Fields of Study

Fields of study courses introduce students to some of the primary fields, or sets of related disciplines, within which scholars group phenomena for study. These courses are intended to familiarize students with the kinds of questions raised by scholars within each of these groupings, and with the methods by which scholars try to answer such questions. Although fields-of-study courses are typically offered by individual departments, they have nonetheless been designed and approved with general education as their primary objective. Thus, their scope exceeds the boundaries of singular disciplines insofar as they seek to give explicit attention to the perspectives, ways of thinking, and methodological approaches of larger fields of inquiry. In order to give students a broad understanding as well as a basic foundation for further study in any of these fields, the faculty requires students to pass specially designated courses in each of six fields of study: historical studies, literary studies, natural science, social analysis, symbolic reasoning, and visual and performing arts. Every student must successfully complete one course from each of the six fields of study areas.

Historical Studies (FSHT)

Historical studies examine events and actors of the recent or distant past within the context of the ideas, institutions, social norms, cultural practices, and physical environments out of which they arose. Courses with a historical perspective enable us to understand the values and institutions of disparate societies and cultures as they have developed over time.

By emphasizing the critical analysis of sources and the interrelationships among ideas, institutions, social structures, and events within one or more interpretive frameworks, these courses foster students' awareness of the methods and perspectives for understanding past societies and cultures in historical context. Courses that focus narrowly on the history of a discipline, that only use chronology as an organizational structure, or that do not stress the context in which ideas and events occurred fall outside the category of historical studies.

Literary Studies (FSLT)

The field of literary studies concerns itself with verbal texts read as structures of meaning. While language is a practical tool for thought and communication of many sorts, the particular focus of literary studies is on linguistic creations as meaningful in themselves, and not purely as documents that record meaning outside themselves.

Courses satisfying the literary studies requirement are centrally concerned with the textual analysis of primary works. They consider a variety of interpretive frameworks and attend to one or more collateral areas of investigation, including the study of the process by which texts are created and received, the historical and cultural contexts in which they are created and received, and their relationships to each other and to other fields of experience and analysis. The field of literary studies brings its perspectives and methods to bear on imaginative and non imaginative works alike.

Natural Science (FSNB, FSNC, FSNP)

The field of natural science is concerned with the physical universe from subatomic to cosmic levels of organization, including inanimate as well as living systems, their structure, diversity, interaction, and evolution. Based upon the generation and testing of hypotheses, scientific inquiry is restricted to the study of repeatable, measurable, and verifiable phenomena. Within this field, knowledge may be gained either by controlled experiment or diligent observation, depending upon the phenomena being studied. Similarly, some of the field's methodologies rely upon quantitative analysis, while others are primarily qualitative.

The natural science requirement is designed to enhance students' appreciation of the beauty of science as well as their understanding of the challenges of doing science. Students gain experience in the formulation and testing of hypotheses and are introduced to more than one scientific methodology. The natural science requirement consists of one laboratory course selected from one of the three areas of science represented at the University of Richmond, namely, chemistry, physics, and the biological sciences.

Social Analysis (FSSA)

Social analysis is the systematic study of individual and social human behavior. This field of study involves a systematic theoretical and empirical examination of the patterns of human behavior within or across various societies and cultures.

Courses satisfying this requirement focus on human behavior. They teach students to analyze individual and group behavior by utilizing a variety of theoretical and empirical frameworks. All courses in this field of study must include the reading of or involve students in research on patterns of human behavior. Courses that employ social contextual analysis for purposes of providing a frame of reference for the study of other phenomena, such as literary texts, works of art, etc., do not fulfill this requirement.

Symbolic Reasoning (FSSR)

As a field of study, symbolic reasoning is distinguished by its attention to internal logical consistency and by its wide external applicability. This field of study emphasizes symbolic problem solving, a process that includes translating problems into terms that are amenable to treatment within a symbolic system, understanding consistent rules by which the information relevant to the problem may be processed in order to obtain a solution, recognizing important underlying principles that govern the application of these rules, and judging both the appropriateness of known solution methods to a particular problem and the quality or reasonableness of the solution obtained.

Courses in this field of study aim to develop in students the skills to obtain valid solutions using one or more symbolic systems, the ingenuity to translate new problems into appropriate terms for such systems, and the persistence to carry a solution method through to completion. The focus of a symbolic reasoning course should be on understanding the symbolic system and how it can be used to develop problem-solving tools rather than on the tools themselves. Applications of these tools, while a welcome addition, should not be the primary objective of the course.

Visual and Performing Arts (FSVP)

The field of visual and performing arts considers questions having to do with the forms, traditions, meaning, and historical contexts of works in visual and performance media and explores issues of method, process, and personal resources in the media.

Courses satisfying this requirement are centrally concerned with the roles of creation and interpretation in the study of art. They develop in students an enhanced understanding of art both by fostering their intellectual appreciation of works of art and by involving them in the creative process. These courses are suffused with the notion that the arts are a powerful and profound influence on human perception and understanding.

Current Courses Fulfilling General Education Requirements