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The Honors Program in the Humanities

History and Description

The Honors Program was initiated in 1976, the centennial of the foundation of Johns Hopkins University.  The program offers all qualified undergraduates the possibility of pursuing an independent and often interdisciplinary research project, normally in their Junior and Senior years.  Students can propose a topic in any humanistic discipline, including intellectual or cultural history, English and comparative literatures, women and gender studies, minority literatures and culture, film studies, anthropology, philosophy, and others.  Past topics have also examined points of intersection between the arts and sciences, so that the Honors Program also gives majors outside the humanities a chance to broaden and combine their studies.


To be eligible, a student’s performance in courses taken in the humanities, and particularly in the chosen field/s of study, should be distinctly above average, and the proposed topic should show coherence, focus, and seriousness of purpose.  Each project must be sponsored by two faculty members, one of whom will be the primary adviser, and in appropriate cases one of these sponsors may be external to the university. Successful completion of the Honors Program is conditional on completion of the student’s research thesis and participation in the Honors Seminar for two years, the second of which must be the student’s senior year.

Application Process

This is a two-year program normally beginning in the junior year, with applications accepted in the spring semester of the sophomore year.  Second-semester freshmen who plan to study abroad in their Junior year or who already possess the necessary qualifications are also encouraged to apply. Applications can either be submitted by email or in hardcopy to Prof. Yi-Ping Ong. All applications should include:

   (1)    A completed application form, including the name of at least one faculty member the student plans to work with;
   (2)    Brief statement of purpose outlining the proposed thesis topic, with initial bibliography;
   (3)    Unofficial transcript of undergraduate course work.

Required Course Work

Sophomore year (optional)
It is recommended that Sophomores who plan to study abroad in their Junior year, as well as those who are ready to begin their honors research, should consider participating in the Honors Seminar during their sophomore year.  In general, such students should follow the course work as described below for the junior year.

Junior year
(1) Two courses chosen from relevant offerings in the Humanities Center curriculum. Students’ work will be based on undergraduate courses offered by the core faculty of the Humanities Center and the course offerings of faculty with joint appointments in the Humanities Center. (2) A semester-long Honors Seminar for all students in the program, in which the general progress of the students’ writing and research will be discussed, and senior students will present work-in-progress reports.  In the 2015-2016 academic year, the Honors Seminar text will be J. M. Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello, which will serve as a point of departure for discussing the relation between different intellectual disciplines and pursuits, including literature, philosophy, politics, history, religion, and the culture industry. The seminar now meets once every week in the Spring semester, and participation is mandatory for all students enrolled in the Honors Program. (3) Optional independent study course on thesis project with one or both sponsors.

Junior Agenda
   •    September – October:  Students should identify and meet with prospective faculty advisers.  Two faculty advisers are required for the final thesis; at least one of these advisers must be a Humanities Center faculty member or affiliate.  Once students have received a commitment from two advisers to supervise the thesis, they should begin to compose a comprehensive reading list in consultation with their advisers.
   •    November – January:  Using the reading list as a guide, students will conduct exploratory research in the field of their proposed project.
   •    February – March:  Students will present a 3 – 5 pp. prospectus, formulating the central questions of the thesis, in the Honors Seminar.

Senior year
(1) Independent study course in the spring semester towards completion of the thesis. (2) Two courses, as above, with Humanities Center faculty and affiliates. (3) Continued participation in the two-semester Honors Seminar (see above under “Junior year” for description), with periodic “work-in-progress” reports and oral presentation of the thesis research in the spring semester.

Senior agenda
   •    Students will complete their theses in consultation with their advisers and continue to attend the Honors Seminar.  In April and May, students will present their final theses in the Honors Seminar.

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