Arts and letters

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Arts and letters is a traditional term for the fine arts and literature considered together. The category defined as "arts and letters" may also include the performing arts, visual arts, or liberal arts.


By the late 19th century the term was used to name a few arts-related institutions in the United States. A subscription-based Theatre of Arts and Letters opened in New York in 1892, but closed within a year.[1][2] The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1904.

The term has also figured in higher education. For example, by 1889 students at Swarthmore College were sorted into two categories of study: "Arts and Letters" or "Science and Engineering."[3] Since 2010, course requirements at the University of Pennsylvania College of Arts and Sciences have included a "sector" (category) called "Arts and Letters." The college defines the sector as including "visual arts, literature and music, together with the criticism surrounding them."[4]


  1. ^ Atherton, Gertrude (March 1893). "The Theatre of Arts and Letters". The Californian. 5 (4): 580–585. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Hatlen, Theodore (May 1963). "The Independent Theatre Movement in New York, 1890-1900". Educational Theatre Journal. 15 (2): 136–142. JSTOR 3204417. 
  3. ^ Twenty-first Annual Catalogue of Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pa., 1889-90. Philadelphia: Press of Friends' Book Association.
  4. ^ University of Pennsylvania College of Arts and Sciences, The College Curriculum, accessed 17 March 2012.

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