Study of Reason and Imagination

The Division of Humanities engages the ideas, texts, images, and language cultures that have shaped human experience across time and place.

Fostering new approaches to knowledge, and honing students’ abilities to think critically and communicate effectively, our rich course offerings and diverse research initiatives aim to deepen our understanding of the past, enlarge our perceptions of the present, and suggest sustainable paths through the future. As a research university with enduring concerns for ethical participation in a complex world, Brandeis honors the humanities as essential to its core commitments. 

Why the Humanities Matter

Professor Jennifer Marušić teaches a classThe study of reason and imagination, which takes place in the humanities, involves grappling — through reading, discussion and frequent writing — with important texts and ideas throughout history and across cultures. The study of other languages enables close encounters with surprising new ways of thinking about and comprehending the world. Such inquiries deepen our understanding of the past, enlarge our perceptions of the present and suggest a range of sustainable paths through the unknown future.

The habits of thought cultivated by our rich programs promote openness, flexibility, observational skills, alertness to moral complexity and the sharpening of our precious human faculties of reason and imagination, so necessary in our ever-more complex world.

The humanities are especially vital in an interconnected, restless world. They foster a genuine and deep understanding of individual and social justice, an authentic appreciation and admiration for difference, and a thrilling and life-enhancing recognition of beauty in its many forms. The study of the humanities inevitably deepens and fundamentally alters our often-narrow concepts of globalism. As the humanities range over cultures and genres, from ancient texts through modern films and popular cultures, they expand the boundaries of our minds. Students have numerous opportunities to hone their powers of reasoning, imagination and discernment.

Humanistic inquiry allows each of us to enter into the ongoing conversation of humankind about things that matter. These conversations and the works of literature and philosophy constitute the essence of what it means to be a human being.

Teaching in the Humanities

Professor Emilie Diouf teaches a classIn the Division of Humanities, you’ll find a Brandeisian stamp everywhere: in creative writing courses that stir your imagination, philosophy courses that expand your powers of reasoning, literature and film courses that hone your interpretive skills, and classes in over a dozen languages from Arabic to Japanese and Russian to Yiddish.

You’ll also find the flexibility to learn outside the box: to shape your own major, cross disciplines, connect with your deepest interests while discovering new ones. Whether you want to translate Greek manuscripts or analyze Hollywood films, you’ll find courses that excite and inspire and faculty who will guide you through projects of your own design.