What if I have concerns about tutorial?

History & Literature tutors are eager to hear your feedback about tutorials, and they are open to your suggestions for changes and improvements. In addition, feel free to contact the Director of Studies regarding any questions or concerns about your tutorial.   

Is there a list of tutors? 

Yes! Browse the History & Literature faculty profiles, which include tutors’ fields, research interests, publications, office hours, and contact information.

Who can give me advice about my academic plans?

Your assigned tutor is your academic adviser and is always the best place to start. In addition, all students are welcome to meet with the Director of Studies, Associate Director of Studies, and the Assistant Directors of Studies at any time.

Who reviews my course selections and signs my study card?

At the beginning of each semester, History & Literature concentrators and their advisers discuss course selections, and the adviser signs the student’s study card for the tutorial and the concentration. First-semester juniors also discuss their plan with a member of the Committee on Instruction to review their individualized program of study with another experienced academic adviser. For first-semester juniors, the adviser signs only for tutorial, and a member of the COI from the student’s field signs for the concentration. 

Can I change fields?

Yes! Every year a few History & Literature concentrators change fields. Contact one of the Assistant Directors of Studies to discuss your planned change.

Who is responsible for the “1C” marks on my transcript?

Over the summer, the Assistant Directors of Studies mark the transcripts of rising juniors and seniors. If a student does not submit the Plan of Concentration, the Assistant Directors are unable to mark the transcript, which could result in students not receiving concentration credit for courses taken. 

If I believe a course that is not specifically listed ought to count toward a particular requirement, what should I do?

If there is a course not on the Courses that Count that you wish to count for credit in your Field of Study, you are welcome to submit a Petition to the Committee on Instruction. 

Can I count a Freshman Seminar toward a requirement in History and Literature?

Yes, but you must Petition and submit the syllabus. The course will be marked “1C” on your transcript, but it will not factor in your concentration grade point average.

If I take more than the required half-courses in my field, can I choose which ones count for concentration credit?

No. All courses that are listed for your field on the list of courses that count will be marked as concentration courses on your transcript and will be used in the calculation of your concentration grade point average.

How can I arrange an independent study within History & Literature?

With the permission of the Director of Studies, and staff permitting, HL91: Individual Reading and Research courses on selected topics in History & Literature can be arranged. These courses must be taken for a letter grade.

Can courses “double count” to meet both Gen Ed and History & Literature requirements?


Can courses “double count” to meet both History & Literature and secondary field

Yes, but only one course can double count for secondary field and concentration credit. See the Assistant Director of Studies in your field with any questions.

If I get a C+ or lower, will the course count for History and Literature?

Yes (except in your foreign literature course, which must be at least a B-), but your overall GPA in the concentration needs to be a B, or 3.0, in order to be a candidate for honors in the concentration.

As a transfer student from another college, can I receive any credit toward degree requirements in History & Literature for previous course work?

Yes! You will receive credit toward fulfillment of requirements for those courses which are (1) approved for Harvard credit by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and then (2) approved for History & Literature credit through a Petition to the Committee on Instruction; however, the grades will not count toward your concentration GPA. 

If I transfer into History & Literature from another Harvard concentration as a junior, can I get credit for a sophomore tutorial taken in another department?

Yes, this is frequently possible. Discuss your next steps with the Director of Studies.

My courses are intersecting in interesting ways and I would like to hand in one long paper for two of my courses. Should I?

If you want to do this, you must secure your instructors’ written permission; in these cases, many instructors quite understandably require extremely ambitious papers, which are intellectually satisfying but time-consuming. Be sure to secure permission from both instructors before undertaking such a project. Be prepared for the fact that one of your instructors might refuse this request. Consider writing two different papers drawing on the same materials—an important intellectual exercise that is sometimes more satisfying than the one long paper.

Can I get credit for a Summer School course?

For a Harvard Summer School course, you probably can, but you will need to petition it. See one of the Assistant Directors of Studies.

If, because of a leave of absence or a term of study abroad, I am a second-term senior in the fall, can I postpone submitting my thesis until the following March by registering during the spring term “solely for the completion of degree requirements”?

The Registrar’s office does not allow this.

What if I need an extra term to fulfill requirements?

Contact your Allston Burr Resident Dean.

Can I spend time abroad?

Yes! History & Literature strongly encourages interested students to study abroad. Students interested in studying abroad should first investigate possible programs at the Office of International Education, then meet with our Associate Director of Studies to discuss possible courses and a specific plan of study. 

Can I have a joint concentration, combining History & Literature with another concentration?

Yes! Students may create a joint concentration combining History & Literature with another department or program if they offer strong intellectual grounds for doing so. History and Literature must be the primary concentration in any joint plan of study. Students interested in a joint concentration should discuss their plans with the Director of Studies.

Can I complete a secondary field as a History & Literature Concentrator?

Yes! Students are welcome to pursue a secondary field in addition to their concentration in History & Literature. Only one course may count for both the secondary field and the concentration. 

Can I combine History & Literature with a teacher education program?

Yes! History & Literature concentrators may also pursue the Undergraduate Teacher Education Program (UTEP). Students interested in UTEP should meet with the Director of Studies to discuss their plans.

What happens if I’ve been away from Harvard and the requirements for my field changed while I was gone?

Normally, you will be allowed to complete your work in History & Literature under the guidelines that existed when you entered the program. Contact the Director of Studies for more information.

How can I find titles of previous theses?

There is a list in a binder on the shelf above the desk in the office and a list of summa theses on the web. Recent copies of theses that won the Hoopes Prize are on a shelf just inside Lamont Library; copies of all theses that received two (or more) readings of magna or above are in the Harvard Archives. You will find them listed in HOLLIS.

Does my thesis have to be interdisciplinary?

Depending on the subject you choose, your thesis may be primarily a work of historical research or primarily a work of literary criticism. However, all History & Literature theses should draw in some way on the interdisciplinary training students have received in tutorials. The more historical theses should always be attentive to the textuality (e.g., representational and rhetorical strategies, structure, genre, language, etc.) of historical documents, and the more literary theses should be attentive to the historical contexts and agency of literary texts.

Can I do a “creative” project for my thesis—a historical novel, for instance?

While History & Literature students are encouraged to think creatively as they research and write their senior theses, genres conventionally grouped under the rubric of “creative” writing—novels, plays, poetry—do not meet the requirements for the senior thesis. The senior thesis is a researched critical essay that demonstrates an argument through analysis of relevant primary and secondary sources.

What if I can’t turn my thesis in by 4 p.m. on the due date?

The 4 p.m. deadline on the thesis due date is firm. No exceptions without a dean’s permission. Students submitting theses after the 4 p.m. deadline will receive credit for HL99, but the thesis will not be sent out to readers for evaluation and the student will not be eligible for concentration honors.

If I decide that I do not want to write a thesis, what do I do?

If a concentrator does not complete the senior thesis or does not receive an honors evaluation on the thesis, the Committee on Degrees will recommend that the student graduate with a non-honors degree in History & Literature. The student must still complete the course requirements for the degree. To receive credit for HL99: Senior Tutorial, students not completing a thesis must first secure the permission of the Director of Studies to withdraw from candidacy for honors and then submit two twenty-page papers (one each semester) or one forty-page paper (by the last day of classes in the spring term).

Who takes the oral examination?

All students in History & Literature who are eligible for an honors degree recommendation, have completed a thesis, and have a concentration GPA of at least 3.0 take oral examinations at the end of their final semester. 

Does History & Literature count final term senior grades in the calculation of honors?

Final term course grades are not available in time to be included in honors calculations by the History and Literature concentration. The College, however, will include these grades in calculating your College honors. 

Can I designate which courses are included in the calculation for honors?

No. The grades of all listed courses will count except those taken at another institution and summer school courses not taken at Harvard or on a Harvard program.