What are the Humanities?

What is the difference between the ‘humanities,’ the Humanities Program, and the Humanistic Approaches core area?
While browsing the university’s website or the course catalogue you have probably come across all three of these terms, and may be wondering about the difference between them. Here is a quick run-down.

What do we mean when we say ‘humanities’? 
The humanities are a cluster of disciplines that study human culture, or how human beings experience and record the world around them.  History, literature, ancient and modern languages, philosophy, music, religious studies, and art history (among others) fall into this category.  Below is a list of humanities disciplines at Puget Sound.  The humanities at Puget Sound are represented by various departments that do not form a strictly defined program or course of study, although they collaborate in the “Experience the Humanities” project with the goal of promoting the humanistic disciplines across campus.  Courses in these disciplines are designated by various letters indicating their departmental affiliation (e.g., AFAM, HIST, CLSC, REL, etc.)

What is the Humanities Program?
The Humanities Program is an interdisciplinary minor that students can pursue at Puget Sound.  Its courses draw upon various disciplines, such as history, literature, philosophy, religion, art history, music, and communication studies to offer a concentration in the history of Western ideas.  Courses in the Humanities Program are designated with the letters HUM.  Some but not all courses in the Humanities Program fulfill the Humanistic Approaches core requirement.

What is the Humanistic Approaches core requirement? 
Courses in the Humanistic Approaches area belong to the university’s Core Curriculum.  The Core Curriculum offers students a broad introduction to the major branches of intellectual inquiry through the five Approaches to Knowing, namely the Artistic, Humanistic, Mathematical, Natural Scientific, and Social Scientific Approaches.  Every Puget Sound student must take one course in each of the five Approaches to Knowing.  Courses in the Humanistic Approaches area introduce students to “fundamental questions of existence, identity, and values.” Courses in the Humanistic Approaches area are designated with various letters indicating their departmental affiliation (e.g., AFAM, HIST, CLSC, REL, etc.)  Due to institutional history, some disciplines that are traditionally understood to belong to the humanities (such as art history, music history, theatre arts) are found in the Artistic Approaches core area at Puget Sound. 

The following departments are involved in Experience the Humanities:

African American Studies

Art & Art History

Asian Studies



French Studies

Gender & Queer Studies

German Studies

Hispanic Studies


Humanities Program

Latin American Studies

Latina/o Studies

Music/Music History


Religious Studies

Science, Technology & Society

Theatre Arts