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Text & Traditions

A First-Year Ampersand Program

Classic Texts and Intellectual Traditions

There are many ways for you to begin a serious engagement with literature, philosophy, history, art, and critical thinking at Washington University. One of the best is to enroll in the Text & Traditions program. In “T&T,” students explore the texts and intellectual traditions upon which modern culture has been built – from ancient Mediterranean thought to the modern novel. The goal of the program is to provide a serious foundation in the humanities, a foundation in content and in methods of inquiry. Each fall, the program accepts 50 first-year students to embark together on a journey through the classics.

What does the Text & Traditions track look like?

In the first semester, those enrolled in the T&T program usually take two courses: "Classical to Renaissance Literature" and "Early Political Thought." (Students who miss that fall pairing in their first semester can easily enroll in it in a subsequent semester.) These courses provide the foundation for other courses in the track: courses in Modern Political Thought, Literary Modernities in Europe and America, Literary Modernities in East Asia, The Intellectual History of Sex and Gender, etc.

Earning the Text & Traditions Minor

If you continue past the first semester–the "classical" semester–you can easily complete a minor in Text & Traditions by choosing three more T&T classes. You can take these at any time during the pursuit of an undergraduate degree, and every course in the program meets an Arts & Sciences distribution requirement. Some of the course options include:

  • The Great Economists
  • Scriptures and Cultural Traditions
  • Puzzles and Revolutions
  • The Intellectual History of Sex and Gender
  • Literary Modernities in Europe and America
  • Literary Modernities in East Asia
  • Modern Political Thought
Students

Hear What Students Have To Say:

Stevel Vahl

"T&T is not about preparing you for a career, it is about preparing you to be a thinking, educated, aware member of society. It is about increasing your cultural literacy. It is the best way I can think of to take advantage of the fact that you attend a school like WashU."

Laurie Schlueb

"In a society that pushes students to narrow their studies and specialize, although the world’s issues, subjects and dynamics are complex and interrelated, Text & Traditions emerges as an important opportunity for students to diversify their knowledge and understanding."

Sam Moore

"The program helped me in many ways: to develop my writing, to think critically, and to appreciate the traditional great books. Perhaps the most important thing I learned is the power that ideas can have on human society."

Erin Greenwood

"T&T offered a structured alternative to an undecided incoming freshman. The interdisciplinary approach to engaging topics encouraged multi-dimensional thinking and problem-solving."

how to apply

The application process for first-year programs and seminars opens on Tuesday, May 15, at noon (CT) and closes on Monday, May 21, at noon (CT). There will be a link to the application webform on the First-Year Programs homepage during this time for you to sign up.

First-Year Programs homepage

A Great Books Program with an Attitude

What will I get out of this program?

As a student of Text & Traditions, you will participate in courses tailored to introduce you to key problems in the humanities as conceived in Europe, America, and Asia: problems concerning the relation of equality and preeminence, the tension between shared values and independence, how best to govern and how properly to resist governance, whether to trust what can’t be proven, how to reconcile competing allegiances, the place of selfishness in a good society, what we owe to others whom we have wronged or who have wronged us, and what we owe ourselves in the way of art, frivolity, and danger. Our program is broad, rigorous, and interdisciplinary. Students aspiring to majors across the university have benefited from a foundation in T&T. We aim to sharpen your critical-thinking skills through close readings of major texts and develop your rhetorical capabilities both written and oral. Moreover, the course sequences create shared intellectual experiences that offer many students a sense of place in a thoughtful (and therefore, we think, ideal) community.

A Community In and Out of the Classroom

One means of taking advantage of this community is to join the Lyceum. Each semester, faculty and staff designate four, widely-varying campus and community events to attend together – a lecture in the Assembly Series or a talk by an IPH faculty member, an exhibit at the Art Museum, or the performance of a play, for example. Through informal discussion afterwards, students and faculty bring the intellectual and cultural life of the classroom into the community at large and vice versa.

How will this program help me to refine or define myself and my goals?

T&T can serve as a foundation for a range of majors in the humanities or as a coherent minor for students who don’t intend to major in the humanities. It serves, that is, as a ledge from which the intellectual life of the university can be easily surveyed. Scientists have found it a usefully coherent experience of the philosophy, literature, intellectual history, and critical practice that make up the humanities. Students of one branch of the humanities or arts have found it a powerful means of securing a background against which to view their specialized inquiry.