Humanities Class and Course Descriptions

Oct 20, 2021

What Are Humanities Classes?

Most degree programs have at least one humanities elective requirement, and because the humanities is a broad field, there is generally a wide range of options for classes to fill it. So exactly what is considered a humanities course?

Humanities Class: Definition

Humanities is the study of culture and society, focusing on human constructs rather than natural or social interactions. It includes the fields of history, arts, language and philosophy, and most courses in these disciplines would be considered humanities courses. However, institutions may vary in the courses they offer and accept, so it is always best to check before enrolling in a class to make sure it meets the requirements of your specific degree plan.

Benefits of Humanities Courses

It's easy to see the benefits of the STEM fields, with the products of science, engineering and technology all around us in our everyday lives. Measures of success in the humanities, by contrast, tend to be more subjective, and their benefits are less tangible. This may lead you to wonder how useful a course or major in this field really is. However, the analytic nature of humanities studies builds many important and concrete skills, such as:

  • Critical thinking
  • Written and oral communication
  • Reading comprehension
  • Research
  • Interpersonal skills, especially in discussion-based classes

Some branches of the humanities cultivate specific skills, such as foreign language, that offer an additional competitive edge in any career field.

Majoring in the Humanities

Many popular majors - such as History, Literature, and Art - fall under the humanities umbrella. Universities may also offer a general Humanities major, requiring electives from a variety of different humanities fields. Basic types of humanities courses include:

  • Art and music history
  • Communication and media studies
  • History and anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Cultural, race, and gender studies
  • Language and linguistics
  • Literature and classics
  • Philosophy and religion

Some of these areas of study overlap, so courses may not fall neatly into one category.

At the graduate level, students delve more deeply into art and cultural theory and interpretation. They may do scholarly research, write a thesis or dissertation, and participate in advanced seminars. There are many graduate degrees within the humanities field, but Master's of Humanities programs are also available.

Opportunities for study abroad may be available at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

Common Humanities Courses

Western Culture Course

This overview course introduces students to the various developments in the art, literature, music, philosophy, and architecture of Western culture. Major eras covered include Medieval, Early Renaissance, and Byzantine. Class discussions and lectures address the similarities and differences in moral and ethical values in Western culture throughout the ages.

World Mythology Course

Myths can be viewed as a reflection of the ideals and values of a culture. This course studies the legends, myths, and folktales of many different cultures throughout the ages as depicted in art, literature, and drama. Although myths of any culture in the world can be studied, some of the more common include those of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Norse, African, and Asian cultures.

Arts in 20th Century Western Culture Course

This course examines the art, literature, music, and other performing arts of Western culture through an interdisciplinary perspective. Emphasis is placed on the way the aesthetic, social, and cultural values of Western society are reflected in various art forms. Students may be required to attend one or more cultural events, such as music or dance performances or an art show.

Non-Western Culture Course

This course functions as an introduction to some of the larger cultural groups in the world. Coursework addresses the primary artistic and intellectual achievements of African, Asian, South American, Islamic, and Native American cultures. Philosophy, visual art, music, literature, and other performing arts are briefly touched upon in this overview course, along with the ways in which they compare and contrast to those of Western culture.

Modern European Humanities Course

Students in this course study the artistic, literary, dramatic, political, philosophical, and historical accomplishments and output of Europe during the period from the end of the Enlightenment to the 20th century. Course topics require students to read famous and influential works and write essays relating to the influence this period had on contemporary life.

Readings in World Literature

This course covers literary works from around the world and from a range of time periods. Students will use what they are reading to analyze the relationship that individuals have with the larger society and will discuss the challenges that come with reading texts from a different culture than their own, including the complexity of reading literature that has been translated from its original language.


What is a humanities class?

Humanities courses explore human culture and human constructs, as opposed to the social and natural interactions studied in the social and natural sciences. Areas of study include language, literature, arts, history, and philosophy.

What humanities courses are typically required for an associate's degree?

Requirements vary by institution, but typically one humanities course is needed to fulfill the general education requirements for an associate's degree. Literature, history, and foreign language courses are common options.

What humanities courses are typically required for a bachelor's degree?

Requirements vary greatly by institution and degree, with majors in humanities fields requiring more courses. Most degree plans require one to two humanities courses, and may have separate requirements for certain humanities subfields, such as literature or foreign language.

What types of skills can students acquire through a humanities course?

Most humanities classes focus on analysis and critical thinking. Common assignments include writing papers and participating in class discussions, which build both written and oral communication skills. Specific branches of the humanities, such as foreign language studies, are associated with their own special skills.

What types of jobs are available to humanities majors?

Humanities graduates are not limited to creative and academic career paths. In addition to traditional options such as writer, artist, historian, or teacher, students who choose to major in humanities can pursue a broad range of careers after completing their degrees.

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