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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. Join us on a semester-long 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

How to Sign Up

The sign-up process with priority review for first-year programs and seminars begins on Thursday, May 16, 2024, at 4 p.m. (CT). To participate in priority review, please submit your application in the first 24 hours after applications open or by Friday, May 17, 2024, at 4 p.m. (CT). The link to the application form will be available on the First-Year Programs homepage during that time. You will need your WUSTL Key to apply. For each of the Ampersand Programs you wish to rank in your top four choices, you will need to complete a separate statement of interest (no more than 500 words) answering a program specific question. For Text & Traditions the 2024 application question is: The Ampersand program in Text & Traditions can be a gateway to further interdisciplinary inquiry in world literatures and the history of thought. Please tell us, in 250-500 words, how the Ampersand that binds Text & Traditions could support your intellectual interests and ambitions.

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.