Course Information-The Enlightenment, and its Critics



Yale for Life

The Enlightenment, and its Critics June 18 - 24, 2017


“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity,”


“The motto of Enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own understanding.”

- Immanuel Kant


The Renaissance is perhaps the greatest dividing line in human history. More than a millennium of customs and institutions were suddenly discarded as humanity simultaneously reached back to antiquity, and ahead to modernity. What may have begun in a few small city-states in Italy was variously echoed, bitterly opposed, and ultimately embraced in vast areas of the world. The “New Worlds” of the Renaissance were not only those across the ocean, but also of science, medicine, mathematics, art; indeed, of humanism itself.


But what really was the Renaissance? How did it come about? When did it end; indeed, has it ended even now? What would contemporaries have been reading, hearing, thinking, and why did it take hold amidst so many ingrained forces that might have stopped it?


In studying this greatest of eras, we will take an approach familiar to all who have studied at Yale: we will use the tools of the humanities, of foundational texts and primary sources. We will immerse ourselves in works of unsurpassed beauty and profundity. We will examine the period from many angles, with an interdisciplinary lens.


Join Yale's most gifted professors - world-leading experts on this period of unequaled upheaval, invention, and dynamism. This intensive, energizing experience will lead students in detailed discussions of a number of literary, philosophical, and historical texts. We will learn not of this era alone - we will learn how it is that one probes deeply into  any complex period, and how in doing so, fundamental lessons emerge.


Those enrolled in Yale for Life: The Enlightenment participate in three or more seminars daily: one with each of our three professor leads, and either a special event or an additional seminar with the outstanding Guest Professor of the day on a topic that takes a unique angle on the period - from Art History and Music to Religious Studies and Warfare, and beyond. Special events outside the classroom enhance the daily curriculum. These include private sessions with curators from Yale’s unsurpassed collections, film screenings, conversations with faculty members about issues related to the humanities at Yale, and other activities across the Yale campus. The program is limited to 20 students.


A typical day in The Renaissance looks like this:

8 a.m. breakfast

9:00 seminar I

10:15 break

10:30 seminar II

11:45 lunch

1:00 guest professor seminar 2:15 break

3:00 special activity

4:45 free time

6:00 dinner


Course and daily seminar leaders:

David Quint, Alfred Cowles Professor of Government & Philosophy Second lead professor to be announced (soon)


Guest Professors:

To be announced (but they will be fantastic)


Course materials, including syllabus, will be sent to registered participants well in advance of the course.

To learn more about this year's programs use the links below