Majors & Programs


Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities

What is the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities (IPH)?

The IPH is a rigorous, interdisciplinary program for the most intellectually ambitious. The major crosses boundaries, illustrating how studies in language, literature, history, philosophy, and the arts can supplement and challenge each other.

An Intellectual Community

More than a major, the IPH is a sustained group project involving faculty and students in shared inquiry. It aims to establish a small intellectual community comprising students and faculty who regularly engage each other and their ideas, both in and out of the classroom. Faculty members from a variety of disciplines serve as teachers, research mentors, and academic advisors. This collaborative work creates a dynamic, stimulating environment of critical thought.

IPH is for the Intellectually Ambitious

All students in the major will learn to write and speak clearly and flexibly; they will have broad exposure to a range of canonical texts; they will be trained in the historical and formal analysis of those and other texts; they will be fluent in at least one foreign language; and they will have considerable experience in independent research.

The Lyceum

Each semester, students and faculty attend a variety of University-sponsored and community events—the IPH Lyceum. Activities range from visiting exhibits at the Art Museum to attending musical events at the St. Louis Symphony, attending theatrical productions at The Rep and Edison Theatres, and more. Through informal discussions afterward, students and faculty bring the intellectual and cultural life of the classroom into the community at large, and vice-versa.

Joining the IPH

You begin preparing for the IPH major in your first year, building a foundation of knowledge in the works of Plato, Homer, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, and others through the Text and Tradition program. You study core subjects in courses such as Classical to Renaissance Literature, Early Political Thought, Literary Modernities, Modern Political Thought, and Scriptures and Cultural Traditions. You gain a broad understanding of intellectual history, and you begin developing the analytical, research, and writing skills critical to more advanced learning.

Advanced Study in an Area of Concentration

With your faculty mentor, you construct a coherent, inter-disciplinary sequence of courses (four or more) for advanced study. The sophomore historical elective, the sophomore tutorial, the junior cluster, foreign language course, and the thesis-related course will provide opportunities for completing the concentration. Research Assistantships The IPH offers internships and opportunities for humanities study beyond the classroom. These research assistantships enable students to get hands-on experience with research, editing, and manuscript preparation. The internships pair students with faculty in a variety of disciplines, providing a broad range of topics from which to choose depending upon your interests and goals.

Language Study for IPH

IPH students pursue a sustained engagement with at least one language in addition to English. The IPH requires a minimum of four courses in the target language regardless of the level at which students begin their study. By their senior year, our students have developed the ability to read literature, as well as historical, critical, and philosophical works, in their original language.

Study Abroad

Foreign language study is very important to many IPH students; there is no better way to learn a modern foreign language than to immerse oneself in its culture. We encourage IPH students to participate in foreign language programs in the summers following their first and second years at Washington University. As an IPH student you could go abroad in the spring of your sophomore year or the fall of your junior year—to such locations as the Loire Valley, France; Gottingen, Germany; Arezzo, Italy; Madrid, Spain; or Kyoto Japan.

Working for Honors

The IPH is an ideal program for students seeking academic honors. We award program honors by assessing students’ overall GPA, their performance on the junior comprehensive exam, and the achievement manifested in their senior thesis. Recent thesis topics include Islam and Travel Narrative in Early Modern Italy; Individualism, Economics & Revolution: Socioeconomic Ideology in Revolutionary France and America; "Sweet Songs Among the Flowers": Gender and Religion in Aztec Literature, 1500-1585; and Expanding the Membership of the Revolutionary Nation: Germaine de Stael's Considerations on the French Revolution and Helen Maria Williams' Letters from France; The Theory and Practice of Graffiti.

The Minor

Students who wish to pursue a minor may do so in Text & Tradition. Minor candidates must successfully complete five of the following courses:

  1. Classical to Renaissance Literature
  2. Early Political Thought
  3. Scriptures and Cultural Traditions
  4. Literary Modernities
  5. Modern Political Thought
  6. World Literature
  7. Puzzles and Revolutions: the History of Science
  8. The Great Economists
  9. The Intellectual History of Sex and Gender

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