The College of the Humanities: Wikis


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Poster for the Bachelor of Humanities

The College of the Humanities is an academic unit within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Carleton University, designed to house the Bachelor of Humanities degree (B.Hum).



The College of the Humanities was founded in 1996 to offer a four-year Great Books program, leading to the degree of Bachelor of Humanities with Honours. In 1999, as a consequence of the closure of Carleton's departments of Classics and of Religion, a Bachelor of Arts in Classics and Religion began to be housed within the College of the Humanities. In 2007 that B.A. was divided into separate B.A. degrees, in Greek and Roman Studies and in Religion. Although the College currently houses three separate degree programs, the term 'College of the Humanities' is most often taken to refer to the unit insofar as it houses the Bachelor of Humanities (B.Hum), as the original and primary degree for which the unit was founded. This article concerns the B.Hum program.

As a College rather than a department, the College of the Humanities has an institutional status at Carleton equivalent to the School of Journalism, which offers a Bachelor of Journalism degree (B.J.), or the subsequently-founded Arthur Kroeger College of Public Affairs, which offers a Bachelor of Public Affairs and Policy Management (B.P.A.P.M.). Each of these units have higher admission requirements and degree programs which distinguish them from the norm within their faculties.

The Bachelor of Humanities is Canada's most comprehensive four-year honours degree in the Great Books. Programs in Canada which resemble it most closely include the three-year degree offered by the Liberal Arts College at Concordia University in Montreal, and the one-year Foundation Year Programme and four-year specialised programs in Early Modern Studies, Contemporary Studies, and the History of Science and Technology offered by the University of King's College in Halifax.

The foundation of the College of the Humanities came at a turning point in the history of Carleton University. In the mid 1990s Carleton began a program of faculty renewal and expansion, marking its emergence as a rising and dynamic research university. Since that time it has taken greater advantage of its location in Canada’s capital, adding to its academic programs the stimulation of being near the centre of debate in Canada about the great public affairs of the day. This renewal of Carleton came at a time when Ottawa itself began a period of expansion, coming into its own as one of Canada’s most cosmopolitan and sophisticated cities.


The College of the Humanities is located on the third floor of Paterson Hall, with faculty offices on floor 2A. The College precinct consists of a complex of architect-designed rooms: a Main Office, Lecture Hall, Seminar Room, and a Common Room for the use of students and faculty. These provide a special atmosphere for learning and social life within the larger environment of Carleton University. This attractive space is used only by B.Hum students, and has played a large part in the creation of the community of learning which was part of the founding vision of the College. The Common Room provides a natural place for students to socialise or to work. The Lecture Hall provides a space for the College's public lectures and annual Greek Tragedy readings, and with its grand piano and audio-visual equipment, gives students a place for their informal music or movie nights.

A separate lounge for students in the B.A.s in Greek and Roman Studies and in Religion is on floor 2A.

B.Hum Curriculum

The centrepiece of the B.Hum curriculum is a four-year sequence of Core Seminars in the Great Books. Radiating out from these is a carefully integrated set of relevant courses in a variety of humanities disciplines including History, Philosophy, Literature, Religion, Classics, the History of Art and of Music, and in humanities-related aspects of the social sciences such as the History of Political Philosophy. The capstone of the Humanities curriculum is a set of interdisciplinary upper-level seminars housed in the College itself. This entire set of courses is intended to overcome the artificial separation between humanities disciplines in order to produce broadly educated human beings.

The four Core Seminars are the jewel in the crown of the Bachelor of Humanities curriculum. They were devised after consulting a number of models from other notable programs and combine the "directed discussion" method of small tutorials typical of St. John’s College with accompanying lectures on the same readings. In this way, the B. Hum. combines the virtues of comprehensive lectures with the more personal experience of small discussion groups in which students come to grips with the primary texts themselves. The intensity of this integrated sequence of Core Seminars generates a community of learning between professors and students and a feeling of genuine intellectual partnership. As well, it allows students to do work at an extremely high level, providing an excellent preparation for graduate studies and professional programs.

The Core Seminars are taught by outstanding junior and senior faculty from a number of disciplines. The sequence is both chronological and thematic. Year One treats the theme of Myth and Symbol in major Western and non-Western religious traditions from ancient Israel, India, and China. Whereas many Great Books programs begin with Greek reason, the College considers it a special virtue of the program that it begins with the religious experiences that pre-date the rise of philosophic reason and continue to provide a stimulating foil to the claims of reason throughout history down to the present. Year Two, Reason and Revelation, guides students through the seminal emergence of the Greek and Roman classics including Plato and Aristotle and their fertile encounter and inter-action with the rise of Christendom up to Dante in the High Middle Ages. In Year Three, having examined philosophy and faith up until the verge of the modern era, the program shifts to the aesthetic dimension of human experience as evoked by great artistic works of the Renaissance and Enlightenment including Shakespeare, Milton and Wordsworth and their relation to the new emphasis on the autonomy of the individual characteristic of Descartes and Rousseau. Finally, in Year Four, rounding out the sequence, students explore the character of modernity and its relationship to historical consciousness, centering on the classic texts of German Idealism including Hegel, Nietzsche and Heidegger and the real-world ramifications of the critique of modernity emerging from contemporary voices including Arendt, Foucault and Said.

The College has a Reading List of representative works read in the B.Hum.

The initial design of the B.Hum curriculum owed much to the ideas of the political philosopher Eric Voegelin. As the full complement of Core-Seminar Faculty was hired, its collective understanding of the philosophy behind the curriculum became more eclectic. This has proved to be a great strength of the College's approach to Western Culture. Because its Core-Seminar faculty come from a great variety of backgrounds and disciplines, and teach their own specialisations to a greater degree than in other great books programs, they have have been able to present the curriculum to students from a variety of interpretive approaches. No single dogmatic interpretation of our culture is dominant. The college curriculum is neither a conservative reaction against modernity, seeking to reinstate Platonism or Thomism, nor is it a Hegelian or Heideggerian account of progress or decline. Instead, each period and thinker is presented in his or her own terms, insofar as this is possible.

The B.Hum may be taken as an honours or a combined honours degree. The straight honours degree allows students to gain a good grounding in all of the major humanities disciplines. The combined honours degree allows students to study one of the established disciplines in the humanities and social sciences in greater depth, giving them the mainstream credentials they may need for entering graduate and professional programs. A Humanities and Biology degree was established in 2006, for students planning to apply to medical school after their B.Hum., and a Study Year Abroad degree was added in 2008, in recognition of the high percentage of College students who spend some of their degree overseas. The interdisciplinary idea behind the college has its logical fulfillment in this co-operation with the particular disciplines. College students bring their broad Humanities background to the study of more specialised disciplines, and so are able to benefit greatly from the excellence of Carleton's leading academic departments.

Canadians growing up at the beginning of the twenty-first century stand at a particular place in the history of the West. We live in a time when the traditional theoretical basis for our culture has been subjected to radical criticism and plays an ever smaller part in public discourse. As educated Canadians, graduates of the Bachelor of Humanities should be able to think through the culture to which they belong, so that they are slaves neither to the latest public trend nor to an earlier age. They should be able to judge both our intellectual heritage and its critics of the last century, seeing both its inner necessity and goodness as well as its shortcomings. The ultimate aim of the curriculum is to produce graduates that are able to understand the world and make free and well-informed judgements.

The College's focus on the canon has from the beginning been intended to contribute to the formation of civic character. This does not mean the politicization of education, but rather its contrary, allowing students to free themselves from the dogmatisms of both the left and the right. Its idea is that a fully integrated personality should, through liberal studies, arrive at an apprenticeship in the art of questioning, one of whose fullest expressions is in assuming one's role in civic life, and trying to contribute to a thoughtful and non-rancorous public dialogue. It is the greatest source of satisfaction for the College faculty to see the B.Hum graduates fulfilling this intention in their lives after graduation.

Study Abroad

A very large number of students in the B.Hum go on an International Exchange while in the program. Anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five students per year are studying abroad, usually in Europe. B.Hum students take advantage of Carleton's normal exchange programs, but also have available only to them a special program in which they can study philosophy in their third year at the Institute of Philosophy, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, in Belgium.

In 2008 the College instituted a new degree program, the Bachelor of Humanities with a Study Year Abroad, intended specifically for students who spend their third year on exchange.


The Bachelor of Humanities program has admissions standards on a par with the most prestigious universities in Canada and the United States. Students must have an 80% grade point average, or show exceptional work in an entrance porftolio in order to be admitted. In order to continue in the B.Hum, students must maintain a minimum of a B- (70%) grade point average.

B.Hum students regularly receive a disproportionate share of high graduation honors, with an astonishing 30% of graduates receiving Senate medals for outstanding academic achievement. Graduates have gone on to a dazzling array of placements in first-rate Masters and Ph.D. programs and professional schools, and many have excelled in careers in law, teaching, international relations and international development, journalism, government service, the financial sector and the performing arts.

The B.Hum students regularly form a very cohesive group. The small size of the program allows most students to know most other students. They not only study together - they live together and socialise together. This closeness continues after graduation, with groups of alumni remaining friends long after completion of the program, and dropping in to the College to visit with former professors. The first entering class is regularly referred to as the "Pioneer class," in order to mark the adventurous spirit of those students who entered the program when it was absolutely new.

Two Facebook groups for the Bachelor of Humanities currently exist. The official Page for the program is The College of the Humanities. The offical student and alumni Group is HUMS Students and Alumni.




Peter Emberley, 1995 - 1999

Stephen Wilson, 1999 - 2005

Farhang Rajaee, 2005 - present

Core-Seminar Faculty

Geoff Kellow, 2007 - present

W.R. Laird, 1997 - present

D. Gregory MacIsaac, 1998 - present

W.R. Newell, 1996 - present

Farhang Rajaee, 1999 - present

Noel Salmond, 1996 - present

Vasanthi Srinivasan 1997 - 2001

Kim Stratton, 2001 - present

Micheline White, 1998 - present

See also

External links


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