytelling in our own lives and in the lives of those from the past. You will be introduced to a range of fascinating individuals, both real and imagined, as their stories appear in memoir, film, fiction, and art. We will ask: Why does place have such a powerful effect on who we are in the world? Why is the question “where are you from” often impossible to answer? In what way do ethnicity, race, and gender make you who you are? How do we learn from the stories of the past, and, more importantly, how do we tell stories of the future? Students will have an opportunity to write in analytic, digital, and creative formats.   

This course also satisfies LO1 Literature, LO2 Women’s Voices, LO2 Critical Thinking Seminar, and LO3 Social Responsibility A.

HUST 103: Lives and Times 
Instructor: Prof. Philip Hicks

This course features lively classroom discussion and introduces you to a wide range of fascinating people throughout history, whether powerful or downtrodden, famous or obscure, free spirited or straight laced. To see what makes these people tick, we will read a variety of works taking us to the core of their beings: novels, autobiographies, and memoirs. We try to answer the sorts of questions that we all have to ask ourselves: What makes a good life? What do I owe my parents? What place does spirituality have in my life? How do I balance the need to be my own person with the need to belong to the group?

This course also satisfies LO1 Literature, LO2 Women’s Voices, and LO3 Social Responsibility A.

HUST 197: Myth, Legend, and History (W & CTS)
Instructor:  Prof. Jessalynn Bird 

Truth or fiction? This course explores different ways of seeing (in)famous women from Eve to Cleopatra, Mary to Joan of Arc. Through class discussions, interdisciplinary readings (fiction and nonfiction, literature and history), art, lectures, and film, we will study what myths and legends—both ancient and modern—tell us about the past and about ourselves. 

This course also satisfies LO1 Historical Perspectives, LO2 Critical Thinking Seminar, LO2 Women’s Voices, LO3 Global Learning A, LO3 Social Responsibility A and provides students the opportunity to earn the W.


HUST 212: High Society 
Instructor: Prof. Philip Hicks

Study 1,000 years of English history as high society lived it. This course presents a history of aristocracy and monarchy, from King Arthur to Princess Diana (Harry’s mum). Topics include aristocratic women, chivalry, the Tudors, and the modern royal family. This is a discussion-based course with lectures, role-plays, and videos. 

This course also satisfies LO1 Historical Perspectives, LO3 Global Learning, and LO3 Social Responsibility.

These plans are for purposes of illustration only; a student’s actual course schedule would depend on her choices of classes in the Sophia Program and the availability of courses in any given semester. In both scenarios, a student might elect to apply for a HUST summer study abroad scholarship between her 3rd and 4th year (which may cover 20-85% of the total cost).
 

Sample Four-Year Plans in Humanistic Studies

HUST Major (and Rome Program) Plan 

HUST / HISTORY double-major Plan

Sample 1: HUST major (and Rome program)

Plan of Study Grid
First Year
First SemesterCredits
HUST 103 Lives and Times  
or HUST 197 (W) Myth, Legend, and History (W & CTS)
 
or HUST 212 High Society
 
Sophia  
Sophia  
Sophia  
Sophia  
 Credits0
Second Semester
HUST 103 Lives and Times  
or HUST 203 East Meets West
 
or HUST 205 History of Famous Women
 
Sophia  
Sophia  
Sophia  
Sophia  
 Credits0
Second Year
First Semester
Fall: Rome  
Sophia  
Sophia  
Sophia  
Sophia  
Elective  
 Credits0
Second Semester
Spring: Rome  
Sophia  
Sophia  
Sophia  
Elective  
Elective  
 Credits0
Third Year
First Semester
HUST 321
Cultural History I: Ancient and Medieval Culture
or Cultural History III: Early-Modern Culture
3
HUST 323
Colloquium I: Ancient and Medieval Literature
or Colloquium III: Early-Modern Literature
3
Sophia  
Sophia  
Elective  
 Credits6
Second Semester
HUST 322
Cultural History II: Medieval and Renaissance Culture
or Cultural History IV: Modern Culture
3
HUST 324
Colloquium II: Medieval and Renaissance Literature
or Colloquium IV: Modern Literature
3
Elective  
Elective  
Elective  
 Credits6
Fourth Year
First Semester
HUST 461
Cultural History III: Early-Modern Culture
or Cultural History I: Ancient and Medieval Culture
3
HUST 463
Colloquium III: Early-Modern Literature
or Colloquium I: Ancient and Medieval Literature
3
Elective  
Elective  
Elective  
 Credits6
Second Semester
HUST 462
Cultural History IV: Modern Culture
or Cultural History II: Medieval and Renaissance Culture
3
HUST 464
Colloquium IV: Modern Literature
or Colloquium II: Medieval and Renaissance Literature
3
Elective  
Elective  
Elective  
 Credits6
 Total Credits24

 Sample 2: HUST / HISTORY double-major 

Note: Upper-level cultural history courses in HUST fulfill the History major’s Europe requirements.

Plan of Study Grid
First Year
First SemesterCredits
HUST 103 Lives and Times  
or HUST 197 Myth, Legend, and History
 
or HUST 212 High Society
 
HIST 103W World History I  
Sophia  
Sophia  
Sophia  
 Credits0
Second Semester
HUST 103 Lives and Times  
or HUST 205 History of Famous Women
 
or HUST 203 East Meets West
 
HIST 104 World History II  
Sophia  
Sophia  
Sophia  
 Credits0
Second Year
First Semester
Sophia  
Sophia  
Sophia  
Elective  
Elective  
 Credits0
Second Semester
Sophia  
Sophia  
Sophia  
Elective  
Elective  
 Credits0
Third Year
First Semester
HUST 321
Cultural History I: Ancient and Medieval Culture
or Cultural History III: Early-Modern Culture
3
HUST 323
Colloquium I: Ancient and Medieval Literature
or Colloquium III: Early-Modern Literature
3
HIST 201 United States History to 1865  
HIST 312 Recent America: 1960 to the Present  
Sophia  
 Credits6
Second Semester
HUST 322
Cultural History II: Medieval and Renaissance Culture
or Cultural History IV: Modern Culture
3
HUST 324
Colloquium II: Medieval and Renaissance Literature
or Colloquium IV: Modern Literature
3
HIST 202 United States History Since 1865  
Sophia  
Elective  
 Credits6
Fourth Year
First Semester
HUST 461
Cultural History III: Early-Modern Culture
or Cultural History I: Ancient and Medieval Culture
3
HUST 463
Colloquium III: Early-Modern Literature
or Colloquium I: Ancient and Medieval Literature
3
HIST course  
Elective  
Elective  
 Credits6
Second Semester
HUST 462
Cultural History IV: Modern Culture
or Cultural History II: Medieval and Renaissance Culture
3
HUST 464
Colloquium IV: Modern Literature
or Colloquium II: Medieval and Renaissance Literature
3
HIST 384 Africa Since 1800  
Elective  
Elective  
 Credits6
 Total Credits24