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      The humanities serve as a mirror to societies. An engagement with the world through various modes and methods of humanities enquiry enlivens its enquirer—the citizen, the subject, the student—to her social, historical, and cultural locations and trajectories. In its best practice, the humanities enable imaginations of a better world while enriching continuing struggles for peace, justice and equality. Therefore, a society that invests seriously in the pursuit of the humanities, especially among its young adults, also invests in nurturing the long-term health of its social body, its ability to deal with and heal from immediate shocks and historical injustices, on both individual and collective levels. Anchored in the educational needs and challenges facing 21st century India, the Humanities Major undergraduate program in the School of Liberal Studies at APU, sees itself as an active contributor to this vision and process. With simultaneous concentration on three key disciplinary domains of humanities scholarship—the historical, the literary, and the philosophical—the program seeks to capacitate its students to think and act critically, with historical and aesthetic awareness, through a sustained engagement with a range of texts, contexts, theories, and methods, mediated through an innovative curriculum and by an accomplished faculty.

Prof. Usha Rajaram
"India, with its population and stunning diversities in every dimension, presents a particular challenge to its own citizens and to the world as a whole. We are committed to the education of young citizens capable of being active part of the journey of discovery and action that such citizenship demands. We see our Humanities curriculum to be a key dimension of such an education."

      Students enrolled in the program are required to complete a total of twelve core courses in the Humanities Major—four each in History, Literature and Philosophy. They are further required to choose a Minor field of study from amongst those on offer, or distribute the five courses (fifteen credits) allotted to the Minor among different disciplines and specializations on offer. Graduating from the program requires the successful completion of 84 credits spread across Major, Minor, and Common Curriculum courses.

      Interested students, upon fulfilling the selection criteria at the end of the third semester of coursework, will also have the option of pursuing an Honours pathway to graduation. This option offers students the opportunity to deepen their scholarly interest and academic training in either History, or Literature, or Philosophy through added, advanced-level coursework and a supervised thesis project, together worth 12 additional credits.

Core Courses

  • History
    1. History and the Idea of India:
    2. This course aims to enable students to: (i) be aware of the historical evolution of History as a discipline (ii) be able to summarize the broad contours of modes of relating to the ‘past’ in India and the career of History therein (iii) discriminate, with arguments, strengths and weaknesses in historical analyses and narratives (iv) develop a critical historical curiosity and thinking that operates on, but also over and above, subsequent curricular requirements in the History track.

    3. Empires, Imperialisms and Colonialisms:
    4. The objective of thIS course is to introduce students to the large scale historical processes which culminated in the formation of colonies in various part of the world and a comparative analysis of different forms colonial practices from 17 th to mid 20 th century. The purpose here is to have a descriptive account of the emerging networks of power both at ‘centres’ and ‘peripheries’ while simultaneously exploring the debates on industrial revolution, scientific revolution, expansion of capitalism and colonial state- formation.

    5. Intellectual and Cultural Aspects of Modernity:
    6. This course seeks out the processes of knowledge production and power that fashion modernity in the non-Western world and India in particular. It attempts to engender an understanding of modernity as being the product of 'cross-cultural encounter' between colonisers, elite liberal representatives, various indigeneous groups and subaltern communities. Students are expected to develop critical faculties of comparing historical phenomena and understanding how ideas circulate across time and place. Though its canvas encompasses the non-Western world, the course is mostly framed to address questions of modernity in colonial India.

    7. Colonial India:
    8. The emphasis of this course will be the political, economic and cultural transformation in British colonial India. The course is a logical continuation of the earlier courses in the sense that it allows students to dwell on the deeper aspects of social transformation in the region over three centuries. However, in contrast with the previous history course termed ‘Intellectual and Cultural Aspects of Modernity’, this course is intended to get students to reflect more on material processes of colony-building. The course is then a foray into the colonial state’s interventions in domains of agriculture, industry, administration, law, religion, science, scientific advancement and society.

  • Literature
    1. Introduction to Literature:
    2. This course, An Introduction to Literature, is the first of a set of four mandatory courses in Language and Literature which is part of the Humanities curriculum. The main aim of the course is to convey the excitement of doing literature (by explicating its functions clearly) and by suggesting that literary analysis does not ‘dissect’ a text but provides a deeper understanding of the relationship between reader, text and their respective contexts. The emphasis will be on enabling students to be self-directed learners by developing skills of literary analysis. Students will learn to recognize that literary forms emerge in context and meanings emerge from readers grounded in a place and time. Students will take the first steps towards an analysis of texts that is informed by a familiarity with literary concepts which will enable them to do a close reading that produces an argument and is supported by evidence from the text.

      The students will engage with genres like fiction drama,short story and poetry, and learn about the significance of genre for understanding literature. Students will read literary texts drawn from different periods and world regions to produce interpretations that are informed by an awareness of form and genre.

    3. Literature of the Modern:
    4. This course focuses on literary and cultural movements that took place roughly in the first five decades of the 20 th century and are widely recognized to have constituted “modernism.” Whereas the framework for the introductory course is genre, in this course, coevality—the existence of texts and authors in a particular time, living through developments that affected everyone, albeit in very different ways—will provide the framework for the study of literary and cultural genres, movements and debates. While recognizing that modernism as a literary and cultural phenomenon has truly global manifestations, for reasons of focus, this course limits itself to Europe and North America, making only occasional references to texts from other parts of the world. However, the course invites students to make connections between modernisms as they manifested themselves different regions, languages and forms.

    5. Practices of Literature:
    6. Practices of Literature focuses on practices or methods of study in Literature in the present, while providing a brief overview of major critical thinkers who not only shape the ways in which literary texts are studied but contest the boundaries of the discipline in the 21st Century. This course speaks to the largely contemporary content of the literature core courses thus far and thus draws only tangentially upon the ‘classical’ tradition of English Literary Criticism in Plato, Aristotle, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Mathew Arnold. Thus, while the course begins with an introduction to ‘Humanism’ as a central idea that animated the classical tradition of literary criticism, the majority of the syllabus is dedicated to an exploration of the critique and transformation of this and other ideas within literary theory in the present.

      As a course that introduces the practices of literary study, the aim here is on building specific capabilities in a student of Literature – namely, the identification of central debates in critical thought within the discipline, the ability to apply theoretical insights in the reading of both simple and complex texts and to understand and evaluate the role of Literature and the Humanities in our present context.

    7. Literature and the Popular:
    8. Building on the previous courses, Literature and the Popular will examine the merging boundaries and tensions between the canons of literature and the notions of popular culture. It will look at the ways in which the classics have been revisited, reinvented and appropriated. The relationship between literature and the popular can be thought of in considerably different ways. There has been a powerful body of critical thought that looks at the ideological dimensions of popular culture and its texts and which broadly plots the relationship between such texts and society. At the same time, more traditional approaches to literature still privilege ‘internal’ readings of texts and deflect to a looming idea of a Euro-American literary canon and the sanctity of the text. The course hopes to paint a textured and careful relationship between literary canons and popular culture. It will show the connection between these two approaches to texts: one that close-reads individual texts of ‘literary merit’ and the other which looks at the macro-historical and cultural politics of literary canonisation, production, reception, genre and form. Students can discover the ways in which the appropriations of canonised texts by popular culture facilitate a re-examination of socio-political issues like class, race, caste, gender and sexual orientation.

  • Philosophy
    1. Introduction to Philosophy:
    2. The first step on the way to addressing the deep philosophical questions that lie behind everyday life. This course will let students explore a wide range of philosophical issues, attempting to solve some of the great questions with well supported arguments, rigour and precision. What can we know, and why is knowledge even worth having? Are you the same person who started reading this paragraph? What makes murder wrong, and how did we come to know it? The course will focus on analytic philosophy, though Indian philosophy and some other traditions. The course focuses on practicing the skills of debate; students will be working with one another to find their own solutions to these puzzles.

    3. Ethics and Moral Philosophy:
    4. This course introduces the students to the ethical dimension of human experience and attempts to inculcate a critical and creative approach towards reflecting on the moral nature of human conduct. Engaging with the history of philosophical thought on ethical questions and moral dilemmas seeks to open up multiple ways of engaging with moral inquiry. This course aims to develop capabilities and skills in students to (i) enable students to conceptually analyze ethical theories and articulate responses to it; (ii) application of normative ethical theories on particular moral issues through philosophical argumentation and writing; (iii) develop a critical-creative attitude towards engaging with moral dilemmas and (iv) enabling meta-cognitive attitude for sustained reflection and refinement on the nature of action and learning moral conduct.

    5. Perspectives:
    6. Why do scientific theories change? Is it just on the basis of evidence, and if so what counts as good evidence for theory? Are social factors involved, and if so does this mean that science doesn’t deserve the authority it weilds in our society? Science seems closed to outsiders. In this course, humanities students will break in and use their abilities to address some of these key questions. The course will cover both the history of science, and some current scientific research. It consists of three parts: (i) how scientists reason; (ii) the philosophy of modern physics (e.g. quantum mechanics); (iii) the philosophy of economics (e.g. development economics).


    1. Pre-Modern India (History):
    2. This course is meant to introduce students to the primary historiographical Debates about pre-modern India. It begins in c. 8th century and goes on to the end of the Mughal Empire and the coming of the British in the 18th century. The course is thematically organized, and covers the following topics: Temples and State in Early Medieval India; the Delhi Sultanate; Mughal Period; Social and Religious Life in Pre- Modern India; Agriculture and Economy in Pre-Modern India; Theories of “Decline” of the Mughal Empire in the 18th century. The purpose of the course is to provide students pursuing a History Honors track to attain a well-rounded knowledge about the history of the Indian subcontinent.

    3. Understanding the Digital Present (Literature):
    4. This course is an introduction to the challenges and possibilities opened by the technological mediation of our lives. The present, for the limited purposes of this course, is characterised by the digitisation of textual forms and framed by theories of the human subject that foreground the growing importance of technology in our lives. In such times as these, what does it mean to study the Humanities? Indeed, what does it mean to be Human? What methods can we use to engage with texts that are digital, and for that reason, ephemeral in entirely new ways? And to examine texts in which the written word exists in conjunction with sound and image but also (hyper)linked to entire archives? Students are alerted to the manner in which the digital turn changes our understanding of texts (often the object of analysis in the Humanities), the self (subject) and the social (context) and also introduced to some methods for studying them.

    5. Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art (Philosophy):
    6. This course aims to introduce the students to study and reflect on the aesthetic dimension of human experience and a critical engagement with the works of art in the visual, performative and literary medium. It seeks to train the students in thinking philosophically about the nature of art and its relation to other human experiences. The focus of the course is on developing capabilities and skills in students to (i) cultivate appreciation of philosophical deliberation on the nature of beauty and art; (ii) develop the ability to interpret and evaluate works of art; (iii) enable students to critically engage with key thinkers and analyze aesthetic theories, and articulate responses to them and (iv) problematize the relationship between art and society, and the intersection of aesthetics with ethics and politics.

    7. Reading Political Philosophy (Philosophy):
    8. This course is intended to facilitate a detailed introduction to some of the fundamental questions that arise in the context of our political life both as individuals and as members of larger associations. These include questions about the nature of state (including its legitimacy and limits), the sources and extents of our rights and liberties, distribution of power and resources, ways of resolving disagreements about modes of living that may be deeply entrenched in our respective community’s life, among others. This course invites students to critically read texts in political philosophy, appreciate and assess arguments employed by authors of various persuasions and ideological commitments, and construct arguments of one’s own and in favor of or against formidable points of view and be able to express them clearly and with precision in writing.

      This course is structured around a critical reading of the works of John Rawls, a very influential political philosopher whose version of political liberalism has been at the center stage of several debates in the recent past. In particular, we shall focus on Rawls’s work Justice as Fairness: A Restatement. In this work, Rawls presents a lucid and elaborate summary of views and also responds to a large body of responses his earlier writings generated. Our exercise should not be taken to indicate that the intent is to endorse or defend a certain version of liberalism. On the contrary, the choice of the text is driven more by the possibilities that are made available for introducing students to doing political philosophy, apart from its importance in this area. Throughout the course, discussions would range from liberal doctrines to different responses to it, many of them drawing from equally long and complex historical traditions. These include Anarchist, Communitarian, Feminist, Libertarian, Marxist, Republican, and Utilitarian positions. Hopefully, such a treatment of wide-ranging topics in political philosophy would help achieve the objectives mentioned above.

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