Nobody in history and Literature loafs. Admission to the field is open only to honors candidates and the very nature of the department's requirements income that the concentrator's tour through four years of Harvard won't be sport in academic sterility.
The students in the department split into two species: the scholars and the dilitiantes. History and Lit attracts many of the finest humanities students in the College, and it offers them much Tutorial is assured on a bi-weekly basis during the sophomore year and on a weekly basis during the junior year, and it is taken seriously by the staff, if taken at all seriously by the student. Indeed, the entire department consists of little more than a board of tutors.
Intra-department contests for the exchange and development of ideas among the students and occasionally, the staff holds tutorial sessions in seminar size groups to discuss some special book.
Each year the department assigns a reading project which it later tests in group oral examinations. Of late the assignments have been several books of the Bible and eight plays of Shakespeare during the sophomore year, and source readings in Greek historians and selected Greek tragedies during the junior year. These works get a quick once ever but their reading achieves a taste of, and often for, literature which so often the undergraduate talks about, hears about, but never looks into.
Of all these activities and several sessions on special topics in the senior year, the scholar may drink deeply and emerge with near double the instruction and experience offered in some other field.
The dilittante, an earnest but less dedicated student, finds life less satisfying. He generally finds himself gulping, rather a digesting the extra readings and special projects the department contrives. He rushes his tutorial and finds it barren. Nonetheless he gleans something from his work that he probably would miss altogether were he studying in another field.
The common wee of the dilettante History and lit concentrator is a sense of frustration about not absorbing what is available. Strong good intentions with a hope of fulfillment are unofficial pre-requisites for History and Lit. Mental anguish is the alternative.
There are no faculty celebrities in the field right now except for the chairman, Elliott Perkins. Tutors are young and those who think of tutorial in terms of a chance to meet well-known personalities will be disappointed.
The choice of courses is of course huge, but the requirement of eight full courses in the field cuts down the chance to dabble substantially elsewhere. Concentration centers on either a particular country or period. Period concentration, especially on the nineteenth century, has become popular the past few years, but concentration on one country is often more rewarding because the student learns at least something thoroughly.
Course scheduling is difficult in History and Lit. Because it is a combination field, the concentrator runs into an infuriating series of course conflicts at the beginning of each term.