Six Pretty Good

is an initiative within the First Year Seminar Program offered every fall semester. Intentionally irreverent in name, the program 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.

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Yale First Year Seminar Program Yale Humanities Department Site by Arcades

Six Pretty Good Biographers

A black and white drawing, of Senegalese griots.

HUMS 022

Prof. Ernest Mitchell

Through an intensive study of transatlantic biographers this course will examine examine six roles biographers can play: the archivalist, the contemporary, the fictionalizer, the listener, the miniaturist, and the systematizer. Our readings range widely over cultures, places, and times: from Senegalese griots to the Lives of Mary Shelley; from Gertrude Stein’s “autobiographies” to the microbiographies of Jorge Luis Borges; from fragments by Walter Benjamin to Daphne Brooks’ liner notes on Beyoncé.

Six Pretty Good Heroes

Close up image of a stone statue of Gilgamesh. We look at at it, looming large in the frame.

HUMS 021

Prof. Kathryn Slanski

Focusing on the figure of the hero through different eras, cultures, and media, this 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 to the Southeast Asian Ramayana, to contemporary Icelandic-Ukrainian film.

Six Pretty Good Selves

The Clark Bridge, a span of bridge moves across the bottom of the frame, turning slightly, arcing away. Above, only sky and suspension lines

HUMS 027

Prof. Marta Figlerowicz & Prof. Ayesha Ramachandran

Through the prism of thinking about the self, this course provides first-year students with an intensive introduction to studying the humanities at Yale. The course is anchored around six trans-historical models of thinking about selfhood: the ideal self, the lover, the revolutionary, the convert, the solipsist, and the social climber.

Six Pretty Good Visions

Baby thief Krishna.

HUMS 023

Prof. Riley Soles

Through the kaleidoscopic lenses of visionary writing, art, and film, this course focuses on six trans-historical objects (or modes) of visionary experience: God(s), Paradise, Cosmos, Self, Text, and Future. we explore visionary landscapes and material together 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 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.