Fall Festival of Seminars

Directed Studies and the Humanities Program welcome their alumni and friends back to Yale for:

A Fall Festival of Seminars

October 26-27, 2019 

Yale University

Come back to the classroom!


Small seminars led by some of Yale’s most beloved professors will offer a chance for alumni to discuss foundational works of literature, philosophy, history, politics, art and music with a multi-generational group of fellow alums and with current Yale students.


Readings will be available ahead of time so that we can have serious conversations, but we promise not to assign papers…or grades!


In addition to the seminars, you’ll be able to enjoy mini-lectures by favorite faculty, discussions with current students, and visits to the beautifully renovated museums.


All registrants will receive a follow-up message in several weeks allowing them to rank their choice of seminar topics.  

We anticipate offering between three and five sessions of seminars, starting at 10:15am on Saturday and ending midday on Sunday. Attendees may attend the whole festival or any part of it. 

Seminars offered:

  • The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life: Kathryn Lofton, Professor of Religious Studies and American Studies
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Experience”: Benjamin Barasch, Postdoctoral Associate and Lecturer in the Humanities
  • Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw & King Lear 1.1: Charlie Hill, Brady-Johnson Distinguished Fellow in Grand Strategy
  • Cicero’s Murder Trials: Norma Thompson, Senior Lecturer in Humanities
  • John Stuart Mill, On Liberty: David Bromwich, Sterling Professor of English
  • Heidegger’s Being and Time (first six paragraphs): Martin Hagglund, Professor of Comparative Literature and Humanities
  • Epictetus: Tamar Gendler, Professor of Philosophy and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Plato’s Gorgias and Today’s Political Rhetoric: Bryan Garsten, Professor of Political Science and Humanities
  • Montaigne: Giulia Oskian, Assistant Professor of Political Science
  • The Poetry of Du Fu: Lucas Bender, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages & Literatures
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh: Kathryn Slanski, Senior Lecturer and DIS of Directed Studies (2014-2019)
  • Plato’s Apology: Steven Smith, Alfred Cowles Professor of Political Science and Professor of Philosophy
  • Chartres Cathedrals: Howard Bloch, Sterling Professor of French
  • The Architecture and Vision of the Original U.S. Constitution: Akhil Amar, Sterling Professor of Law
  • Select Aphorisms, Nietzsche’s Gay Science: Nancy Levene, Professor, Religious Studies
  • Carl Schmitt’s Theory of the Partisan: William Klein, Senior Lecturer in the Humanities
  • Time and Ethics in Jane Austen’s Persuasion: Katja Lindskog, Lecturer in English and the Humanities and DUS of Directed Studies.

The registration fee is $65 per attendee. Lunch and a late-afternoon reception on Saturday, as well as breakfast on Sunday, will be provided.


Each Yale alumnus/a may register one guest as an additional attendee. All attendees must be at least 21 years of age. 


We hope to offer discount rates at New Haven hotels for Friday and Saturday evenings. Registrants will receive more information in the follow-up message.

For further questions: 

Email: humanitiesprogram@yale.edu


Reviews of the 2017 Festival of Seminars:

  • …The Saturday seminars…were an utterly unique experience, not even closely approximated by anything I have attended in thirty years of secondary and post-secondary professional pedagogical experience.”

  • “I was deeply moved by seeing my freshman year DS professors continue to teach with passion 18 years after I was an 18-year-old first meeting them…The weekend filled me with hope that I could continue to grow and learn…I felt a great love for Yale for my time in Directed Studies.”

  • “[The festival of seminars] reminded me that I am capable of stretching to put together a thought just out of reach… I hope there will be much more of this type of thing.  It will spur me to greater investment in my own development and perhaps give me a chance to get to know current students and inspire them in their professional development through connections I may have to offer.”

  • “What struck me both in my experience of the seminars and in discussing them and their content with fellow alumni and alumnae participants was how I interacted differently with the concepts with the benefits of my 25 year of experience living life since graduation…I was struck by the depth of interaction one can have with philosophical, political and artistic works after having lived through personal and political events.”

  • “We also really appreciated the wide range of classes attending - we had some especially nice conversations with members of the class of 1958 and 1964, something that is much more difficult to do during our class reunions.”

  • “When so many people today question the value of a liberal arts and humanities-centric education, this weekend reminded me that DS and its teachings are not simply the self-gratifying indulgence of an educated elite, but that this is essential intellectual work for all of us, the required close reading for our personal and collective self-understanding and survival.  And the academy (I’m speaking to you, Yale!) must not just enable or cautiously defend a DS-type education, but, rather, actively *promote* it as our only hope for survival.”

  • “I am so inspired by this weekend that I am compelled to find a way in to join in the community.”

  • “How grateful I am that Yale, like an endlessly patient parent, gave me a second chance to take DS.”