English at Caltech spans the major periods of American and British writing. Students can pursue interests ranging from Shakespeare and a survey of drama to romantic and modern poetry; from early fiction to the postmodern novel.
History at Caltech examines the Western and non-Western past to understand the evolution of culture, science, institutions, and behavior. Courses span the medieval, Renaissance, and modern periods; the United States, Europe, and Asia; and special topics such as radicalism and demography. In certain courses, quantitative methods drawn from the social sciences are applied to historical studies.
Philosophy is concerned with the most fundamental issues involving the nature of the world and of human knowledge, values, and judgment. At Caltech, particular emphasis is placed on philosophy of the natural and social sciences, scientific inference, and philosophy of mind, psychology and neuroscience. In addition to survey courses we offer courses on more focused topics, including causality, probability, quantum mechanics, space-time, free will, consciousness, and on ethical questions raised by modern science and technology.
Visual culture at Caltech encompasses the study of art history, film, media, and scientific images. Students work to gain visual literacy, and to understand both the history of images humans may have been looking at for hundreds or even thousands of years, and the provenance, location, and nature of the images we see now in our every day lives. Some visual culture classes make use of the resources of the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and other museums in the area.
Courses in English, history, philosophy, and visual culture are given at both introductory and advanced levels.
A variety of courses in music, writing, and in foreign languages, literature, and culture are also available.
Areas of Research
The English faculty, interested in new approaches to studying their subject, engage in research into the relationships between literature and the pictorial arts, literature, and history, and the material production of literature.
Research in history covers a wide range of historical fields and methodologies. Topics include an examination of the development of racial attitudes and behavior in the 19th-century United States; the history of the physical and biological sciences and of science in relationship to society; history and film; and political and economic development in early modern Europe. A number of faculty carry out research and teaching in the interrelated subjects of science, ethics, and public policy.
Research in philosophy includes work in philosophy of science and philosophy of mind, with particular research foci in philosophy of physics, causation, probability and decision theory, and the philosophy of neuroscience and free will.
Faculty research in visual culture focuses on a wide variety of time periods, geographic locations, and media forms but has in common a careful attention to the conditions under which objects are made, the ways in which they circulate, and the reactions they inspire in audiences.