History and Literature

Dr. Jeanne Follansbee Quinn, Director of Studies

Celebrating its centennial in 2006, History and Literature is the oldest Harvard concentration; for many years it was the only concentration. Conceived as an antidote to President Eliot’s "elective system," it served as a model for the reconstruction of undergraduate education under President Lowell, who had been among the founders of History and Literature.

The initial understanding was that history and literature were to be studied as quite separate disciplines, but in a way that illuminated and enriched a student’s understanding of both. Professor Barrett Wendell, the first chair of History and Literature, insisted that writers "could never have been what they were but for the historical forces that surged about them," and that, conversely, it is through the literary voices of the past that the historian comes to understand "not only bare facts but also how those facts made the living men feel who knew them in the flesh."

Since Wendell’s day there have been many other arguments as to why and how literature and history ought to be studied together. The concentration presupposes no single mode of integrating the two disciplines; indeed the primary goal of tutorial is to introduce students to several means of pursuing interrelationships. Through this range of approaches, concentrators come to see history and literature not as two subjects but as one.

At the heart of the program is tutorial. While course work provides the indispensable grounding in both disciplines, tutorial is intended to supply avenues for synthesis, an opportunity to pursue specific topics in depth, and a general framework within which the disparate elements in a student’s plan of concentration may be integrated. Sophomore tutorial—normally taught in small groups under the supervision of two tutors—is partly methodological in orientation. Juniors work collaboratively with their tutors in small groups to craft a year-long course designed to develop expertise in subject and to hone research skills.  Senior tutorials are individual. Written work is an important part of both sophomore and junior tutorial, leading to the thesis in the senior year. While students are encouraged to identify and explore areas of special interest within the concentration, a broad knowledge of major literary figures and historical events—as tested on the oral examination at the end of the senior year—is equally stressed. History and Literature thus aspires to promote the integration of the two disciplines and a balance between general knowledge and specific expertise. It is a demanding enterprise, but it is immensely rewarding as well.

Concentrators are encouraged to consider study abroad as a means for augmenting their work in the concentration.  Advisers in the concentration work closely with students who elect to study abroad to help craft plans of study that integrate courses taken out-of-residence.

The History and Literature program requires an application so that students will give careful thought to their decision to pursue interdisciplinary work in the humanities and to their choice of field within the concentration. Students interested in exploring interdisciplinary work in History and Literature are invited to enroll in a History and Literature 90 course, open to non-concentrators, in the fall of the sophomore year.

REQUIREMENTS FOR THE CLASS OF 2010
14 HALF-COURSES

In the spring of sophomore year each student submits a full Plan of Concentration to members of the Committee on Instruction for approval. Revised Plans are submitted in the junior and senior years. A list of the courses that count in the various fields is available in the office and on the web. Courses in the history of philosophy, government, economics, history of art and architecture, or subjects related in chronology, geography, or method to the student’s special field may be accepted for concentration credit by the Committee on an individual basis.

  1. Required courses:

    1. At least nine half-courses in a special field (see item 9a), normally divided equally between history and literature. Specific courses are required in several of the special fields. Details are available in the departmental pamphlet Handbook for Concentrators. Courses must be letter-graded. Ordinarily, lower-level language courses may not be counted toward this requirement.

    2. History and Literature 97 (one term), 98r (two terms), and 99 (full year). With the permission of the director of studies, concentrators may be allowed to take History and Literature 91r for credit in any term.

  2. Tutorials:

    1. Sophomore year: History and Literature 97 (one term) required. Letter-graded.

    2. Junior year: History and Literature 98r (two terms) required. Letter-graded.

    3. Senior year: History and Literature 99 (full year) required. Graded SAT/UNS.

  1. Sophomore Examination: Required of all concentrators. Oral examination on historical and literary texts. Coverage of the entire field will not be expected.

  2. Junior Essay: A required 5,000-6,000 word research paper which is part of the student's regular tutorial work.

  3. Junior Seminar: A required reading assignment, short writing assignment, and small group discussions of the work of a visiting scholar, followed by a lecture by that scholar.

  4. Senior Thesis: 10,000–15,000 words. Required of all concentrators. A student enrolled in History and Literature 99 who does not complete a thesis can receive credit for this course only by completing a paper in the relevant field.

  5. Oral Examination: Required of all concentrators except those who do not complete the thesis; covers the entire field of concentration.

  6. Other information:

    a.  Special Fields:
      1. Countries: America, Britain, France, Germany, Russia.

      2. Other fields of study:

        • The Middle Ages (focus developed in consultation with advisers) ca. 400–ca. 1500.
        • Europe ca. 1300–ca. 1750 (focus developed in consultation with advisers).
        • Postcolonial Studies (focus developed in consultation with advisers).
        • Modern Europe (focus on two countries) 1750–the present.

Britain and France

France and Germany

Britain and Germany

France and Russia

Britain and Russia

Germany and Russia


        • Britain and America (qualified students may petition to enter this field at the end of the sophomore year), 1588–the present.
        • France and America, 1750–the present.
        • Germany and America, 1750–the present.
        • Russia and America, 1750–the present.
        • Latin America, 1492–the present.
        • Latin America and North America (focus developed in consultation with advisers).
        • Additional special fields within the competence of the Board of Tutors may be approved by petition to the Committee on Instruction.

    1. Language requirement: Reading knowledge of foreign language(s) required in each special field as follows:

      1. Germany, France, or Russia: The language of the country being studied.

      2. Britain, America, or Britain and America: Must take a reading course in one foreign literature.

      3. Latin America: Spanish.

      4. The Middle Ages: The languages relevant to the student's work.

      5. Europe ca. 1300-ca. 1750: The languages relevant to the student's work.

      6. Modern Europe: The languages relevant to the student's work.

      7. Postcolonial Studies: The languages relevant to the student's work.

      8. Additional special fields: Language requirements will be set by the Committee on Instruction.

        Each student must receive a grade of B– or higher in at least one half-course in a foreign literature in which the texts are read in the original language. A list of the courses that count for the foreign literature requirement is available in the office and on the web. This requirement must be met by the end of junior year. This course can be counted as one of the 14 required courses.

    1. Study Abroad: History and Literature strongly encourages study abroad for one term of the junior year. Students who study abroad take only one term of junior tutorial, though they must still complete the junior essay and 14 total concentration half-courses.

REQUIREMENTS FOR THE CLASS OF 2011
14 half-courses


In the spring of sophomore year each student submits a full Plan of Concentration to members of the Committee on Instruction for approval. Revised Plans are submitted in the junior and senior years. A list of the courses that count in the various fields is available in the office and on the web. Courses in the history of philosophy, government, economics, history of art and architecture, or subjects related in chronology, geography, or method to the student’s special field may be accepted for concentration credit by the Committee on an individual basis.

  1. Required courses:

    1. At least nine half-courses in a special field (see item 9a), normally divided equally between history and literature. Specific courses are required in several of the special fields. Details are available in the departmental pamphlet Handbook for Concentrators. Courses must be letter-graded. Ordinarily, lower-level language courses may not be counted toward this requirement.

    2. History and Literature 97 (one term), 98r (two terms), and 99 (full year). With the permission of the director of studies, concentrators may be allowed to take History and Literature 91r for credit in any term.

  2. Tutorials:

    1. Sophomore year: History and Literature 97 (one term) required. Letter-graded.

    2. Junior year: History and Literature 98r (two terms) required. Letter-graded.

    3. Senior year: History and Literature 99 (full year) required. Graded SAT/UNS.

    4. Sophomore Essay: A required 3,000-4,000 word interdisciplinary paper which is part of the student’s regular tutorial work.

  3. Sophomore Examination: Required of all concentrators. Oral examination on historical and literary texts. Coverage of the entire field will not be expected.

  4. Junior Essay: A required 5,000-6,000 word research paper which is part of the student’s regular tutorial work.

  5. Junior Seminar: A required reading assignment, short writing assignment, and small group discussions of the work of a visiting scholar, followed by a lecture by that scholar.

  6. Senior Thesis: 10,000-15,000 words. Required of all concentrators. A student enrolled in History and Literature 99 who does not complete a thesis can receive credit for this course only by completing a paper in the relevant field.

  7. Oral Examination: Required of all concentrators except those who do not complete the thesis; covers the entire field of concentration.

  8. Other information:

    1. Fields of Study:

      1. America

      2. The Middle Ages (focus developed in consultation with advisers) ca. 400-ca. 1500.

      3. Europe ca. 1300-ca. 1750 (focus developed in consultation with advisers).

      4. Postcolonial Studies (focus developed in consultation with advisers).

      5. Modern Europe 1750-the present.

      6. Latin America, 1492-the present.

      7. Additional special fields within the competence of the Board of Tutors may be approved by petition to the Committee on Instruction.

    2. Language requirement: Reading knowledge of foreign language(s) required in each special field as follows:

      1. America: Must take a reading course in one foreign literature.

      2. Latin America: Spanish.

      3. The Middle Ages: The languages relevant to the student’s work.

      4. Europe ca. 1300-ca. 1750: The languages relevant to the student’s work.

      5. Modern Europe: The languages relevant to the student’s work. Students studying Britain must take a reading course in one foreign literature.

      6. Postcolonial Studies: The languages relevant to the student’s work.

      7. Additional special fields: Language requirements will be set by the Committee on Instruction. Each student must receive a grade of B– or higher in at least one half-course in a foreign literature in which the texts are read in the original language. A list of the courses that count for the foreign literature requirement is available in the office and on the web. This requirement must be met by the end of junior year. This course can be counted as one of the 14 required courses.

    3. Study Abroad: History and Literature strongly encourages study abroad for one term of the junior year. Students who study abroad take only one term of junior tutorial, though they must still complete the junior essay and 14 total concentration half-courses.

ADVISING

Each student is assigned to a tutor, who also functions as that student’s academic adviser. They work closely together to assemble a Plan of Concentration that fits the student’s needs and fulfills concentration requirements. Since the roles of tutor and academic adviser are performed by the same person in History and Literature, the advising system is close and personalized. For up-to-date information on advising in History and Literature, please see the Advising Programs Office website.

HOW TO FIND OUT MORE

Students interested in learning more about History and Literature are invited to pick up a copy of the Handbook for Concentrators in the Committee office at the Barker Center. Our website is www.fas.harvard.edu/~histlit. Jeanne Follansbee Quinn is the director of studies.

CORE AND GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS

Non-exempt areas:

Exempt areas:

Foreign Cultures

Historical Study A

Literature and Arts B

Historical Study B

Moral Reasoning

Literature and Arts A

Quantitative Reasoning

Literature and Arts C

Science A

 

Science B

 

Social Analysis

 

For more information on fulfilling the Core requirement, see the Core Curriculum Requirement.

All students—regardless of concentration—planning to graduate under the requirements of the Program in General Education must complete one letter-graded course in each of the eight categories in General Education. The Class of 2013 is the first to enter the College under these requirements. Students who entered Harvard College in September 2008 or earlier are expected to fulfill the requirements of the Core Curriculum, but will be permitted to switch to the Program in General Education if such a change is possible and advisable given their overall schedule and plan of study. For more information on the requirements of the Program in General Education and the possibility of switching to it, please see The Program in General Education in Chapter 2 and the General Education website.

 ENROLLMENT STATISTICS

Number of Concentrators as of December

Concentrators

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

History & Literature

167

165

158

162

152

*History & Literature + another field

5

7

3

7

6

* History and Literature participates in joint concentrations only as the primary field.