First-Year Offerings

The Humanities Program is proud to sponsor several exceptional courses of study exclusively for first years. Apart from Directed Studies, an intensive introduction to the Western tradition of arts and letters, and Six Pretty Good Ideas, a less conventional introduction to the humanities at Yale, we also offer a range of more specialized first year seminars.

All first year courses require preregistration.

Directed Studies

The Directed Studies program consists of three integrated full-year courses in Western Philosophy, Literature, and Historical and Political Thought. Each of the three courses meets weekly for one lecture and two discussion seminars, where small groups of students work closely with a professor to texts in depth. Regular classes are complemented by a series of colloquia, in addition to sessions at the Yale University Art Gallery, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Interested students must apply or petition for interest before the beginning of the Fall Semester of freshman year.

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Six Pretty Good Ideas

“Six Pretty Good Ideas” is a new initiative within the First Year Seminar Program offered every fall semester. Intentionally irreverent in name, 6PGX deconstructs canonicity and reconceives the “great books” rubric as open, dialogic, and vital. Each seminar is paired with a mandatory Friday lab that alternates between writing workshops and exploring Yale’s archives, museums, and special collections —including the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Yale Art Gallery, the Yale Center for British Art, and specialist world-class holdings such as the Babylonian collection. Interested students must apply through the first-year seminar preference selection portal before the beginning of the Fall semester.

6PGX courses count for 1.5 credits and fulfill the HU and WR requirements.

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  • This seminar, part of the “Six Pretty Good Ideas” program, serves as an introduction to the Humanities. The course considers the way that poetry, across cultures and historical eras, allows authors to navigate the relationship between the universal and the particular. 

    Fall 2021
    TTh 11:35am-12:50pm F 12:30pm-3:30pm
  • Through the lens of “worldmaking,” this course provides students with an intensive introduction to studying the humanities at Yale.  Six building “types” provide a foundation for questions about how societies and individuals organize value systems. 

    Fall 2021
    TTh 11:35am-12:50pm, F 12:30pm-3:30pm
  • Through the lens of six trans-continental travel accounts—by merchants, envoys, scholars, pilgrims and wanderers—this course provides first-year students with an intensive introduction to studying the humanities at Yale. 

    Fall 2021
    TTh 1pm-2:15pm, F 12:30pm-3:30pm
  • Through the prism of thinking about the self, anchored around six trans-historical models of selfhood, this course provides first-year students with an intensive introduction to studying the humanities at Yale, ranging widely across genres, media, periods, and geographies. 

    Fall 2021
    MW 9am-10:15am, F 12:30pm-3:30pm

Fall First Year Seminars

  • An introduction to the history, archaeology and literary sources of one of the most dynamic periods of ancient Egyptian history. We investigate the development of Egyptian foreign policies and military expansion, and topics such as ideology and imperial identity.

    Fall 2021
    TTh 11:35am-12:50pm
  • In this course, we address the role of uncertainty in medicine, and the role that narrative plays in capturing that uncertainty. We focus our efforts on major authors and texts that define the modern medical humanities. 

    Fall 2021
    TTh 1pm-2:15pm
  • This course explores the role, structure, and value of the Sublime as an essential mode of human experience through a variety of theoretical writings, poetic expressions, and artistic outputs, in order to think through not only what the Sublime is but also why we need it.

    Fall 2021
    TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm
  • This course engages with three different traditions of imagining the good life: Confucianism, Christianity, and Modernism. Students will be asked to challenge the fundamental question of the good life and to put that question at the heart of their college education.

    Fall 2021
    MW 9am-10:15am
  • Modern empires depicted themselves as hegemonic purveyors of progress whose endeavors contributed to a “civilizing mission.” Through this course, we apply a critical lens to the material expression of these narratives in a variety of forms and through visits to Yale collections.

    Fall 2021
    MW 1pm-2:15pm
  • Questions of self and other, identity and difference, are at the heart of personal experience and present social conflicts. But what do we mean by “self” and “other”? This class explores this questions through readings in modern literature, philosophy and social theory. 

    Fall 2021
    MW 1pm-2:15pm
  • Close examination of Aristotle’s observations on storytelling to identify the universal principles that all good stories share, and investigate how these principles connect us all despite cultural, ethnic, and geographical differences.

    Fall 2021
    TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm
  • Exploration of the divergent notions of divine law in Greco-Roman antiquity and biblical Israel; the cognitive dissonance their historical encounter engendered and attempts by Jewish, Christian, and contemporary secular thinkers to negotiate competing claims.

    Fall 2021
    TTh 9-10:15
  • Why does the universe exist? What is reality? Who are we? Where are we? We will address such uncertainties by looking at three seemingly disparate disciplines: literature, physics, and philosophy. 

    Fall 2021, 2020
    MW 9.00-10.15