Outline of the humanities

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The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the humanities:

Humanitiesacademic disciplines that study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences.

What types of thing are the humanities?[edit]

The humanities can be described as all of the following:

  • a branch of academic disciplines – an academic discipline is a field of knowledge that is taught and researched at the college or university level. Disciplines are defined (in part), and recognized by the academic journals in which research is published, and the learned societies and academic departments or faculties to which their practitioners belong.
  • study of the human condition – unique and inescapable features of being human in a social, cultural, and personal context. The study of the humanities (history, philosophy, literature, the arts, etc.) all help understand the nature of the human condition and the broader cultural and social arrangements that make up human lives.

The various humanities[edit]

  • Classics   (outline) – study of the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and all other cultural elements of the ancient Mediterranean world (Bronze Age ca. BC 3000 to Late Antiquity ca. AD 300–600); especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.
    • Digital classics – application of the tools of digital humanities to the field of classics, or more broadly to the study of the ancient world.
  • History   (outline) – study of the past.
    • Digital history – use of digital media and tools for historical practice, presentation, analysis, and research. It is a branch of the Digital Humanities and an outgrowth of Quantitative history, Cliometrics, and History and Computing.
  • Languages – study of individual languages (Italian language, Japanese language) or groups of related languages (Romance languages, Slavic languages). Not to be confused with Linguistics, the study of the structure and function of language.
  • Literature   (outline) – the art of written work, and is not confined to published sources (although, under some circumstances, unpublished sources can also be exempt).
    • Comparative literature   comparative research into literature from more than one language, working with the original language(s) in which the texts were written
  • Philosophy   (outline) – study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.[1][2] Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument.[3]
  • Religion   (outline) – a religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values.[4] Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature.
  • Visual arts (outline) – art forms that create works which are primarily visual in nature. Examples of visual arts include:
    • Architecture (outline) – The art and science of designing and erecting buildings and other physical structures.
    • Arts and crafts (outline) – recreational activities and hobbies that involve making things with one's hands and skill.
    • Drawing (outline) – visual art that makes use of any number of drawing instruments to mark a two-dimensional medium.
    • Film (outline) – moving pictures.
    • Painting (outline) – practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface with a brush or other object.
    • Art history
    • Photography (outline) – art, science, and practice of creating pictures by recording radiation on a radiation-sensitive medium, such as a photographic film, or electronic image sensors.
    • Sculpture (outline) – three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials - typically stone such as marble - or metal, glass, or wood.
  • Performing arts (outline) – those forms of art that use the artist's own body, face, and presence as a medium. Examples of performing arts include:
    • Dance (outline) – art form of movement of the body, usually rhythmic and to music,[5] used as a form of expression, social interaction, or presented in a spiritual or performance setting.
    • Drama   study of regional, global, and/or historical theatre, as well as techniques for acting, directing and choreographing plays
    • Film (outline) – moving pictures, the art form that records performances visually.
    • Installation art – the merging of multiple genres into a coherent three-dimensional, multi-sensory work.
    • Theatre (outline) – collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place.
    • Music (outline) – art form the medium of which is sound and silence.
    • Opera (outline) – art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text (called a libretto) and musical score.[6]
    • Stagecraft (outline) – technical aspects of theatrical, film, and video production. It includes, but is not limited to, constructing and rigging scenery, hanging and focusing of lighting, design and procurement of costumes, makeup, procurement of props, stage management, and recording and mixing of sound.

Humanities that are also social sciences[edit]

  • Anthropology   (outline) – study of how humans developed biologically and culturally.
  • Archaeology   research into human history by locating and studying artifacts, structural remains, and other surviving evidence
  • Area studies – interdisciplinary fields of research and scholarship pertaining to particular geographical, national/federal, or cultural regions. The term exists primarily as a general description for what are, in the practice of scholarship, many heterogeneous fields of research, encompassing both the social sciences and the humanities. Typical area studies programs involve history, political science, sociology, cultural studies, languages, geography, literature, and related disciplines. In contrast to cultural studies, area studies often include diaspora and emigration from the area studied.
  • Communication studies   (outline) – deals with processes of human communication, commonly defined as the sharing of symbols to create meaning. The discipline encompasses a range of topics, from face-to-face conversation to mass media outlets such as television broadcasting. Communication studies also examines how messages are interpreted through the political, cultural, economic, and social dimensions of their contexts.
  • Cultural studies   (outline) – interdisciplinary academic field grounded in critical theory and literary criticism that attempts to understand the political dynamics of contemporary culture, as well as its historical foundations, conflicts, and defining traits. Researchers concentrate on how a particular medium or message relates to ideology, social class, nationality, ethnicity, sexuality, and/or gender, rather than investigating a particular culture or area of the world.[7]
  • History   (outline) – study of the past.
  • Law   (outline) – set of rules and principles by which a society is governed. (For branches, see Law under Society below).
  • Linguistics   (outline) – study of natural languages.
  • Psychology   research of psychological pathology and therapeutic treatments separate from, but complementary to, psychiatric medicine
  • Sociology   study of social interaction between and among groups of people
  • Technology   (outline) – making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures.

Interdisciplinary humanities[edit]

  • Area studies – interdisciplinary approach to studying a geographic area.
  • Ecological humanities – interdisciplinary area of research, drawing on the many environmental sub-disciplines that have emerged in the humanities over the past several decades (in particular environmental philosophy, environmental history and environmental anthropology).
  • Ethno-cultural studies, such as: African-American studies, Latino studies, and other programs that take an interdisciplinary approach to ethno-cultural research
  • Gender studies   interdisciplinary investigation of gender roles in culture, economics, business, politics, medicine, fine arts, media, etc.
  • Library studies
  • Museology
  • Women's studies   interdisciplinary study of the role(s) of women and ways of defining and redefining the feminine identity

Applied humanities[edit]

General humanities methodologies[edit]

  • Digital humanities – area of research, teaching, and creation concerned with the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities. It is focused on the digitization and analysis of materials related to the traditional disciplines of the humanities.
    • Digital classics – application of the tools of digital humanities to the field of classics, or more broadly to the study of the ancient world.
    • Digital history – use of digital media and tools for historical practice, presentation, analysis, and research. It is a branch of the Digital Humanities and an outgrowth of Quantitative history, Cliometrics, and History and Computing.

Humanities by region[edit]

Politics and the humanities[edit]

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council – British Research Council and non-departmental public body that provides approximately £102 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities.
  • Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities – major international statement on open access / access to knowledge. By 24 October 2011, 324 organizations had signed the declaration.
  • Humanities Colleges – part of the Specialist Schools Programme in the United Kingdom, and a source of extra funding.
  • National Endowment for the Humanities – independent federal agency of the United States established by the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965 dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities.
  • President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities – established in Washington, DC in 1982 by an Executive Order from President Ronald Reagan and works with each Administration to incorporate the arts and the humanities into White House objectives.
  • Public humanities – work of federal, state, nonprofit and community-based cultural organizations that engage the public in conversations, facilitate and present lectures, exhibitions, performances and other programs for the general public on topics such as history, philosophy, popular culture and the arts.

History of the humanities[edit]

History of humanities fields[edit]

History of the humanities that are also social sciences[edit]

Humanities education[edit]

Some humanities departments[edit]

Humanities awards[edit]

  • National Humanities Medal – given by the National Endowment for the Humanities to honor individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.

Publications in the humanities[edit]

General humanities organizations[edit]

People influential in the humanities[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jenny Teichmann and Katherine C. Evans, Philosophy: A Beginner's Guide (Blackwell Publishing, 1999), p. 1: "Philosophy is a study of problems which are ultimate, abstract and very general. These problems are concerned with the nature of existence, knowledge, morality, reason and human purpose."
  2. ^ A.C. Grayling, Philosophy 1: A Guide through the Subject (Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 1: "The aim of philosophical inquiry is to gain insight into questions about knowledge, truth, reason, reality, meaning, mind, and value."
  3. ^ Anthony Quinton, in T. Honderich (ed.), The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 666: "Philosophy is rationally critical thinking, of a more or less systematic kind about the general nature of the world (metaphysics or theory of existence), the justification of belief (epistemology or theory of knowledge), and the conduct of life (ethics or theory of value). Each of the three elements in this list has a non-philosophical counterpart, from which it is distinguished by its explicitly rational and critical way of proceeding and by its systematic nature. Everyone has some general conception of the nature of the world in which they live and of their place in it. Metaphysics replaces the unargued assumptions embodied in such a conception with a rational and organized body of beliefs about the world as a whole. Everyone has occasion to doubt and question beliefs, their own or those of others, with more or less success and without any theory of what they are doing. Epistemology seeks by argument to make explicit the rules of correct belief formation. Everyone governs their conduct by directing it to desired or valued ends. Ethics, or moral philosophy, in its most inclusive sense, seeks to articulate, in rationally systematic form, the rules or principles involved."
  4. ^ While religion is difficult to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who simply called it a "cultural system" (Clifford Geertz, Religion as a Cultural System, 1973). A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category." (Talal Asad, The Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category, 1982.)
  5. ^ Britannica.com
  6. ^ Some definitions of opera: "dramatic performance or composition of which music is an essential part, branch of art concerned with this" (Concise Oxford English Dictionary); "any dramatic work that can be sung (or at times declaimed or spoken) in a place for performance, set to original music for singers (usually in costume) and instrumentalists" (Amanda Holden, Viking Opera Guide); "musical work for the stage with singing characters, originated in early years of 17th century" (Pears Cyclopaedia, 1983 ed.).
  7. ^ In a loosely related but separate usage, the phrase cultural studies sometimes serves as a rough synonym for area studies, as a general term referring to the academic study of particular cultures in departments and programs such as Islamic studies, Asian studies, African American studies, et al.. However, strictly speaking, cultural studies programs are not concerned with specific areas of the world so much as specific cultural practices.
  8. ^ Bod, Rens; A New History of the Humanities, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2014.

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