Liberal Arts Resources

It was recently reported that, on average, a person spends 90,000 hours at work over the course of his or her career. To make that time a labor of love rather than a daily grind, it is important that your vocation matches your interests and temperament. With dozens of different specialties, the liberal arts appeal to many. Liberal arts students and professionals have access to a wealth of online magazines, organizations, open courseware, and other resources.

Student and Professional Organizations

Membership in a liberal arts association provides networking and educational opportunities, as well as access to special resources and job boards. Young professionals also benefit from membership forums and mentorship programs, where knowledge and expertise are shared.

  • The Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC) – Since 1995, ACTC has worked to advance the “study of world classics and texts of major cultural significance.” Individual members enjoy networking opportunities at annual and student conferences, and with the ACTC Directory and listserv members are able to easily connect with other people associated with the ACTC. Members are also eligible to apply for Oxford Study Abroad Programs and a subscription to the annual Newsletter.
  • Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs (AGLSP) – The AGLSP’s focus is “graduate-level liberal education primarily serving adult, part-time students.” Individual members enjoy access to online resources, a member directory, and the publication Confluence: The Journal of Graduate Liberal Studies.
  • Humanities Education and Research Association (HERA) – HERA’s mission is to “promote the worldwide study, teaching and understanding of the humanities.” Member benefits include networking opportunities through its forum and at the group’s national conference. A subscription to Interdisciplinary Humanities, published three times a year, is also included with membership.
  • Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) – For over 200 years, PBK has “embraced the principles of freedom of inquiry and liberty of thought and expression.” With over 500,000 members and chapters across the U.S., this organization offers a variety of networking opportunities to its members. Eligibility is limited to students of the liberal arts who are at the end of their bachelor’s degree program. Invitation-only members enjoy a subscription to The Key Reporter and the cachet of being part of this elite group.

Open Courseware

One of the latest trends in academia is to place quality course materials online for the public to use, free-of-charge. Today, lecture notes, presentations, bibliographies, and other materials from liberal arts courses taught at top universities and institutions are available via open access.

  • Ancient and Medieval Philosophy – Notre Dame – Prof. David O’Conner, of the Philosophy department at Notre Dame, offers this course, which explores the “major figures and persistent themes in ancient and medieval philosophy.” Video lectures and a list of suggested readings are provided.
  • Classical Rhetoric and Modern Political Discourse – MIT – In this undergraduate level course, Prof. Leslie Perelman introduces the theory, history, practice, and implications of “the art and craft of persuasion.” Textual analysis and creating persuasive speeches and written arguments are at the core of this class. Lecture notes, examples of speeches and other writings, and a list of suggested readings are also provided.
  • The Creative Spark – MIT – Dr. Karen Boiko offers this class, which explores the nature of creativity and how it can be made to flourish. The creative processes of artists, inventors, scientists, and writers across history will be examined. Course materials include essays by John Updike, Oliver Sacks, Joan Didion, and Alice Walker. A list of other suggested readings is also provided.
  • Dante in Translation – Yale – Yale University’s Sterling Professor of Humanities for Italian Giuseppe Mazzotta teaches this introduction to the works of Dante. Each book of the Divine Comedy (Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise) will be critically read, as will selected other works such as the Vita nuova. Theological, political and philosophical thinking during the late Middle Ages will also be covered.
  • Religion & Law in Ancient Greece – UC Irvine – Prof. Andromache Karanika of the Classics department in the school of Humanities presents this survey of the religion of Greece, beginning with the Bronze Age and ending during the Hellenistic period. Topics include gender, festivals, and rituals in the socio-cultural context. Legal regulations derived from religious practices will be covered as well.
  • Minds and Machines – MIT – From the Linguistics and Philosophy department comes this introductory course on the philosophy of the mind, presented by Prof. Alex Byrne. Specific topics covered include the Chinese room, Dualism, the Turing test, externalism, behaviorism and Kripke’s Objection. Lecture notes and links to writing guides and philosophy websites are also provided.
  • Philosophy in Film and Other Media – MIT – In this undergraduate level course taught by Prof. Irving Singer, students examine the work of cinema and media legends to determine their philosophical importance. Hitchcock, Shaw, Bergman, Joyce, and Cocteau are among the artists studied. Video lectures and a list of selected readings are provided.

Open Access Journals

To further develop an understanding of the arts and humanities, many aspiring liberal arts professionals regularly peruse academic journals. Although some of the scholarship found in the online journals on this list requires a subscription, most of it is freely available via open access.

  • Comparative Literature Commons – Supported by the Digital Commons Network, this website aggregates scholarship published by top institutions in the U.S. and abroad. Recent posts include “The Cognitive Construction of the Self in Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.”
  • Digital Humanities Quarterly – This peer-reviewed, open access journal publishes articles on the impact of digital media on the field of study. Of particular interest is scholarship that explores “how the humanities may evolve through their engagement with technology, media, and computational methods.” Recent articles include “Traveling the Silk Road on a Virtual Globe: Pedagogy, Technology and Evaluation for Spatial History” and “The Urgency of Digital Curation in the Digital Humanities.”
  • Expositions – Capturing “interdisciplinary studies in the humanities,” this journal, sponsored by the Villanova Center for Liberal Education, publishes peer-reviewed articles, insights, and exchanges on a wide range of issues. Representative open-access articles include “Noble Characters, Hard Truths, and Invincible Whining in the Opening Parts of Portis’ True Grit” and “What’s the Purpose of Ethics Education?”
  • History of European Ideas – Dedicated to “the intellectual history of Europe from the Renaissance onwards,” scholarship in this hybrid journal includes articles from across the liberal arts including philosophy, theology, literature, and natural philosophy. While some content requires a subscription, other articles including “Jeremy Bentham’s “unusually liberal” representative democracy” and “Hugh Trevor-Roper and the history of ideas” are available free of charge.
  • Philosophy Commons – Part of the Digital Commons Network, this website hosts open access articles in philosophy from around the world. Recent scholarship published on the Commons includes “Confucius and Human Nature” and “The Impact of the Reformation on the Fine Arts.”

Books

Spanning history, politics, philosophy, literature, and more, one could spend a lifetime studying the liberal arts. Several lists of the most essential reading in the field, each called “The Great Books,” have been compiled and range from 130 to 2,400 books. This much smaller list is just a fraction of the literature available to study.

  • Canterbury Tales – A knight, a monk, a cook, a prioress, a wife, a pardoner, and many others join together on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket in Canterbury. Written at the end of the 14th century by Geoffrey Chaucer, this collection of stories is funny, romantic, insightful, witty, and poignant.
  • Civilization and Its Discontents – Published in 1930 by Sigmund Freud, the author explores the push and pull between the instinctive, selfish desires of the individual and society’s need for conformity, order, cleanliness, and the sublimation of instinct and desire.
  • Confessions – Written over 1,600 years ago, St. Augustine takes the reader on a journey from his sinful youth to his conversion to Christianity under the guidance of St. Ambrose. Demonstrating philosophical brilliance in its meditation on Platonism and theological musings on the nature of God, this classic also conveys Augustine’s deep remorse for his early immorality.
  • The Divine Comedy – Dante Alighieri’s epic poem, written early in the 14th century, follows the narrator and friends as they descend deep into the earth, traveling through the nine circles of hell, then up to the summit of Mount Purgatory, and finally reaching heaven in Paradiso. With the seven deadly sins, virtuous pagans, torturous suffering, saints, Lucifer, paradise, Virgil, and God, Dante pulls out all the stops in this exploration of the afterlife.
  • Essay Concerning Human Understanding – Published originally in 1689, John Locke explores the nature of the human mind, from its blank slate at birth through to complex notions, abstract ideas, and identity. Covering also language, mathematics, natural philosophy, intuition, and faith, this is one of the most influential books to come out of The Enlightenment.
  • The Iliad and the Odyssey – Dating back to the 8th century B.C., these epic stories tell the tales of the siege of Troy by the Greeks, and then the hero Odysseus’ ten-year journey home. With Achilles, Circe, Paris, Agamemnon, Polyphemus, Helen and the famous horse, these two stories are as fun to read today as when they were first written over 2,700 years ago.
  • Leviathan – Published in 1651 during the civil war that saw England’s first commonwealth, author Thomas Hobbes argues in favor of an absolute sovereign tempered by a social contract. It is in this work, while ruminating on human nature, that Hobbes famously wrote, “life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Online Industry Magazines

With feature articles, opinions, and news of current events, online magazines help liberal arts professionals keep up with the latest thinking in the arts and humanities.

  • Aesthetica – Combining “dynamic content with compelling critical debate,” Aesthetica seeks to explore and unveil contemporary culture and art. Recent posts include “Exposing Secrets: Atiq Rahimi’s The Patience Stone Tells the Tale of Secrets, Despair and Rage” and “Ikon Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary in 2014.”
  • Humanities – On this online version of the magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities readers find news, feature articles, commentary and conversations across the humanities. Recent posts include “The Art of Martin Scorsese” and “Mapping the Republic of Letters.”
  • Smithsonian.com – The online magazine of the Smithsonian Institution posts articles in history, science, arts, and culture as well as the latest news and happenings at the Smithsonian. Recent posts include: “Archaeologists in Egypt Just Unearthed a Previously Unknown Pharaoh’s Tomb” and “Photos: Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”
  • Spark – Intended to spark “conversation and critical thinking using story as a catalyst,” readers of this magazine, which is sponsored by Humanities Washington, can find posts like “Listen: Full Recording of Our Last Think & Drink on Consumer Culture” and “Big Ideas in Little Books: Exploring Humanities Themes in Children’s Books.”

Blogs

Liberal artists keep current on the latest events and find plenty of food for thought on arts and humanities blogs.

  • ArtsBeat – Covering “the culture at large” on this blog, sponsored by The New York Times, readers find news and reviews from the latest in arts and culture. Recent posts include “Victoria and Albert Museum to Publish Nazi-Era ‘Degenerate Art’ Inventory Online” and “Omaha Theater to Produce a Stage Adaptation of ‘The Shining.'”
  • Art History Spot – On this blog, readers enjoy frequent musings on the nature of art through the ages and today. Recent articles include “360 XOCHI QUETZAL: Spring Artist Residency in Central Mexico” and “Tuscan Painting in the Eighteenth Century.”
  • The Bookfish – Shakespeare enthusiast and St. John’s professor, Steve Mentz, posts his musings on literature, thalassology, and the humanities in general. Recent posts include “Vermeer’s Girl and Rylance’s Olivia” and “The Accumulation of Sediments: Carson and Glissant.”
  • Culture Monster – The most current thinking on the arts and humanities can be found on this site from the LA Times. Recent posts include “Review: Beckett novels shrunk to savory appetizers in ‘I’ll Go On'” and “Alfredo Ramos Martinez rediscovered Mexico in Los Angeles.”
  • Language Log – Many authors reflect on word’s and language’s impact on human development on this site. Recent posts include “Essentialist beliefs about essentialist beliefs” and “Context, context, context.”
  • Law & Humanities – A variety of authors explore the intersection of law, literature, and the humanities on this site. Recent posts include “Human Rights from Conrad to Coppola” and “Sherlockery Mockery.”
  • nicomachus – Phillip Barron, “poet, writer, and digital humanist,” publishes this blog that examines how technology is transforming the liberal arts. Recent posts include “A Murmuration of Drones” and “Diorama of a People, Burning.”
  • PEA Soup – PEA Soup is “dedicated to philosophy, ethics, and academia,” and interested in international global discourse on moral philosophy. Recent posts include “A Possibly New Take on Newcomb’s Problem” and “Moral Responsibility and PAP.”

Who to Follow on Twitter

Delve further into the liberal arts, 140 characters at a time, by following a few of these Twitter feeds.

  • @HistoryExtra – “History tweets form the team behind BBC History Magazine” can be found on this feed.
  • @LiberalArtists – “Two thirty-something word nerds” post thoughts and insights on words and literature.
  • @museumnerd – Posts on art, history, museums, art history, and puns from the self-described museum nerd come in 140 characters or less on this feed. The nerd frequently posts while touring a museum.
  • @NIETZSCHESOURCE – With a boast of “politically incorrect since 1864,” tweets from this feed are sure to stir controversy and prod the mind.
  • @philosophy_muse – Tweets to enrich your life from Reid Plummer can be found on this feed.
  • @rogueclassicist – Tweets from a classical perspective in “a profoundly unClassical world,” abound on this unique site.