This page features all courses that have been previously offered by the Humanities Program. Some of may be offered again in coming years.
This course explores some of the social and intellectual factors that shape college education today, including debates about the curriculum, career preparation, cost, and the relationship of college education to social class.
Introduction to techniques, strategies, and practices of reading through study of lyric poems, narrative texts, plays and performances, films, new and old, from a range of times and places. Junior seminar.
Reading literature by Toni Cade Bambara, Ursula Le Guin and James Joyce, Lewis Hyde, Georges Bataille and WEB Du Bois, we ask: What distinguishes a transaction from an exchange of gifts?
Exploration of the interaction of religion, history, and literature in the ancient Near East through study of its heroes, compared with heroes, heroic narratives, and hero cults from the Bible and classical Greece.
The course explores the complex political and social landscape of the Russian Revolution through the shifting perspectives of its main participants from Nicholas II to Lenin. Prereq: L5 Russian
A survey of major French novels, considering style and story, literary and intellectual movements, and historical contexts. Writers include Balzac, Flaubert, Proust, Camus, and Sartre. Readings in translation. One section conducted in French.
Exploration of Arabian Nights, a classic of world literature. Topics include antecedents, themes and later prose, and graphic and film adaptations.
Medieval understandings of womanhood examined through analysis of writings by and/or about women. Introduction to the premodern Western canon and assessment of the role that women played in its construction.
This course explores the political afterlives of “Shakespeare” as a cultural icon and aesthetic touchstone for the Western tradition through a close reading of four plays alongside their adaptations across the globe.
This seminar considers productive collaborations and exchanges between literature and sciences since the mid-20th century in science fiction, popular science writing, and the history and philosophy of science.
In this course we will reflect on the relation between Galileo’s anti-Aristotelian physics and Hobbes’ political system by reading key texts by both thinkers along with an array of interpretations and criticisms of Hobbes.
Artifacts of Greek art and architecture made in honor of Dionysos, the god of wine and theater, whose worship involved ecstatic experiences. Objects and structures such as painted vases and theaters.
What can the Humanities tell us about climate change? Literary, political, historical, and religious texts on how individuals depend on, and struggle against, the natural environment in order to survive.
In-depth examination of James Baldwin’s canon, tracking his work as an American artist, citizen, and witness to United States society, politics, and culture during the Cold War.
A critical examination of representations of the Orient in French literature and art from 17th to the 20th centuries. Discussion supplemented by visits to Yale collections. Prereq: L5 French
This course analyzes creative rewritings of ancient Greek literature in contemporary Anglophone fiction by diverse cultural, ethnic, racial, religious, and queer authors, spanning the novel, lyric poetry, and drama.
This is a course on the interrelations between philosophical and literary writing beginning with the English Revolution and ending with the beginnings of Romanticism.
Do visual representations of political principles produce, reproduce, and disturb political relations? An examination of art and metaphorical thinking in politics from Plato to the state.
The French Revolution of 1789 and its legacies, as viewed through the late-eighteenth-century debates about democracy, equality, representative government that shaped an enduring agenda for historical and political thought.
Exploration of the histories and theories of resistance in the modern world. How liberation movements, guerrillas, and oppressed groups appeal to resistance as an organizational strategy and as moral justification.
A writing-intensive sophomore seminar that explores the relationship between the real and the virtual in twentieth century literature and film. We consider what consequences images and media have for art, subjectivity, and politics.
The incorporation of women into Greek political thought raises enduring questions—about hierarchy, rule, and justice; courage, war, and mourning; citizenship, friendship, marriage, and motherhood, etc.
What is the underworld? What questions have different ideas about the underworld posed about mortality, freedom, and goodness? Topics include dreams, hell, ghosts, the unconscious, and string theory.
Sophomore standing required.
The course discusses exemplary novels in German language after 1945 from West and East Germany and Germany after Reunification, as well as from Austria and Switzerland. All works are provided in English translation and German.
The course looks closely at detective stories, novels and films, with attention to the narrative structure of criminal enigma, logical investigation and denouement (whodunnit), and considers the meaning of “genre” more broadly.
This course explores the bidirectional relationship between the art of moving pictures and the science of fundamental physical laws at the turn of 19th and 20th centuries. No detailed knowledge of calculus required.
Today, we are witnessing the intensification of politics of nostalgia. This course explores that history, and asks the question: how can we use our nostalgia for productive, rather than destructive, ends?
Introduction to the classical and modern theory of sovereignty in the context of G.R.R. Martin’s popular Game of Thrones series and, secondarily, the television series.
An in-depth discussion of the structure and the recent radical transformations of the “critical public sphere,” a cornerstone of liberal-democratic society, as a result of politics, technology, and economy.
Three faculty – New York Times opinion journalist Ross Douthat, political theorist Bryan Garsten, and historian Sam Moyn – will debate questions at the heart of today’s moral and political controversies.
This course combines a seminar on the history and theory of translation with a hands-on workshop. A series of case studies comparing multiple translations of given literary works and classic statements about translation.
Students apply to this workshop with a project in mind. Practical translation is supplemented by readings in the history of translation practice and theory, and by reflections by practitioners.
Prereq: HUMS 427
How members of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities thought of and interacted with members of the other two cultures during the Middle Ages: the rhetoric of otherness, purity or impurity, and models of community.
Key texts in European philosophy concerned with the question of art; Texts that try to bridge the divide between art and philosophy; art works that assert their own distinct voice within theoretical discourse. Sophomore Seminar
This course will explore some of the purposes that have been ascribed to college, including development of personal character, participation in a community, conversation on intellectual matters, and preparation for citizenship.
This seminar will explore the unique problems that popular leaders pose for democracies as they arise in appropriate texts from the history of political thought, reflections on constitutional government, and literature.
Taking a pan-European perspective, the course examines quotidian, civilian experiences of war during a conflict of unusual scope and duration. Key works of wartime and postwar fiction, film, diaries, and memoirs.
Why does the state kill its own? Why did “barbaric” practices not end with enlightenment? Answers come from texts in political theory, philosophy, history, and the social sciences.
How does beauty matter to how we aspire to live? We read the Plato’s Symposium and Phaedrus, Aristotle, Stoics, virtue ethics, feminist aesthetics, and critical race theory.
Mystical verse plays a vital role in both Judaism and Islam. This class looks at key works from both of these bodies of verse and examines the cultural and historical matrices that gave rise to poetry.
Aristotle called statecraft one of the practical arts and cited athletics as a case in point: if you can grasp the complexities of a sport, you’ll be prepared to live life at its best. Baseball stands out in this quest.
The non-symbolic use of familiar objects in 20th and 21st century poetry. Alternating weeks in the Beinecke library archives and the Yale Art Gallery and scheduled readings and discussions with contemporary poets.
Antisemitism in the United States between the colonial period and the present. Examining anti-Jewish practices and discourses, students learn to analyze anti-semitism in comparison with racism and xenophobia
International security as humanity’s primary problem. America’s unique place for and against world order seen in classical literature and intellectual forays into Japan, Africa, Palestine, Persia, etc.
Every major era in history can only fully be understood by investigating the war or wars that lie at its core. Wars of Athens and Rome, Thirty Years’ War, Louis XIV to Napoleon, and American wartime experiences.
Examination of the origins of human modernity in the light of evolutionary and archaeological evidence; merging evolutionary reasoning with humanistic theory to understand the impact of human culture on natural selection across the last 250,000 years.
The role of intellectuals in politics, with a focus on social, cultural, and political upheavals in Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Modern answers to the question of why ideas and intellectuals matter.
The representation of the human body in law and literature. Bodies as physical structures that inhabit multiple realms, including material, cultural, historical, and symbolic. Sources include film, television, and journalism.
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.
This course explores the innovative narrative strategies that have ushered in a new Golden Age of TV. Careful visual and textual analysis of episodes is complemented by critical readings and comparisons to literature and cinema.
Is the demise of the trial at hand? The trial as cultural achievement, considered as the epitome of humanistic inquiry, where all is brought to bear on a crucial matter in an uncertain context. Inquires into character, doubt, and diagnosis.
A close examination of key works by three of the art’s greatest directors: Fritz Lang, Jean Renoir, Ingmar Bergman. Analysis of cinema’s relation to social history and other arts and the theory and practice of film criticism.