Frequently Asked Questions
What are the humanities?
Journalism professor Ted Gup posits that history "is a canvas upon which the paint never dries." Humanities scholarship is work on that canvas—work investigating what it is to be human in all its complexity and typically involving critical arguments predicated on deep research into textual, visual, and material evidence.
Why do the humanities matter?
Humanities work investigates questions that motivate and trouble humans in relation to their very status as humans: citizens of the cosmos, of cultures, and of communities. As Nathaniel P. Hitt noted in a 2015 New York Times essay linking environmentalism and ethics, "Science is like a compass. It can tell us where north is, but it can't tell us if we want to go north." That is, arguably, where the humanities come in—helping us think about where, how, and why a trip north might (or might not) be worth undertaking or investigating how and why humans in earlier times or other places did what they did about trips north.
How is humanities research conducted?
Humanities scholars typically use texts, artifacts, and images to investigate phenomena that engage them. The discovery of previously unearthed data makes up the first step in some humanities work; critical interpretation of evidence is the hallmark of good humanities scholarship. The expert reads and looks in light of the best and most recent important work. Humanities research takes place in archives, at specific sites, in the presence of original works of art, and in the solitary realm of the library.