For the lively intellect that enjoys the challenge of connecting ideas, the comparative humanities offer myriad possibilities. Here are 12 examples of the kinds of issues our faculty and students typically explore.


  • What different things can we learn from a literary text, a historical document, a painting and the design of a building? How could we think about these different forms comparatively?
  • What happens when we translate a text into another language, and how do we think about what is "lost"?
  • Why does the West need the concept of the "modern" in order to understand its past when South Asian and East Asian cultures don't?
  • What do we really mean by the terms "Renaissance," "Reformation," "Scientific Revolution" and "Enlightenment"?
  • How did early Christians process the meaning of pagan philosophy and literature for their new faith?
  • How do neuroscientific and philosophical-cultural understandings of concepts like consciousness, free will and gender roles complement or oppose each other? What could they learn from each other?
  • What heroic qualities are shared by Gilgamesh of the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, Achilles of The Iliad and Rama of the Indian epic The Ramayana? What features distinguish these various 'heroes'?
  • What can we learn about a culture or a historical issue by exploring its archaeological and geographical remains?
  • How do we responsibly compare artifacts from different cultures or historical periods? What are the risks and rewards?
  • What has been the impact of Buddhism on postwar US culture, especially via the major writers of the Beat Generation -- Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder? Where do we see the influence of Buddhism in pop culture today?
  • Why does "place" matter?
  • How have societies through the ages deployed human sexuality?
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