HUMS 023, Six Pretty Good Visions

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1pm-2:15pm, F 1:00pm-4:00pm
Fall 2022

Course Description: 

Through the kaleidoscopic lenses of visionary writing, art, and film, this course provides first-year students with an intensive introduction to studying the humanities at Yale. The course focuses on six trans-historical objects (or modes) of visionary experience: God(s), Paradise, Cosmos, Self, Text, and Future. We journey into and explore together visionary landscapes and material ranging from communion with Native American ancestral deities to the cosmic forms of the Hindu god Krishna, from the paradises of John Milton and William Blake to the futuristic dystopias of Stanley Kubrick and Mamoru Oshii, from the angelic orders of Hildegard von Bingen to the metatextual theatrics of Buddhist sūtras, from the ever-expanding self of Walt Whitman to the self-transcending consciousness of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Friday sessions alternate between writing workshops and field trips to Yale collections. This course is part of the “Six Pretty Good Ideas” program.

Led by:

Riley Soles's picture

Professor Riley Soles

Riley Parker Soles is currently a Lecturer in the Humanities Program where he works on poetry and religion in a variety of cultural contexts. Previously, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music (2019-2021). He attended Harvard College (BA, 2005) and Harvard Divinity School (MTS, 2008) and earned his PhD from Yale’s East Asian Languages and Literatures Department in 2018. His dissertation, titled The Ecstasy of the Text, won the Marsten Anderson Prize for exceptional work in the field of East Asian Studies. At Yale, Soles has taught a variety of courses across several departments and programs, including Religious Studies, East Asian Studies, Comparative Literature, the Humanities Program, and Directed Studies. His book manuscript, based on his dissertation, traces the influence of ecstatic experience on a variety of literary and religious texts, both Western and Eastern. Soles has written and lectured on the relationship between literature, religion, and philosophy using a wide range of materials, from classical Japanese poetry, Buddhist scriptures, and Chinese Buddhist commentaries, to the works of Franz Kafka, the poetry of John Milton, and philosophical treatises on the Sublime. He is particularly interested in the ways poetic tropes transform between poems over time, and in the ways poetic texts create their own ontologies. 

Soles reads, understands, and teaches poetry as if the stakes were life itself. He believes it is essential both to possess and to be possessed by poems, and his students are usually required to memorize and recite some amount of poetry in his classes. His most recent offerings include courses on religious ecstasy, visionary poetry, and the Sublime.