Introduction

The Humanities Program brings world-class scholars and undergraduates together in pursuit of fundamental insights into the human condition as they arise in literature, the arts, history, philosophy and the sciences.

Scholars come to the Program with a wide range of expertise and interests in the humanities, from ancient Greece and classical China to medieval France to the Enlightenment, from prehistoric music-making to postmodern literary figures, from existentialism to contemporary film and media, from Romantic poetry to modernization and language in Asia. What brings these scholars together is a sense that the distinctly human world of felt experience and significance deserves serious study and sophisticated theoretical framing, and a belief that conversations drawing upon the expertise of multiple disciplines can produce a common and useful vocabulary for articulating certain insights.

Humanities Program faculty also share a commitment to undergraduate education. Unlike most programs at Yale, the Humanities Program has no graduate program; instead, it focuses on liberal education for college students. It is home to two of Yale’s most distinctive undergraduate courses of study, the Directed Studies (“DS”) program for first-year students, and the Humanities Major. Directed Studies offers an integrated survey of fundamental works of western literature, philosophy, history and political thought from ancient Greece through the late twentieth-century. The Humanities Major offers students a framework in which to construct coherent, intellectually serious and personally meaningful paths of study that draw from a variety of humanistic disciplines and cultural traditions.

The Humanities Program began in the mid-twentieth century as a set of “special programs” enabling more interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching than would easily fit into the academic departments. Today the Program continues to produce new experiments in curricular coherence that draw upon disciplinary expertise and innovations without being unduly constrained by methodological parochialism of any kind. The Humanities Program offers both a traditional education in classic works of Western culture and evolving course offerings reflecting new cultural diversity and new theoretical approaches to fundamental human issues.