What is History & Literature?

An honors concentration for Harvard undergraduates, History & Literature provides a structured, interdisciplinary education to ensure that students acquire breadth (knowledge of historical periods, major works, and key themes in their fields) as well as depth (focused study of particular texts, events, authors, or themes according to students' unique areas of interest). The following key aspects of the program guide students in reflecting on their goals and the coherence of their individualized work in the concentration.

Fields of Study

History & Literature’s field structure provides the intellectual scaffolding to ensure that your individualized plan of study has breadth as well as depth. Organized by time and place, our Fields of Study are designed to be transnational and comparative. As a community of scholars, we believe in a practice of questioning the boundaries of each field, encouraging a sense of community among concentrators studying similar themes.

To allow plenty of time to explore new interests, History & Literature concentrators do not declare a particular field of study until the end of the sophomore year. Beginning in the junior year, concentrators have the option to adjust a declared field by proposing a Subfield, which involves two or three courses in a geographic, temporal, thematic, or methodological area that will count for concentration credit. All of this is done in consultation with History & Literature advisers, so that you may rely on the experience and expertise of gifted teachers working in a variety of disciplines.

Tutorials

Tutorials are the heart of History & Literature, and many students find that tutorials are among the most demanding and rewarding courses they take at Harvard. History & Literature’s tutorials provide the opportunity to learn about and apply interdisciplinary tools of analysis to a rich variety of topics. They also allow students to integrate their courses in literature, history, and related fields. 

  • Sophomore tutorial is a small course led by two tutors in the spring semester that focuses on interdisciplinary research methods. 
  • Junior tutorial is a year-long tutorial for just two or three students. In the fall semester, students to collaborate on a syllabus with their tutor; in the spring semester, the students research, write and workshop the Junior Essay.
  • Senior tutorial is a one-on-one course focused on developing, researching, and writing a Senior Thesis. Both junior and senior tutorials invite students to steer the individual direction of their study. 

With their tutors, students explore cutting-edge research in the humanities, while learning how to shape research projects of their own. There is no single way to describe how the disciplines fit together in tutorials, and how they resist being fit together. Discovering that relationship in tutorials is the touchstone of the History & Literature experience. 

Advising

In History & Literature, we take great pride in our dedication to teaching and advising. We match students with academic advisers each year, providing guidance and support from the moment a student enters the concentration. From their first semester in History & Literature, students have advising conversations to discuss themes, issues, authors, and texts that they are interested in exploring in the concentration. Our advisers are faculty who work with students to shape a satisfying and coherent plan of study that equips students with the necessary knowledge and skills to accomplish the goals central to each student's unique intellectual trajectory.