Directed Studies

Directed Studies (DS), a selective program for first-year students, is an interdisciplinary introduction to influential texts of Western civilization, from ancient Greece to the 20th century. A coherent program of study, DS encourages students to put rich and complex texts into conversation with one another across disciplinary boundaries. Students in Directed Studies learn to analyze challenging and urgent texts, participate meaningfully in seminar discussions, and to write clear and persuasive analytic essays.

Each of the three courses meets weekly for one lecture and two seminars. Lectures provide a general introduction to the works studied and situate them in their historical and cultural context. Seminars have a maximum of eighteen students and provide an opportunity to work closely with Yale faculty. For each course, students write three papers each semester and take one final examination. Assignments are coordinated among the courses so that only one paper is due in any given week.

The regular lectures and seminars are complemented by colloquia that feature distinguished speakers from Yale and beyond. Recent colloquia include Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, jr. on W.E.B. DuBois, Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky on translating Dante’s Inferno, and British Classicist Mary Beard on reading Roman history. Our study of written texts is enhanced by special 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 and is designed for students with or without any background in Humanities or Western Civilization, ancient or modern. While Directed Studies provides one of the most challenging intellectual experiences available at Yale College, DS students participate in the full range of activities at Yale. 

Directed Studies fulfills a number of distributional requirements for Yale College, including the two required course credits in the humanities and arts (HU), the two required course credits in the social sciences (SO), and the two required course credits in writing (WR). Moreover, DS courses can be counted toward several majors. For example, both semesters of DS Literature may be counted toward the Literature major, both semesters of DS Historical and Political Thought may be counted toward the History major and one semester can be counted toward the major in Political Science. Directed Studies is a strong foundation for all majors in Yale College, including those in the STEM fields, and is an outstanding basis for careers in law, business, public policy, education, the arts, journalism, consulting, and even engineering and medicine.

Approximately ten percent of each first-year class is admitted to Directed Studies. The Yale College Admissions Office offers some students admission to Directed Studies on the basis of their Yale College application. All other students who matriculate at Yale are invited to apply to Directed Studies. For application information, see under Special Programs, Placement, and Preregistration.

Students enrolled in Directed Studies must take all three of the following yearlong course sequences:

  • DRST 001 and 002, Directed Studies: Literature, examines selected works of literature from classical antiquity to the twentieth century with the aim of exploring how authors build upon and innovate within the Western tradition. The fall semester of DS Literature includes Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Sappho, Virgil, the Bible, and Dante, while the spring semester explores works by Petrarch, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Goethe, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, and Derek Walcott.
  • DRST 003 and 004, Directed Studies: Philosophy, examines major figures in the history of Western philosophy with the aim of studying approaches to urgent and enduring philosophical questions. DS Philosophy includes theories of the nature of knowledge, value, and reality. The first semester emphasizes works of Plato and Aristotle as well as scholastic and Medieval Arabic philosophers, and the second semester includes thinkers from the modern era, such as Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Frederick Douglass, Nietzsche, and Iris Murdoch.
  • DRST 005 and 006, Directed Studies: Historical and Political Thought, surveys major works of Western historical and political thought from the Greeks to the twentieth century. Writers considered in the fall semester include Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Livy, Tacitus, Augustine, Al-Farabi, Aquinas, and Machiavelli, followed by Luther, Montesquieu, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke, Tocqueville, Marx, Nietzsche, Hannah Arendt, and W.E.B. DuBois in the spring.