Cultural history at the University of Chicago embraces research and teaching on people's efforts to create meaning and beauty, to express joy and sadness, and to communicate. Those efforts have taken an extraordinarily wide array of forms historically, including the fine arts, literature, music, and architecture, but also everyday material culture, the built environment (gardens, landscapes, and citycapes), and food. Film, radio, television, and other media became equally important In the twentieth century. The field's preoccupation with interpreting and explaining cultural objects leads to intersections with intellectual and art history, literary and cinema studies, and musicology. Its interest in the institutional, political, and social grounding of cultural production necessitates engagement with social and political history. Our temporal and geographic range is equally broad, from the ancient to the contemporary and East and South Asia, Africa, Latin and North America, and Europe. In all cases we turn to culture in order to understand both the specificity of particular historical moments and the dynamics of epochal transformations.
The diversity of the objects of study demands a wide array of research strategies. Sometimes we access cultural artifacts directly, making extensive use of archaeological finds, museum collections, recordings, photographs, postcards, prints, newspapers, magazines, films, maps, recipe books, and books, both rare and popular. Texts and visual media that describe cultural forms provide essential supplemental information.
Some students choose to define a BA, MA, or PhD within the field; others seek to broaden their range of primary sources. All are equally welcome in the courses offered within the rubric.