School of Humanities


A humanities education provides a deep knowledge of history, language, literature, philosophy and the visual arts, and an understanding of the contributions of influential thinkers, writers and artists from many cultures. The School of Humanities prepares students to be global citizens equipped with the tools of analysis, expression and cultural understanding required for leadership in today’s world. Humanities students not only master a body of knowledge, they develop a set of portable skills needed for a lifetime – the ability to think critically, read deeply and communicate effectively.

The school enrolls approximately 1,900 students, including 330 graduate students. It touches nearly all students, however, at some point in their UCI careers: 70 percent of students enrolled in the rigorous yearlong Humanities Core course are biological, physical and social sciences majors. Students consistently give the course the highest ratings on campus.

With 13 departments, over 20 majors and several interdisciplinary programs, the School of Humanities offers a diverse curriculum. Humanities students develop understanding of local and global cultures through courses in over a dozen languages. They can choose majors and/or minors in areas including African American studies, art history, Asian American studies, East Asian languages and literatures, classics, comparative literature, English, European studies, film and media studies, French, gender and sexuality studies, German studies, global cultures, history, humanities and law, Italian studies, Latin American studies, literary journalism, philosophy, queer studies, religious studies, Russian studies, Spanish and visual studies (graduate only).

Programs in the School of Humanities are among the highest-ranked in the country, contributing to UCI’s reputation as one of the very best public universities. Graduate programs in English, comparative literature, philosophy, Spanish and German have been ranked in the top 20. The Programs in Writing, the school’s M.F.A. creative writing program in fiction and poetry, has produced Pulitzer Prize-winning and best-selling novelists. The school’s acclaimed critical theory emphasis for doctoral students draws scholars from all over the world. Additional interdisciplinary graduate emphases include Asian American and feminist studies. Outstanding leadership in world history brings increasing prominence to the school. Strengths in Asian, European and Latin American studies have nourished global and transnational studies across departmental boundaries.

Interdisciplinary centers in the humanities bring together faculty, students, visiting lecturers and the public. The Humanities Center encourages and supports faculty members who bring the humanities into a larger public forum. The International Center for Writing and Translation supports writing, translation and research activities locally and globally. The Samuel Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture, in collaboration with the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, supports research, instruction and programming in Persian culture, language and history. The Humanities Collective brings faculty, students and the community together to consider links between humanities and technology while supporting the use of technology in humanities instruction. The Center for Asian Studies, jointly sponsored with the School of Social Sciences, enhances the study of Asia’s many countries and cultures. The Thesaurus Linguae Graecae is a research center housing the most comprehensive digital library of Greek literature in the world. The Critical Theory Institute is composed of renowned UCI scholars who bring critical theory to bear on social and philosophical issues of global significance.

Mindful of a public university’s responsibility to the community, the school has model partnerships with local public schools. The California History-Social Science Project works with high school teachers to improve and innovate history curricula.

Georges Van Den Abbeele, Dean

Georges Van Den Abbeele is dean of the School of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine. He previously served as dean at Northeastern University in Boston and at UC Santa Cruz. He also has taught at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Miami and Harvard universities. A native of Belgium, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Reed College and a doctorate from Cornell University. He is the author of Travel as Metaphor, co-editor of Community at Loose Ends, A World of Fables and French Civilization and its Discontents. He has published more than 50 articles on travel narrative, critical theory and Renaissance literature. A scholar of French and European philosophical literature, he was elected to the European Academy of Sciences in 2008, and that same year received its prestigious Blaise Pascal Medal in Social Science. His research interests include travel narratives, the history of cartography and tourism/migration studies; critical theory and aesthetics; and humanities and public policy.


  • Distinguished faculty include Ngugi wa Thiong’o, UCI Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature; Margot Norris, English and comparative literature; Gerasimos Santos, philosophy; Timothy Tackett, history; Ron Carlson, author, English; Michael Ryan, poet, English; Margaret Gilbert, Melden Chair in Moral Philosophy; Vicki Ruiz, Distinguished Professor of History, Nasrin Rahimieh, Maseeh Chair in Persian Studies and Culture and comparative literature; Jack Miles, Distinguished Professor of English; Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Chancellor’s Professor of History.
  • Many departments within the School of Humanities receive the highest national rankings. The program in literary criticism and theory is ranked first in the nation. English, comparative literature, creative writing, French and philosophy consistently rank among the top 20.
  • Three alumni of the Programs in Writing have received Pulitzer Prizes: Michael Chabon for his novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay; Yusef Komunyakaa for his poetry collection, Neon Vernacular; and Richard Ford for his novel, Independence Day. Barry Siegel, director of literary journalism, also has received a Pulitzer Prize, in journalism. Alumna Alice Sebold is the best-selling author of The Lovely Bones.
  • Visual studies is a burgeoning field that explores a range of visual experiences including painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, film, television, video and digital technologies. The school is home to one of the country’s only visual studies doctoral programs and is a recognized leader in the field.

UCI is a pioneer in the field of world history. The highly regarded departments of gender and sexuality studies and history have established national reputations for their approach to research and teaching that examine the movement of people, goods and cultural objects across national boundaries.

Georges Van Den Abbeele, Dean

George Van Den Abbeele

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Annabel Adams