Humanities Seminar

The Freshman Humanities Colloquium

The Freshman Humanities Colloquium, commonly referred to as the “Humanities Seminar,” is the centerpiece of the Bridge Year.  Each Townsend Harris High School senior is required to take a two-semester seminar that is team taught by a member of the Queens College faculty and a member of the THHS faculty.  Together, in a unique setting where teachers facilitate but do not dominate, students engage in a series of discussions.  The seminars are patterned on Queens College’s Honors in the Humanities senior seminar, as well as the seminar programs at St. John’s (Annapolis) and the University of Chicago.

The texts under study and discussion include many traditional “great” works as well as a number of more recently recognized works of intellectual value.

The seminar discussions are based on textual analyses and writing assignments that lead students to develop critical thinking and analytical skills.  The teaching team provides a rich mixture of intellectual and pedagogical possibilities not readily found in a more traditional setting.

These courses appear in the Queens College Undergraduate Bulletin as Honors in the Humanities (HTH) 101 and 102 and carry three college credits each semester.

Texts studied include selections from the following Reading List:

Fall Semester

  • Sophocles Oedipus Rex
  • Plato “The Apology”
  • Hebrew Bible
    • Genesis 1- 11
    • Exodus 1-14
    • The Book of Job 1-5, 40-2
    • The Book of Esther
  • Greek Bible:
    • Gospel of Matthew
    • 1 Corinthians
  • Christine de Pisan The Book of the City of Ladies (selections)
  • Machiavelli The Prince
  • Shakespeare Othello

Spring Semester

  • Shakespeare Hamlet
  • Voltaire Candide
  • Shelley Frankenstein
  • Conrad Heart of Darkness
  • Woolf A Room of One’s Own
  • A Unit of Poetry (Donne, Keats, Shakespeare, Yeats, and others)

Writing Assignments

A. Students will be assigned approximately 5,000 words (twenty double-spaced  typewritten pages or the equivalent) of written work which will be corrected and graded.  This work will be divided into four or more individual papers.  At least one of these papers will be an in-class essay.  The papers (including the in-class essay) should be based entirely on the assigned readings, detailed with one particular work or with a comparison of two or more works.

(Papers are due on the date assigned; for every class meeting after the due date one half grade will be deducted.)

B. In addition, each student will write regular entries in a “journal.”  Entries may include, for example, reactions to each reading assignment, concluding with questions; comments on the evaluations of the discussion; and paragraphs on specific topics or questions in the readings.  Journals will be collected and graded.  Students may be asked to read them in class.  It is suggested that particular journal entries may be used as starting-points for formal papers.

Student Facilitators

Participation is an integral part of the Humanities Seminar.  All students are required to come to class each day having read the assigned texts and prepared to join in the class discussion with meaningful questions and insightful comments.  Throughout each semester, pairs of students also take turns acting as Class Facilitators for each day’s discussion.

The teachers and professors assign facilitation dates to the students early on in the semester so that there is plenty of time for the facilitators to prepare to lead the classes.  Students should expect to facilitate about twice during each semester.

The Handout for Facilitators is a printable one-page guide for students.


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