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College of Arts and Sciences


The humanities embrace the complexity of a rapidly changing world and inspire us to seek to understand it. The humanities ask difficult questions. They call our attention to our past and to the experience of people, cultures, and ways of thinking that are different from our own. They invite us to imagine, create and perform. They give us tools for analysis and interpretation, and the power to express what we see and feel. The humanities offer us pathways to deeper understanding and, with it, the possibility of richer, more meaningful and productive lives.

The humanities at Cornell live at the heart of the liberal arts mission of the College of Arts & Sciences and are central to the university’s research and educational aspirations.

What Makes us Human

Season Five: What Do We Know About Inequality?

The latest thinking from across the disciplines about inequality.

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This Week

 Cars in a traffic jam

Unequal Happiness

Thomas Gilovich, Irene Blecker Rosenfeld Chair of Psychology, examines the impact of inequality on psychological well-being.

Unequal Happiness

Season Five

Season Four: What Does Water Mean for Us Humans?

The latest thinking from across the disciplines about the relationship between humans and water.

Season Three: What Do We Know About Love?

The latest thinking from across the disciplines about the relationship between humans and love.

Season Two: Where Is the Human in Climate Change?

The latest thinking from across the disciplines about the relationship between humans and the environment.

Season One: What Makes us Human?

The newest conclusions from across Cornell University about what it means to be human in the twenty-first century.

Transformative Humanities

The Transformative Humanities project asks Cornell faculty to talk about their own life-changing encounters with great works in the arts and humanities and how these works have transformed their scholarship and their lives. Here are their contributions.

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Big Ideas in the Humanities

The Big Ideas project brings together scholars from various disciplines to discuss emerging themes in the humanities. In the spring of 2016, during the New Century for Humanities celebrations leading up to the Klarman Hall Dedication, the College organized a series of panel discussions to address some of these common themes. The following features expand on these discussions to show how faculty from across the college are exploring these subjects.

New Century for the Humanities

In the spring of 2016, the College of Arts & Sciences partnered with arts & humanities faculty and students to sponsor a series of events celebrating a "New Century for the Humanities" leading up to the dedication of Klarman Hall, the first humanities building to open on central campus in more than 100 years.

"Indecent," by Paula Vogel
Eumelio, 1606 Opera
Klarman Hall Dedication
The Department of English, Creative Writing Program Presents

Those events included two major series of talks: Transformative Humanities Friday lunches, where faculty shared essays about the creative works that have changed their lives and the Big Ideas in the Humanities panels, which enabled faculty from diverse disciplines to gather to talk about important topics facing the world today. The celebration also included the North American premiere of "Eumelio," a rarely-staged 1606 baroque opera; a visit from Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright, Paula Vogel Ph.D. '16, and a staged reading of her new play; a series of events from the English Department and Creative Writing Program; and campus-wide small-group discussions of Ta-Nehisi Coates' book "Between the World and Me."

As part of the New Century for the Humanities celebrations, we also recognized the 50th anniversary of the Society for the Humanities, the 50th anniversary of the Medieval Studies Program and the 70th anniversary of the Department of Asian Studies.

“Klarman Hall is a promise from the College, the University — and our alumni — that the arts and humanities will remain a central part of a Cornell education and that Cornell will continue to play a major role in humanities education and research throughout the world.”

- Gretchen Ritter, The Harold Tanner Dean of Arts & Sciences