Arts & Humanities

Arts & Humanities

The humanities disciplines use historical, philosophical, and artistic approaches to study the human condition. Humanistic knowledge plays a crucial part in the education of the individual and the betterment of society. The humanities broaden and deepen human awareness, give training in language, art, and rhetoric, build the core competencies of citizenship, and are even more important in a world where work and play have become globally connected.

Nationally Renowned Faculty & Programs

Duke’s humanities departments represent some of the top-ranked programs in the nation. Particular areas of teaching and research strength abound in the broad areas of languages and literatures, religion and philosophy, cultural history and visual studies, using the full range of traditional and new digital modes of inquiry. In addition, research in the humanities is strongly allied with the interpretive social sciences.

Interdisciplinary Approach to the Arts

Duke is also a rich place to study, practice and perform art, creative writing, dance, media and visual arts, music and theater. Our programs are defined by the university’s culture of cross-disciplinary research and education. As a result, the whole of Duke serves as a resource for the arts, informing and deepening student and faculty exploration of artistic expression and tradition.

Please see our departments, centers and affiliated research groups below.

Departments & Programs

Art, Art History and Visual Studies

The Art, Art History & Visual Studies department is a nationlly and internationally celebrated program that emphasizes scholarship around the historical and theoretical study of art and architecture; the practice and performance of the arts; and exploring visual arts, technology and digital media as an interface for humanities, law, social science and the natural sciences. Faculty expertise spans European and North American art, African and African Diaspora art, and East Asian and Latin American art. Scholarship examines crosscutting societal themes such as folklore, photography and filmmaking, the visual culture of disaster, religious visual culture, the expression of nationalism, and caricature and popular culture. At the undergraduate level, we offer majors in art history; art history & architecture; art history & museum theory and practice; art history & visual arts; visual arts; and visual & media studies. We offer minors in art history; photography; visual arts; and visual & media studies. At the graduate level, we offer a Ph.D. in the History of Art; a master of arts in digital art history; a master of arts in computational media; and a master of fine arts (MFA) in experimental & documentary arts. We also jointly offer a Juris doctor/Master of Arts in the History of Arts degree.

Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

The Asian and Middle Eastern Studies department explores Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, and Korean culture through the lens of language and literature; social movements, nationalism and diaspora; popular culture and the media; gender, visuality and feminism; film theory, cinema and aesthetics; and the implications of religion on identity and globalization. The faculty offers language programs in Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Persian and Sanskrit. At the undergraduate level, we offer a major and a minor, with concentrations in East Asia or the Middle East. At the graduate level, we sponsor a M.A. in Critical Asian Humanities, and a joint graduate certificate in Middle East Studies.

Classical Studies

The Department of Classical Studies explores the languages (ancient Greek and Latin) and literatures, archaeology, art history, and histories of Greco-Roman antiquity, from 3000 BCE to 900 CE, from the Nile to the North Sea, from Britain to Bactria. Our students have the opportunity to work with renowned scholars, discussing big ideas in small classes. Research is broadly grouped in the areas of Archaeology and Visual Studies; History and Historiography; and Language and Literature. Our many resources include papyri and manuscripts in the Rubenstein Library, as well as the rich antiquities collection of the Nasher Museum. The Department enjoys close ties with AAHVS, History, Medieval/Renaissance Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Religious Studies, and Women’s Studies, as well as with UNC Chapel Hill, especially through the Consortium for Classical and Mediterranean Archaeology.


Faculty in the Duke Dance Program are internationally-recognized choreographers, scholars, teachers and performers committed to offering the highest caliber dance training and scholarship in an atmosphere that fosters conscious embodied practice, critical thinking, and creative risk-taking. Far-ranging exploration and expertise encompasses historical and contemporary African American and Afro-Carribean dance, music and religious practices; classical and contemporary Indian dance and dance theater; ballet and modern, post-modern and contemporary dance choreography and performance. Research also examines topics such as age and dance artistry, the role of gender in performance, performance and social change, and embodied forms of spirituality.

Duke provides high-quality dance training with a first-class liberal arts education. We are one of the top ten research universities in the nation, and also a college of choice for the dedicated dance student. Our courses are part of the regular curriculum and fulfill undergraduate degree requirements. Dance courses are also open to all students, and auditions are only required for repertory courses. The Duke Dance Program curriculum is designed to encourage the exploration of dance from interdisciplinary perspectives: historical, cultural, aesthetic, literary, technological, musical, scientific and creative. Students are able to customize their undergraduate dance curriculum by choosing one of the three study concentrations.


Ranked among the top ten English departments in the country, we work in different historical periods and national political contexts. Our faculty shows how various literatures in English make or fail to make a coherent world out of the conflicts and contradictions that characterize a genre, an author, or a moment in literary history. Our Medievalists pursue such concepts as forgiveness, reform, protest, and gender difference across the line traditionally separating the Middle Ages from the Early Modern periods. Faculty interested in the eighteenth century might consider how Jane Austen redefines notions of sympathy and happiness for a purely secular world. Refusing to let the Romantic poets live in a self-created world of imagination, other scholars examine how these writers adapted the scientific theories of that moment to rethink man’s place in the natural world. So, too, in reading Dickens or George Eliot, faculty examine how new theories of evolution and breakthroughs in physics altered the landscape in which characters live out far from exemplary lives.  Perhaps one of the strongest groups of its kind in the country, our specialists in African American literature and culture work at the intersection of the arts, law, literature, and sexuality studies. American literature at Duke is known for interdisciplinary scholarship that brings such fields as medicine, science, ethnic studies and theories of diaspora into conversation with literature. In using poetry and fiction to imagine worlds, formulate a voice, and position a virtual self within that world, our creative writers contribute a vital element to this collective endeavor. In recent years, faculty from several of these areas have joined our modernists and post-colonialists in searching the literary and cultural past for answers to a new set of questions: When did globalization begin? Which elements of contemporary culture become international, which remain local? What does it mean to be a citizen of such a world?

At the undergraduate level, students can major or minor in English, and we offer a minor in creative writing. At the graduate level, we offer a Ph.D. in English, and a joint Juris Doctor/Master of Arts in English degree.

Germanic Languages and Literature

Research in the German Languages & LIterature department spans German ethics, intellectual history, theory and philosophy; literary history and criticism, including an analysis of memoir, medieval and 18th through 20th century literature, Holocaust literature and German poetics; broad cultural studies of German realism, modernism, gender, and religion and secularization; and expression through modern German drama. Duke is also known for its innovative and highly ranked joint PhD in German Studies with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. We offer a major and minor in German, extensive language courses in German, and administer the Duke in Berlin global education program.

Health, Wellness and Physical Education

The Department of Health, Wellness and Physical Education (HWPE) provides academic opportunities to students through a wide variety and diverse collection of course offerings in both activity and lecture based theory classes.


The Literature department is unique in its makeup and a national leader in the theory, philosophy and politics of literature and media conceptualized within a global and postcolonial framework. Our research spans philosophy, literature & aesthetics; film & new media; critical race theory; feminisms, gender & sexuality; globalization & post coloniality; literature & cultural studies; Marxism & critical theory; modernism & modernity; psychoanalysis; science studies, the Americas and the U.S. Our undergraduate degree is called Global Cultural Studies. At the graduate level, we offer a Ph.D. in Literature. 


The Music department is a unique mixture of musicologists, composers, performers and ethnomusicologists, with scholarship encompassing music theory, history, ethnomusicology, composition, directing and performance. Research emphasizes the exploration of song, dance, theater and melodrama, oral tradition, music in film, and musical performance. Such work expands our understanding of specific cultures and historical periods, the role of arts in human rights expression, the politics of music production, and creativity and the music learning process. Faculty specializations include diverse genre such as Bebop and Hard Bop, Jazz music, Iberian keyboard, German opera and baroque sacred music, chamber ensemble and French musical culture, British music from liturgical to Pop culture, and post-19th century composition. We offer an undergraduate major and minor, and performance and lessons opportunities for all students. At the graduate level, we offer Ph.D. programs in composition, ethnomusicology and musicology.


Duke's Department of Philosophy has a strong faculty that is committed to excellence in both research and teaching. In a recent ranking of philosophy programs in the United States, the department was recognized for particular strength in the areas of philosophy of biology (rated as one of the two top programs in this area), philosophy of mind, political philosophy, applied ethics, philosophy of social science, 17th- and 18th-Century philosophy and Chinese philosophy. Expertise in the Department also extends to other areas of the history of philosophy such as ancient philosophy, Kant, 20th-Century analytic philosophy, and history and philosophy of science, cognitive science, moral psychology, normative ethics, philosophy of law, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophical logic. We offer an undergraduate major and minor, a Ph.D. in philosophy, and a joint Juris Doctor/Master of Arts degree.

Religious Studies

The Religious Studies department is very distinguished nationally, and explores the social organization and impact of religion in ancient and modern cultures through critical theory, literary and visual studies, and religious expression and influence on the media. Areas of expertise include early foundational documents of Judaism and Christianity (Hebrew Bible and New Testament); the religious traditions of Late Antiquity; Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism both in their historical depth and in their contemporary manifestations. Along with exploring theoretical questions surrounding religion, the multiple religious traditions of the present-day American landscape are studied in culture, law and contemporary thought. At the undergraduate level, we offer a major in Religious Studies. We also offer a Master of Arts program in Religion, and we operate, together with the Divinity School, Duke’s Graduate Program in Religion, which has ranked among the top programs in the country for the past twenty years

Romance Studies

Duke Romance Studies is a national leader for having integrated the study of literature and language. Our curriculum, from language to culture courses, explores the rich traditions of Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Italian cultures, both in their countries of origin, and in the cultures of diaspora, including Latin America, the Caribbean, Quebec, and the Chicano border. Our research thus covers, both historically and geographically, an extensive area of the planet: from Europe to Africa and South America; from the Caribbean to the Philippines; from the Mediterranean to Indochina and the Mauritius Islands.  We offer majors in Brazilian & Global Portuguese; French & Francophone Studies; Italian Studies; Romance Studies; and Spanish, Latin American, and Latino/a Studies. We offer minors in Brazilian & Global Portuguese; French Studies; Italian Studies; and Spanish Studies. And we are affiliated with the Certificate in Latin American Studies; and the Certificate in Latino/a Studies in the Global South. We also offer a Ph.D. in Romance Studies with tracks in French & Francophone Studies, Italian Studies, Romance Studies or Spanish & Latin American Studies; and a joint Juris doctor/master of arts in Romance studies. 

Slavic and Eurasian Studies

The Slavic and Eurasian Studies department offers courses in five Slavic and Eurasian languages: Polish, Romanian, Russian, Turkish and Uzbek. We offer undergraduate majors in Russian or Slavic & Eurasian Studies. We offer four minors: Polish Culture & Language; Russian Culture & Language; Russian Literature & Translation; and Turkish Culture & Language.

Theater Studies

Duke's Department of Theater Studies combines the study of the history and theory of theater, performance and dramatic literature in all its dimensions. In addition, the department is a laboratory for the development of new dramatic works and the exploration and integration of new media in theater. We offer a major and minor in theater studies, and directly sponsor several study abroad programs. Faculty research encompasses set and lighting design; directing, playwriting, TV writing, dramatic literature, acting and puppetry; performance and film studies; literary and cultural criticism, and theater history with specialization in areas such as Chinese theater, Russian theater, and British and American theater.

Performance & Practice Arts Programs

Arts of the Moving Image

The Arts of the Moving Image Certificate Program fosters a critical understanding of the history, theory and technologies of motion picture and new media arts, while giving students the opportunities, tools and resources they would need to develop a career within the media industries, pursue graduate study in the field or become a media artist. The AMI program offers lecture courses, seminars, and hands-on production courses as well as opportunities to do individual projects or internships for course credit with permission of an faculty member.

Creative Writing

Duke's English Department offers a Creative Writing Minor. Courses cover a spectrum of poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, essay, memoir, travel writing, documentary writing, theater and more. The goal is to increase compositional skill, critical and imagination thinking, aesthetic and literary expertise. Enhanced skills in writing, editing, critiquing and creative thinking provide vital tools for all students, whether or not they pursue careers in writing and the publishing industry.

Documentary Studies

The Center for Documentary Studies was the first institution in the U.S. dedicated solely to the rich legacy and continuing practice of the documentary tradition in the American experience. The CDS aims to bridge university and off-campus communities and experiences through the pursuit of the documentary arts, with an emphasis on the role of individual artistic expression in advancing broader societal goals. The Center offers a range of undergraduate and continuing education course offerings alongside numerous wide-ranging public arts endeavors. At the undergraduate level, we offer a Certificate in Documentary Studies.

MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts

The MFA in Experimental & Documentary Arts at Duke University brings together documentary approach and experimental production in analog, digital, and computational media to foster collaborations across disciplines and media as it trains sophisticated, creative art practitioners. Successful completion of the program requires the development of a complex understanding of documentary practices and traditions as well as creative skills in experimental media and new technologies.

The philosophy of the program is guided by a belief in the intersection of personal artistic work with interpretive knowledge and of the relevance of the individual documentary/experimental artist within the cultural history and life of communities. A key component to the program is the notion of creative engagement through the arts and the role of the artist in society. Graduates are expected to generate work that has impact both within and outside the academy.

Philosophy, Arts and Literature

The Center for Philosophy, Arts & Literature (PAL) encourages and promotes work that places literature, theater, painting, film, and other arts in conversation with philosophy without reducing them to mere illustrations of philosophical paradigms. It seeks to foster conversation between writers and artists and scholars and critics by organizing or co-sponsoring conferences, symposia and more informal working groups.

News & Videos


  • The Archives Alive Initiative creates courses that enable students to develop innovative and significant projects based on original materials held in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. These courses are open to first-year and upper-class students and range from the arts and humanities to the socials sciences. Scholar-teachers guide students’ explorations, providing first-hand exposure to advanced research practices and immersive learning that goes beyond traditional coursework. Students produce signature products that demonstrate their capabilities for in-depth investigation, team collaboration and communicating the significance of their work to others.

  • The Cultures & Languages Across the Curriculum (CLAC) program offers half credit courses that focus on current issues in global health, public policy and the environment. CLAC courses are taught in a foreign language and allow you to put your skills to use in a real world context. If you have finished your language requirement and want to extend your fluency, these courses will help build your conversation skills. If you are preparing for or returning from service learning abroad, they offer a great way to process your experience. CLAC will prepare you for an international career using your foreign language skills.

  • The Duke Digital Humanities Initiative promotes new ways to engage in and learn about the use of technology in humanities scholarship. Our goal is to connect scholars, teachers, librarians, technologists, and practitioners from around campus. it is supported by the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute, with additional support from Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, Duke Libraries, and other groups on campus. 

    The Initiative website will showcase completed and ongoing digital humanities Duke projects, spaces, and activities; promote workshops and events; and serve as a portal for DH support.

    Learn More:


  • The Duke Language, Arts and Media Program (LAMP) is a new undergraduate program focused on building strong, contemporary communication skills in our students. Practice in conventional scholarly writing is still essential, but today’s undergraduates must also develop skills in oral communication and be able to critically evaluate and compose in new media.  Historically important disciplines and art forms such as rhetoric and oral performance (theater, story-telling, etc.) also take on new significance in our twenty-first-century context.

    For more information, visit:

  • A project of the Franklin Humanities Institute (FHI) at Duke University, Humanities Futures is a multi-faceted exploration of the states and directions of the humanities, in light of the interdisciplinary developments of recent decades. Supported by a general grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Humanities Futures is a 3.5-year initiative running from Fall 2014 through Fall 2017.

    The centerpiece of Humanities Futures is a series of events and projects organized by Duke’s 18 humanities and interpretive social sciences departments in partnership with the FHI. In tandem with these partnerships, the “Academic Futurology” series invites Duke faculty to re-imagine the practice of departmental life through conversations on the “art of the faculty meeting,” “art of the pedagogy workshop,” etc.

    Beyond the departmental framework, the grant also supports interdisciplinary working groups on global and/or emerging areas of studies in the humanities; historically-focused faculty seminars organized around major concepts, figures, and art forms (co-sponsored by Duke’s the Center for Philosophy, Art, and Literature, or PAL); and a digital humanities collaboration between Duke and North Carolina Central University.

  • Duke has undertaken a five-year initiative, with the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, aimed at redefining the role of the humanities in undergraduate education. Through Humanities Writ Large, we are exploring ways to provide the training and skills necessary to understand cultural similarities and differences, to sift through the daily fire hose of incoming information, and to make the imaginative leaps in research, scholarship, business, and policy to address the very many complex issues arising around us in our global world. Learn more.

Centers & Institutes

Center for French and Francophone Studies

The Center for French and Francophone Studies fosters interdisciplinary French studies. Designated an official Centre Pluridisciplinaire by the Cultural Services division of the French Embassy, the center is an umbrella, a catalyst, and an organizing force designed to consolidate and intensify intellectual energies across the campus and throughout the region. The Center sponsors and co-sponsors a variety of cross-disciplinary activities, including colloquia and workshops; visits by distinguished writers, scholars, joumalists, theater troupes, and researchers; screenings of the best new French films; and virtual and actual intellectual collaborations and exchanges.

Center for Jewish Studies

The Center for Jewish Studies is an inter­departmental program focused on the exploration of Jewish language, literature, history, and culture. The program offers courses including on topics such as religion, political science, history, cultural anthropology, comparative literature, Hebrew language and literature, women's studies, Germanic languages, and more. The Center offers students the flexibility to design a curriculum that meets their individual interests.  In addition to our internationally respected faculty, Duke is home to one of the finest collections of Jewish haggadot, theological and liturgical printed works, manuscripts, papers, diaries and art.

Center for Late Ancient Studies

The Center for Late Ancient Studies seeks to promote the interdisciplinary study of the culture of the Roman Empire, its neighbors and successors, from the second to the eighth century C.E.  Duke has gained international recognition through its sponsorship of a distinguished annual lecture series, and the center acts as an intellectual focus for the graduate students and faculty from different departments with shared historical commitment. In addition to the annual lecture series, the Center is active in creating and maintaining reading and discussion groups as well as in arranging conferences. Closely collaborating with colleagues from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Center also aims at establishing substantive inter-institutional links with neighboring universities.

Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Duke University has been an important international center for interdisciplinary medieval and Renaissance studies for over fifty years. The Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies collaborates on many projects with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University in the Joint Program for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. The program itself offers an undergraduate major and minor within Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, and a certificate of graduate study within the Graduate School. Duke's libraries contain over 5,000,000 volumes, ranking among the top private university library systems in the United States. In addition to large holdings in art history, British history, English literature, musicology, medieval Church history, and Reformation and post- Reformation materials, the various campus libraries contain several distinguished special collections of medieval and early modern materials.

Duke Center for South Asian Studies

The Duke Center for South Asian Studies is dedicated to the interdisciplinary and cross-schools study of and research in that part of the world labeled South Asia.  This region covers the modern nation-states of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.  While faculty and graduate students dedicated to the humanistic and social scientific study of this region are largely located in the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, South Asian Studies faculty have appointments as well in the Duke Global Health Initiative, Fuqua School of Business, Nicholas School of the Environment, and Sanford School of Public Policy.

Duke Islamic Studies Center

The Duke Islamic Studies Center is a vibrant, diverse community of scholars and students engaged in interdisciplinary teaching, interactive learning, and cutting-edge research about Islam and Muslims. Duke's Center is one of the leading institutions in North America for the study of Islam and Muslims. Its comparative, cross-cultural approach to Islamic studies will foster fresh interpretations of Islam and encourage creative solutions to the economic, political and social challenges involving Muslims. We are committed to working with partners at home and abroad to provide undergraduate and graduate students, professionals and policy makers with the knowledge about Muslims and Islamic cultures, beliefs and practices that will enable them to operate effectively in a multicultural world.

HASTAC - Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory

HASTAC ("haystack") is a network of individuals and institutions inspired by the possibilities that new technologies offer us for shaping how we learn, teach, communicate, create, and organize our local and global communities.  We are motivated by the conviction that the digital era provides rich opportunities for informal and formal learning and for collaborative, networked research that extends across traditional disciplines, across the boundaries of academe and community, across the "two cultures" of humanism and technology, across the divide of thinking versus making, and across social strata and national borders.

Humanities Writ Large

Humanities Writ Large is a five-year initiative, with the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, aimed at redefining the role of the humanities in undergraduate education. Humanities Writ Large aims to infuse the undergraduate experience with opportunities to conduct humanities research and thereby learn how humanities fields contribute valuable new knowledge through humanistic analysis, perspective and methods. Emerging Networks are a culture change mechanism intended to shift humanities research towards broadly collaborative, interdisciplinary engagements in contrast to the largely solitary efforts that tend to characterize traditional humanities research. Humanities Labs are multi-year programs designed around a theme and intended to drive change and innovation in our undergraduate humanities curriculum through new courses and student research opportunities.

Asian/Pacific Studies Institute

The Asian/Pacific Studies Institute (APSI) is a focal point of research and teaching on the Asian/Pacific region at Duke University. APSI supports a dynamic group of faculty drawn from a variety of disciplines and is unique in the range of interdisciplinary interests of the faculty. Duke’s East Asian studies faculty offer comprehensive coverage of East Asian politics, societies, history, and cultures. The faculty’s research concentrations in East Asian colonialism, East Asian political economy, Japanese history, and modern Chinese literature, film and cultural studies are among the deepest in the nation.

John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies

The John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies is a unique consortium of programs committed to revitalizing notions of how knowledge is gained and exchanged. Participants from a broad range of disciplines converge to explore intellectual issues, including some of the most pressing social and political themes of our time: race and race relations, the legacy of the African-American experience, equality and opportunity among diverse populations, the implications of accelerated globalization. The center brings together humanists and those involved in the social sciences in a setting that inspires vigorous scholarship and imaginative alliances. Participating arts and science organizations include the Center for International Studies, the center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies, the Duke Islamic Studies Center's Transcultural Project, the Center for Canadian Studies, the Center for European Studies and faculty from the departments of music and Asian & Middle Eastern studies.

John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute

The John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute encourages and enables serious humanistic inquiry, and promotes a heightened awareness of the centrality of the humanities to the quality of human life, social interaction, and scholarship in all fields. The institute emphasizes a broad conception of interdisciplinarity – one that encompasses all methods and approaches, and which acknowledges the importance of the core humanities disciplines – as well as scholarly work that examines issues of social equity, especially research on race and ethnicity in their most profound historical and international dimensions. The institute serves as a collaboration resource for humanistic research across Duke, and draws on the faculty scholarship of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences.

Academy Fellows

American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Rey Chow

Literary Criticism including Philosophy

Paul Berliner

Performing Arts & Music - Criticism & Practice

Caroline Bruzelius

Visual Arts, Art History, and Architecture

Fredric Jameson

Literary Scholarship & Criticism and Language

American Academy
of Arts & Letters

Stephen Jaffe


British Academy

Toril Moi


Academia Europaea

Katherine Hayles