Directed Studies

Directed Studies (DS), a selective program for freshmen, is an interdisciplinary study of Western civilization. One hundred twenty-five students are admitted each year. All students enrolled in Directed Studies take three yearlong course sequences—literature, philosophy, and historical and political thought—in which they read the central texts of the Western tradition.

Each course has one lecture and two seminar meetings each week. The lectures provide a general introduction to the works studied and situate them in their historical and cultural context. The seminars are small groups of no more than eighteen students who meet with a faculty member to discuss works in greater detail. Students are expected to write three papers per term in each course and to take one final examination per term in each course. Paper 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 a series of colloquia. Members of the Yale faculty and visiting scholars are invited to speak on major issues arising from works read in the program, on related disciplines not included in the program, or on the relationship between Western civilization and other cultures. Recent colloquium topics have included the use of the humanities, ancient art and property rights, and the relationship between political thought and history.

Directed Studies provides one of the most challenging intellectual experiences available at Yale College. Although Directed Studies is a demanding program, its students participate in the full range of activities at Yale. Directed Studies fulfills distributional requirements for humanities and arts, social science, and writing. The program serves as a strong foundation for all majors in Yale College, including those in the sciences.

The Yale College Admissions Office offers a certain number of 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, Directed Studies: Literature, and DRST 002, Directed Studies: Literature, examines selected works of Western literature from classical antiquity to the twentieth century with the aim of understanding how a tradition develops. In recent years, works and authors have included Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Virgil, the Bible, Dante, Petrarch, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Goethe, Tolstoy, Proust, and Eliot.
  • DRST 003, Directed Studies: Philosophy, and DRST 004, Directed Studies: Philosophy, examines major figures in the history of Western philosophy with the aim of discerning characteristic philosophical problems and their interconnections. It includes theories of the nature of knowledge, value, and reality. There is emphasis on Plato and Aristotle in the first term and on modern philosophers in the second, including Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, and Nietzsche.
  • DRST 005, Directed Studies: Historical and Political Thought, and DRST 006, Directed Studies: Historical and Political Thought, surveys Western historical and political thought from the Greeks to the twentieth century. The writers considered include Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke, Tocqueville, Emerson, Marx, Nietzsche, and Arendt.