About

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Kathryn Slanski, 53 Wall St., 432-6630, kathryn.slanski@yale.edu
Chair of the Humanities Program: Bryan Garsten, 53 Wall St., 436-3696, bryan.garsten@yale.edu

Directed Studies offers a select group of first-year students an intense interdisciplinary introduction to some of the seminal texts of Western civilization. Working in discussion seminars with top Yale faculty, DS students learn to analyze complex texts and to put them into conversation with one another across time and genre. DS helps students develop their abilities to engage in thoughtful discussions of fundamental human questions, and through frequent feedback from faculty and dedicated DS writing tutors, to write clear and persuasive analytic essays.

Directed Studies is a part of The Humanities Program, and began in the 1940s as an experiment in liberal education. Its founders wanted to see whether some Yale students would benefit if they began their studies by following a single coordinated plan of study instead of piecing together courses for themselves. Faculty designed a set of courses to be interdisciplinary, intellectually coherent and personally meaningful, and the dean kept notes on the experiences of the first cohorts of students and asked for their feedback. After only a few years, the results were so promising that the New York Times proclaimed Directed Studies a success. While the program has changed a great deal since then and continues to evolve, it retains many marks of its founding.

Today the Directed Studies program consists of three integrated full-year courses in Philosophy, Literature, and Historical and Political Thought. Students entering the program must enroll in all three courses and are expected to enroll for both semesters. The courses begin with classical antiquity and the Bible and continue through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Early Modern period, ending in the twentieth century with authors such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Virginia Woolf, Hannah Arendt and Iris Murdoch. Each of the three courses meets weekly for one lecture and two discussion seminars. The heart and soul of DS are its seminars, in which small groups of students working closely with a professor explore and debate the meaning—or meanings—of an influential text. The regular lectures and seminars are complemented by a series of colloquia featuring distinguished speakers from within Yale and beyond. Our study of written texts is also complemented by gallery talks and study sessions at the Yale Art Gallery, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Directed Studies has no prerequisites. Students can excel in DS whether or not they enter college with background in the texts it covers.

Enrollment in Directed Studies is limited to one hundred and twenty-six members of the freshmen class.

Applications to Directed Studies are closed. If you would like to be added to the wait list for 2016-17 please contact our administrative assistant, Connie Pascarella (constance.pascarella@yale.edu)