Seek the challenge

What does it mean to study the humanities at a large public research university like UW-Madison? Rich interdisciplinary work. A tradition of rigorous debate. Unparalleled language programs. A focus on the Midwest's unique role — past, present and future — in our society. Opportunities to study under leading scholars and contribute to a global body of knowledge. And so much more. 

The humanities are essential to our future. They make an enormous difference in our lives, and we need them now more than ever. 

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Arts & Humanities News

Featured in the Arts & Humanities

A literary storm is brewing across Wisconsin

The Great World Texts program has nearly 2,000 high school students across the state reading Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and will bring many of them together for a celebration of literature on April 3.

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In The Cap Times: Epic recruiters come to UW looking for engineers and English majors alike

Recruiting is a major undertaking at Epic. The company has been hiring nearly 1,000 workers per year over the past seven years to grow a workforce of more than 9,000 employees. The company's recruiters go to college campuses across the country, from major Midwestern research institutions like the UW to small private campuses on the coasts.

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L&S faculty members receive nine of twelve Distinguished Teaching Awards

Twelve faculty members have been chosen to receive this year’s Distinguished Teaching Awards, an honor given out since 1953 to recognize the university’s finest educators. Nine of those faculty members teach in the College of Letters & Science. 

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Arts & Humanities Departments & Programs

African Cultural Studies, Department of

The mission of the Department of African Cultural Studies is to provide research and teaching in the languages and expressive cultures of Africa and Africans around the world. 

Department Chair: Tejumola Olaniyan

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Art History, Department of

The mission of the Department of Art History is to promote scholarly inquiry into the history of art in all its different media in a wide range of historical periods and world cultures.

Department Chair: Gene Phillips

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Asian Languages & Cultures, Department of

The Department of Asian Languages and Cultures includes instruction in Chinese, Japanese and Korean, as well as courses on literature, linguistics, culture, religion, and thought in East Asia.

Department Chair: Junko Mori

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Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Department of

The Department of Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies offers undergraduate majors in classical humanities, classics (Greek and Latin), and Latin, along with a certificate in classical studies. The department also cooperates with the School of Education to offer a teacher certification program in Latin. 

Department Chair: Jeff Beneker

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Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies, Department of

The Department of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies approaches literature and culture from an international and comparative perspective. Students explore novels, folk culture, oral storytelling, visual and material culture, film, poetry, social media, religion, law, environmental humanities, psychology and philosophy that connect cultural contexts and time periods, and learn to think within and across boundaries of language, nation, geography, ethnicity, race, gender, religion, and social class.

Department Chair: Tom DuBois

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Creative Writing Program

The Creative Writing Program provides a full range of opportunities for undergraduates, graduate students, and, through the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing's fellowships, post-graduates to study, practice, and receive recognition in the genres of poetry and fiction. While the program's primary emphasis is on those genres, it additionally offers classes in creative nonfiction and playwriting. The program also sponsors readings throughout the academic year that are free and open to the public.

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English, Department of

The Department of English includes a wide array of disciplines in contemporary English studies: literary studies, composition and rhetoric, creative writing, English linguistics and English as a second language. The department offers a strong undergraduate major in literature, with complementary tracks in creative writing and linguistics.

Department Chair: Russ Castronovo

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English as a Second Language, Program in

The Intensive English Program provides quality instruction to adults who wish to improve their proficiency in English. English as a Second Language offers full-time 15-week programs in the fall and spring semesters and an 8-week program in the summer.

Director: Sandy Arfa

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French and Italian, Department of

The Department of French and Italian is recognized as a leader in literary and critical scholarship, and for a tradition of excellence in teaching and pedagogical research and training. The department is proud of its reputation for interdisciplinary innovation in curriculum and technology. 

Department Chair: Gilles Bousquet

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Gender and Women's Studies, Department of

The mission of the Department of Gender and Women's Studies is to expand the understanding and appreciation of women's lives and experiences both historically and in contemporary societies. The department defines education and learning in the broadest sense, including coursework, research, and a wide range of educational programs on and off campus.

Department Chair: Judy Houck

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German, Nordic, and Slavic, Department of

Department Chair: Manon van de Water

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History of Science, Department of

The Department of History of Science studies the historical aspects of science, medicine, and technology receive attention - from their internal development to their broader social contexts, including their relationships with institutions, philosophy, religion, and literature.

Department Chair: Florence Hsia

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History, Department of

The Department of History serves over 750 undergraduate majors and countless additional students drawn to history to meet other requirements of the College. As a member of the Graduate School, the History Department has a vibrant community of over 200 graduate students.

Department Chair: Laird Boswell

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Honors Program

The L&S Honors Program serves over 1,300 students in the College of Letters and Science with an enriched undergraduate curriculum. Students in the program pursue the Honors in the Liberal Arts, Honors in the Major or Comprehensive Honors Degrees. The program began in response to a 1958 petition by students seeking more challenging work and opportunities to "delve more deeply" into their fields of interest.

Director: Sabine Gross

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Integrated Liberal Studies Program (ILS)

The Integrated Liberal Studies (ILS) Program offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the basic subjects in the liberal arts curriculum. Its faculty members are drawn from many programs and departments at the UW-Madison. This diversity enables the ILS Program to offer the different subject areas needed to satisfy the breadth requirement and for a sound liberal education.

Director: Richard Avramenko

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Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies Program (ITS)

Formerly the M.A./Ph.D. in Theatre and Drama, the Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies Program at UW-Madison prepares M.A. and Ph.D. students to pursue innovative, interdisciplinary research in theatre studies, and to relate their scholarly research to production and/or teaching.

Program Chair: Mary Trotter

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Linguistics, Department of

Scholars in the Department of Linguistics specialize in phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and American Indian languages. Applied linguistic studies such as the theory and practice of language teaching or the history and structure of a particular language are handled in other departments, or may be assembled as a program of individual study. 

Department Chair: Eric Raimy

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Medieval Studies Program

The Medieval Studies Program offers an interdisciplinary environment for the pursuit of knowledge relating to the Middle Ages, a period spanning Late Antiquity to roughly 1500. Representing faculty from over 18 departments, the Program offers courses and certificate programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. 

Director: Tom Dale

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Mead Witter School of Music

The Mead Witter School of Music is proud of an outstanding international roster of faculty artists and scholars devoted to the School's fundamental mission of fostering and promoting the global cultural art of music. The school's 60-member faculty maintains a unique focus on individual student achievement, utilizing the vast resources of the world-famous Madison campus.

Director: Susan Cook

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Philosophy, Department of

The Department of Philosophy carries on a long and proud tradition of highly acclaimed teaching and research in core areas of philosophy — especially in the philosophy of science and ethics, but also in metaphysics, epistemology, and the history of philosophy.

Department Chair: Alan Sidelle

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Religious Studies Program

Religious studies is an academic discipline that looks at religious phenomena worldwide from a variety of angles in order to achieve an understanding of the many roles that religion plays in human life. Students of religion use different methods for different goals. These include historical methods to understand how religions change in time; critical literary methods to understand religious ideas; aesthetic methods to understand religious art; social-scientific methods to understand the relationship between religion and society and culture.  

Director: Jordan Rosenblum

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Second Language Acquisition, Doctoral Program in

Second Language Acquisition (SLA) is the scholarly field of inquiry that investigates the human capacity to learn languages other than the first, during late childhood, adolescence, or adulthood, and once the first language or languages have been acquired. SLA studies a wide variety of complex influences and phenomena that contribute to the puzzling range of possible outcomes when learning an additional language in a variety of contexts.

Director: Junko Mori

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Spanish and Portuguese, Department of

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese is dedicated to the study and teaching of the languages, literatures and cultures of the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking worlds. It is one the largest departments of Spanish and Portuguese in the United States, and offers a full range of undergraduate and graduate courses and areas of specialization in literature, culture, and linguistics.

Department Chair: Luis Madureira

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Arts & Humanities Centers and Institutes

Abrahamic Religions, Lubar Institute for the Study of the (LISAR)

The Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions (LISAR) opened in July, 2005, testimony to the vision and benefactions of Sheldon and Marianne Lubar of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Concerned about rising religious tensions worldwide and believing Jews, Christians and Muslims to be capable of prolonged and honest inquiry into both their common heritages and varying perspectives, they imagined a center that would advance mutual comprehension by mingling scholars with the general public, clergy with laity, and members of different faith communities with citizens of Wisconsin, the United States, and the world. 

Director: Charles Cohen

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American Constitution, Center for the Study of the

The Center for the Study of the American Constitution (CSAC) is a non-profit, non-partisan center dedicated to serving scholars, educators, and students who are interested in the American Constitution in its historical context. 

Director and Co-editor: John P. Kaminski

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Chazen Museum of Art

The Chazen Museum of Art is home to more than 21,000 objects in its permanent collection including noteworthy collections of contemporary sculpture, Japanese prints, and works by Wisconsin artists. The Chazen's permanent collection is searchable on the museum's website. The museum also mounts temporary exhibitions. 

Director: Russell Panczenko

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Creative Writing, Wisconsin Institute for

Since 1986, the University of Wisconsin's Institute for Creative Writing has provided time, space, and an intellectual community for writers working on a first book of poetry or fiction. Since 2012, we have also considered applicants who have published only one full-length collection of creative writing prior to the application deadline, although unpublished authors remain eligible, and quality of writing remains the nearly exclusive criterion for selection. Altogether, our poetry and fiction fellows have published more than a hundred full-length collections and novels, many of them winning major national honors.

Coordinator: Sean Bishop

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Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE)

The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) is a multi-volume reference work that documents words, phrases, and pronunciations that vary from one place to another across the United States.  The entries in DARE include regional pronunciations, variant forms, some etymologies, and regional and social distributions of the words and phrases. 

Chief Editor: Joan Hall

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Early Modern Studies, Center for

The Center for Early Modern Studies aims to encourage innovative research and foster lively dialogue and debate across a wide range of disciplines with a special focus on the early modern period (15th-18th centuries).

Director: Sabine Moedersheim

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Film and Theater Research, Wisconsin Center for

Researchers at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research may study more than a century of cinema, radio, television, and theater through moving images, visual materials and manuscripts. Collections donated by some of Hollywood's most renowned directors, producers, screenwriters and actors, often augmented by viewing copies of their most significant works, provide complementary documentation for both the art and business of Hollywood's Golden Age, as well as more modern independent and experimental filmmaking. 

Director: Vance Kepley

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Gender and Women, Center for Research on

The Center for Research on Gender and Women was established in 1977 and serves as a unit of the Department of Gender and Women Studies to promote greater knowledge and understanding about gender and women’s studies both in the US and globally. It promotes scholarly interactions among gender studies researchers on campus, as well as linkages with women’s studies scholars nationally and internationally. 

Director: Janet Hyde

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George L. Mosse/Laurence A. Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies

Founded in 1991, the Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies brings together a variety of disciplines to study and interpret Jewish and ancient Israelite history, religion, politics, society, and culture. Drawn from over a dozen different departments, our faculty have achieved national and international prominence for teaching and scholarship.

Director: Simone Schweber

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Harvey Goldberg Center for the Study of Contemporary History

Humanities, Center for the

The Center for the Humanities is a hub of creative inquiry and cultural life, drawing renowned scholars from across campus and around the globe to present cutting-edge research and engage new ideas. Through seminars, workshops, and conferences, the Center fosters collaboration beyond disciplinary lines and promotes intellectual exploration outside the classroom.

Director: Sara Guyer

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Humanities, Institute for Research in the (IRH)

Founded in 1959, the Institute for Research in the Humanities (IRH) sponsors some 40 external and internal fellowships. The institute encourages innovative research and interdisciplinary exchange asking large questions of history, culture, literature, ideas, language, and the arts.

Director: Susan Friedman

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Interdisciplinary French Studies, Center for

The Center for Interdisciplinary French Studies is committed to the connection of francophonie in all domains of study at UW-Madison and abroad.

Co-Directors: Gilles Bousquet and Aliko Songolo

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Max Kade Institute for German American Studies

The Max Kade Institute for German American Studies is an interdisciplinary unit dedicated to researching the story of German-speaking immigrants and their descendants in a global and multicultural context; preserving American print culture and personal documents in the German language; and sharing the Institute’s resources through teaching, publications, community outreach, and public programming.  

Co-Directors:  Cora Lee Kluge & Mark Louden

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Language Institute

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is an international leader in foreign language education and research, with the capacity to offer instruction in over 80 modern and ancient languages. Drawing on the wealth of this expertise, the Language Institute promotes collaboration for research, education and outreach in languages, literatures and cultures.

Director: Rob Howell

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Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture

The Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture is dedicated to studying and preserving Yiddish music and culture, teaching it to new generations, and supporting scholarship that explores it as an important facet of Jewish and American life.

Director: Henry Sapoznik

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Music Technology, Wisconsin Center for

Pushkin Studies, Wisconsin Center for

The Wisconsin Center for Pushkin Studies is a unique resource for scholars dedicated to research and publication on the work of Alexander Pushkin.

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Upper Midwestern Cultures, Center for the Study of

The Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures is committed to the languages and cultural traditions of this region's diverse peoples. The Center fosters research and the preservation of archival collections, while producing educational and outreach programs for a broad public audience. It also assists community groups, classrooms, and scholars with projects involving Upper Midwestern Cultures.

Director: Joe Salmons

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Visual Cultures, Center for

The Center for Visual Cultures develops and sustains vital connections and collaborations between the study and practice of the visual with bridges across the arts, humanities, social sciences, and sciences.  As a leader in the field since 2002, we support cutting edge creative production and interdisciplinary research, programming, and community outreach activities in the new and developing field of visual cultures studies.

Director: Theresa Kelley

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Writing Center

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center helps undergraduate and graduate students in all disciplines become more effective, more confident writers. The Center's methods - multi-faceted, flexible, and collaborative - reflect respect for the individual writer, whose talents, voice, and goals are central to its endeavors.

Director: Bradley Hughes

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Department spotlight

Diversity is a daily practice in English classrooms, not simply a topic that we address for one or two sessions before moving on to other material.

In September, Castronovo sent a memo from the English department to Chancellor Blank, outlining the department's reflections on diversity. Read the memo and the chancellor's response.