Background Information

The purpose of the Area One Requirement is to build an intellectual foundation in the study of human thought, values, beliefs, creativity, and culture. Area One courses will also enhance skills in analysis, reasoning, argumentation, and oral and written expression, thus helping to prepare students not only for more advanced work in the humanities, but also for work in other areas, such as the sciences, social sciences and engineering.
--from the Area One Web Page
These course proposals were developed by a group of students in the freshman seminar "The Two Cultures: Bridging the Gap" taught by Ramón Saldívar and Eric Roberts. As a final project for the class, the students chose to design an IHUM sequence which "bridged the gap" by including material from seemingly different disciplines.

The idea originated in a brainstorm of practical ways to unite "techie" and "fuzzie" curricula at Stanford. As every freshman's introduction to the "fuzzie" side of the University, the Area One program has recently been changed so as to integrate various disciplines in the humanities, but we felt that the social sciences, physical sciences, and engineering might give interesting perspectives on humanistic questions. We believed that Stanford should take advantage of its unique excellence in both the "techie" and "fuzzie" disciplines to make Area One not just an introduction to the humanities in particular, but an introduction to the University's studies in general. True, Area One should remained focused on its humanistic heritage, but other disciplines speak to--indeed, find their origins in--that heritage.

Could this be accomplished? Could such different departments as Physics and Comparative Literature have anything to say to one another? Does engineering give any insights into questions posed by Plato and Descartes? You be the judge. These two courses--The Science of Culture and the Culture of Science" and "What is Human?"--each expand on traditional issues raised in Area One classes, forming and exploring exciting connections between disciplines. Although neither class is perfect, we believe that they begin the process of "bridging the gap" between the two cultures of excellence at Stanford. Please explore this site, examine the proposed courses, and let us know what you think. With luck, some day freshmen will complain about the workload in these courses you view today!

We would like to acknowledge the following people for their valuable contributions and insights:
Joel Samoff, Philippe Buc, Debra Satz, J.B. Shank, Harry Elam, Timothy Lenoir, Richard Cushman, Joanna Mountain, Lanier Anderson, Cliff Nass, Eric Roberts, and Ramón Saldívar

Back to the Opening Page