HUMS 021, Six Pretty Good Heroes

Meeting Time: 
TTh 9am-10:15am, F 1:00pm-4:00pm
Fall 2023

Course Description:

Focusing on the figure of the hero through different eras, cultures, and media, this course provides first-year students with a reading-and writing-intensive introduction to studying the humanities at Yale. The course is anchored around six transcultural models of the hero that similarly transcend boundaries of time and place: the warrior, the sage, the political leader, the proponent of justice, the poet/singer, and the unsung. Our sources range widely across genres, media, periods, and geographies: from the ancient Near Eastern, Epic of Gilgamesh (1500 BCE) to the Southeast Asian Ramayana, to the Icelandic-Ukrainian climate activism film, Woman at War (2018).

As part of the Six Pretty Good suite, we explore Yale’s special collections and art galleries to broaden our perspectives on hierarchies of value and to sharpen our skills of observation and working with evidence. Six Pretty Good Heroes is a 1.5 credit course, devoting sustained attention students’ academic writing and is an excellent foundation for the next seven semesters at Yale. Required Friday sessions are reserved for writing labs and visits to Yale collections, as well as one-on-one and small-group meetings with the writing instruction staff.

Led by:

Kathryn Slanski's picture

Professor Kathryn Slanski

Kathryn Slanski studies ancient Mesopotamia at the intersections of sources and approaches. Her work on a corpus of inscribed and sculpted monuments (The Babylonian Entitlement narûs (kudurrus): A Study in Form and Function, ASOR Books, 2003) led to further research on the relationships between text and image, as well as questions about monumentality, sacred and secular authority, and the ancient transmission and reception of literary, historical, religious and visual traditions. She is also interested in cultural connections between civilizations of the ancient Near East and the ancient Mediterranean. She teaches Mesopotamian and ancient Near Eastern literature, history, religion, law and justice, visual arts, and ancient languages. 

Kathryn Slanski is also on the History and Politics faculty of Yale’s Directed Studies Program, for which she teaches and serves as course coordinator. 

In addition to her 2003 book, she has also written on Mesopotamian social and economic history as well as verbal and visual representation of the divine. She is currently preparing a second book, which will provide new text editions and photographs of the corpus of Babylonian Entitlement monuments (kudurrus), including several unpublished inscriptions in the Yale Babylonian Collection, the British Museum, and the Louvre.