Six Pretty Good

is a new 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 Buildings

Picture of Nikko, a woodblock landscape of a town in green, blue and brown

HUMS 025

Prof. Michael Faciejew

Providing an intensive introduction to studying the humanities at Yale, this course is anchored by six trans-historical spatial models: the Capitol, the Library, the Ship, the Factory, the Museum, and the House. Covering a range of historical epochs and geographies as well as genres and media these six building “types” provide a foundation for questions about how societies and individuals organize value systems.

Six Pretty Good Journeys

Canadian Rockies No. 8, a photographic negative, cliffs and rock face rise up, layered, surrounding a canyon.

HUMS 026

Prof. Shawkat Toorawa

Through the lens of travel accounts to six regions: China, Egypt, the Holy Land, the Indian Ocean, the Ottoman Empire, and Russia, this course provides first-year students with an intensive introduction to studying the humanities at Yale. We also read works by contemporary travelers Emily O’Dell and Tim Mackintosh-Smith. All provide a foundation for us to explore the ways we think about ourselves and the “other,” home, the unfamiliar and wondrous—in short, the diversity of human experience. We will make extensive use of Yale’s rich manuscript archives, historical object collections, and art galleries.

Six Pretty Good Poems

Schablonenschrift, Joseph Albers, Modular geometric letterforms in black on beige grid paper.

HUMS 024

Prof. Luke Bender

We begin with a hypothesis: poetry offers a useful space for exploring the problem of how to relate universals to particulars. To test this, we will be reading six poems, each “pretty good” by the standards of their own traditions and, to one degree or another, among the most famous in their languages. In order to understand something about them we will read other works by our poets; historical accounts of their lives and times; secondary scholarship on the poems themselves; and important background works, running from The Analects of Confucius to Plato’s Symposium to medieval Kashmiri literary theory.

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, LITR 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.