Skip to main content

FAQ about Arts and Letters

 What is an Arts and Letters class?
"Arts and Letters" is the fifth of six General Education categories, which, together with the Diversity and Writing requirements, comprise the USC Core. In Arts and Letters classes students learn to read texts closely, think about them carefully, and write about them thoughtfully.

Who teach Arts and Letters classes?

Like all courses in the USC General Education Program, Arts and Letters classes are taught by regular members of the tenure-track faculty. Most are faculty in USC Dornsife. Humanities faculty usually teach at least one section of Arts and Letters a year.

Who enroll in Arts and Letters classes?
All undergraduates at USC must satisfy the Arts and Letters requirement, except students in the Thematic Option Program, who fulfill a comparable Core requirement. Transfer students may meet it with approved coursework before matriculating at USC.

How are Arts and Letters classes created?
Individual faculty members propose the sections they would like to teach, providing a paragraph description (written in language accessible to students) and a reading list. Since all ARLT 100g classes are in fact sections of a single class already approved by the University Curriculum Committee, proposed new sections are reviewed only by the General Education Committee, whose decisions appear as information items on the UCC minutes to the Provost.

Why are the subtitles and readings different in each section?

All sections of Arts and Letters share a common learning objective: students learn to read texts critically. The selection of texts that can be used for this purpose is flexible, so that faculty and students choose readings and works of art they enjoy teaching and studying. Most Arts and Letters classes focus on a theme or a set of related questions; introductory surveys and single-author classes are discouraged.

What sorts of texts are appropriate for Arts and Letters classes?

Faculty propose a selection of texts and the General Education Committee approve them. The emphasis is always on primary (usually exemplary) texts. The formal description of the Arts and Letters requirement states:

In this category students develop their skills for critical analysis through intense engagement with works of literature, philosophy, visual arts, music, and film. The works studied may be associated with a particular country, time period, genre, or theme. Students will learn to use techniques of literary and artistic analysis. At the same time they will become familiar with disciplinary and interdisciplinary methods of argument and persuasion.

What's the difference between ARLT 100g and 101g?
USC wants to ensure that all students have access to small classes. Freshmen, who are often taking big introductory courses in their major, may register only for sections of ARLT 100g, which are capped at thirty students. Juniors and seniors, who have many opportunities for small classes in their major courses, may register only for sections of the larger ARLT 101g. Sophomores can register either for ARLT 100g or for 101g.

When are Arts and Letters classes offered?
The scheduling is flexible, within the range made available by the Registrar. Many sections meet twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays or Mondays and Wednesdays; the MW schedule is limited to certain hours of the day by Classroom Scheduling. Classes that meet two days a week meet for an hour and twenty minutes each session; those that meet on MWF run fifty minutes a session. General Education classes do not meet only once a week.

How do students find out about Arts and Letters classes?
An Arts and Letters brochure is created for each semester, with a description of each section offered. The same information is available online, in the General Education Course Guide at Titles are also listed in the Schedule of Classes.

How do students find out about Arts and Letters faculty?

In addition to the G.E. Course Guide, there are two other online resources that evaluate faculty in all classes (not just G.E). The University posts all formal students evaluations online at In addition, the Student Senate created an independent evaluation site at The latter does not use a representative sample of students; anyone can post to it, multiple times, whether or not they've taken a course. But students browse the site frequently.

Each Fall the General Education Committee recognizes eight faculty who have taught in the program the previous year with a General Education Teaching Award. The award comes with three thousand dollars and the appreciation of one's colleagues. The names of the award winners are posted on the General Education website at Each year since 1998, two or three awards have gone to Arts and Letters faculty. (There are also separate awards for Advanced Writing Faculty and G.E. Graduate Assistants.)

Who orders books and materials for Arts and Letters classes?
Book ordering is handled through the normal process of the faculty member's home department. Books are shelved in the Arts and Letters area in the USC Bookstore. Xeroxing is also done in the faculty member's department.

What instructional technology supports Arts and Letters classes?
The USC Instructional Services Division supports USC Dornsife classes, including Arts and Letters classes. Classrooms are equiped with multimedia equipment.  To find out more, visit

How can I create a website for my Arts and Letter class?

The University uses Blackboard as its online course management software. You can access it at

How are film screenings handled in Arts and Letters classes?
Film screenings are handled differently by different instructors. Entire films should not be shown during class time, but a separate time can be set aside for a screening. Many students are likely to prefer to see a film on their own, if they can obtain a copy. Films can be placed on reserve at the Circulation Desk of Leavey Library; the Cinema Library is for students in the USC School of Cinema-Television only.

What other resources are available to faculty teaching Arts and Letters classes?

The Course Enhancement Fund allows faculty in G.E. Categories I, II, V, and VI (including Arts and Letters) to request from the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs up to $300 for expenses directly related to the experiences of students in the class during a given semester. To access that fund, email Associate Dean Richard Fliegel at

In addition, all College faculty who teach ARLT 100g and return the Arts and Letters Activation Agreement receive a $300 research account that can be used for travel, equipment, or other expenses related to their research. Unlike the Course Enhancement Fund, which must be used during the same semester, money from an Arts and Letters Research Account can be accessed for two academic years.

What is the Activation Agreement?
The Arts and Letters Activation Agreement is a short form that lists the responsibilities associated with teaching a section of ARLT 100g. You can download a copy at /arts-and-letters-activation-form/.

Are Arts and Letters classes sometimes taught on overload?
Yes. Most sections of Arts and Letters are taught as part of a faculty member's regular teaching assignment, but there are often opportunities for overload teaching.

If I have other questions, whom can I ask about them?
If you have questions about Arts and Letters or any other part of the General Education Program, contact Richard Fliegel, Director of General Education and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs, or his colleague Marsha Chavarria-Winbush at 213/740-2961.  Their email addresses are and