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Humanities Program papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: ua2000-0034

Scope and Content

This collection contains the papers of the Humanities Program. This includes information regarding the department, committee meeting minutes, course syllabi, major and minor information, as well as information regarding the abolition of the department, including curriculum committees, meeting minutes, letters of support, publicity, and general information regarding the decision to shut down the department.


  • Creation: 1948-2000


Language of Materials


Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Requests for permission to quote from the Humanities Program papers should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives head.

Historical Note

Humanities was first taught at the University in 1942, when a three-quarter sequence of classes called Humaniaties in the Modern World were offered, taught by Professors Alburey Castell and Joseph Warren Beach. In 1945, Humanities course offerings were subsumed under the General Studies Program, which was established by the University in 1944. In 1956, the College of Science, Literature and the Arts (SLA) voted to change the name of the Department of General Studies to the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies in General Education. Two years later, the faculty of the University decided to abolish the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies and place the separate programs under the supervision of committees consisting of members of appropriate SLA departments.

Humanities courses were taught largely by graduate students until 1972 when funds were allocated to appoint additional faculty upon the recommendation of a committee chaired by history professor Clarke Chambers. The program functioned as a department, offering an undergraduate degree and Paul D’Andrea was appointed chairman.

In 1986 the humanities program received official departmental status and a graduate program was introduced, called Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society. In 1992 it was placed under the Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature.

In 1989 a new curriculum was proposed by members of the Humanities faculty, that would abolish the historical curriculum and replace it with politically oriented courses. This caused a conflict, especially with long term faculty members Robert Tapp and George Kliger, who opposed the destruction of the traditional humanities curriculum and major. They argued that the proposal to abolish these courses would leave a significant gap in the University offerings in Western Civilization. They also charged that their academic freedom would be infringed if the new plan was approved because they would no longer be able to teach traditional courses. The debate split the Humanities Department in two and led to petitions by students and professors from both inside and outside the department. The controversy ultimately made it into the local newspapers. In 1990 the department voted to retain two five credit sequences in Western Culture and offer 23 courses that satisfied the requirements of the newly proposed curriculum.

In 1992 Julia Davis, the newly appointed dean of the College of Liberal Arts (CLA), proposed to abolish both the Humanities and Linguistics departments. The CLA Assembly voted to approve Davis' decision and the faculty was to be dispersed throughout the various departments in CLA. However, this met with opposition by the faculty who had proposed the replacement of the traditional curriculum and articles appeared in the local newspapers, Readerand City Pages, accusing the University administration of being opposed to them. As a result, the administration transferred five of the faculty who had proposed the new curriculum to the Department of Comparative Literature, to form a new Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature (CSCL), that offered a major in Cultural Studies.

However, Dr. Kliger wanted to save the traditional humanities curriculum and along with other faculty members, appealed to the CLA Council for Curriculum Instruction and Advising. He proposed that a minor in Humanities in the West be offered, since there were not a sufficient number of faculty to offer a major. The proposal was approved in 1992 and Professor Kliger was named coordinator.

The Department of Humanities was officially dissolved in the spring of 1993.


2.5 Cubic Feet (2 boxes)


This collection contains the papers of the Humanities Program at the University of Minnesota.

Related Material in University of Minnesota Archives

University of Minnesota. Department of Comparative Literature papers

University of Minnesota. Department of Interdisciplinary Studies papers

Processing Information

A finding aid with a contents list is available in University Archives

Humanities Program records, 1948-2000
Amy Flessert; revised by Karen Klinkenberg
December, 2005
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area