University of California, Irvine

School of Humanities

About the school

School of Humanities

For decades, UCI has been a primary international destination for the humanities, attracting top faculty and students to engage in a premiere community of vibrant, intellectual scholarship.

True to its name, the humanities encompass everything human beings think and do. 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 1,600 students, including about 300 graduate students. However, it touches nearly all students on campus. Seventy percent of undergraduates students who enroll in the rigorous yearlong Humanities Core course are biological, physical and social sciences majors.

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.

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. 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, and the acclaimed critical theory emphasis for doctoral students draws scholars from all over the world. 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.

Faculty within the school have founded numerous research enterprises, including HumaniTech (digital humanities), Illuminations, the Critical Theory Institute and Critical Theory Archives, the International Center for Writing and Translation, the Samuel Jordan Center for Persian Studies & Culture, the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (the leading digital archive of ancient Greek), the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI), and the Vietnamese American Oral History Project & Archive.

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 Ron Carlson, co-director of the MFA program in writing, professor of English and award-winning author; Jack Miles, Distinguished Professor of English and Pulitzer Prize winner; Nasrin Rahimieh, Maseeh Chair of Persian studies and culture and comparative literature; Vicki Ruiz, Distinguished Professor of history and Chicano/Latino studies, recipient of National Humanities Medal; Michael Ryan, co-director of MFA program in writing and award winning poet; Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Distinguished Professor of English and comparative literature, member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences; Jeffery Wasserstrom, Chancellor’s Professor of history.
  • Humanities faculty have won numerous prestigious awards including the National Humanities Medal, Guggenehim Fellowships, National Book Critics Circle awards, Pulitzer Prize awards, Blaise Pascal Medal. the Berlin Prize, and election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
  • Many departments within the School of Humanities receive high national rankings. The program in literary criticism and theory and the programs in writing rank among the top five in the nation. English, literary journalism, philosophy and history consistently rank among the top 50.
  • Notable alumni include David Baker, executive director and president of the NFL Hall of Fame; Aimee Bender, best-selling novelist; and David Benioff, co-creator and producer of Game of Thrones. Additionally, three alumni of the Programs in Writing have received Pulitzer Prizes: Michael Chabon, Yusef Komunyakaa and Richard Ford. Barry Siegel, director of the literary journalism program, was also awarded a Pulitzer Prize.
  • 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.