Yale for Life programs are more than classroom sessions, but the classes are certainly at their heart.  Read about our 2019 courses, with Yale’s top faculty, intriguing topics, innovative approaches, supremely curated reading, and more, below.  Click through the short descriptions to see the full course pages.  Then, from our menus above, learn more about our faculty – lead and guest professors; see some of the readings they have selected, and then visit “The Best of Yale” to learn about the special events.  See “Community” to see how the courses continue past their week’s end.

Yale: An Eclectic History

June 9-15, 2019

Professors: Jay Gitlin and Edward Cooke

Appropriately, Yale for Life will offer, in 2019, an eclectic intellectual ramble through Yale itself:  a course that can only be taught here on-campus at Yale! We will explore (literally, bring your walking shoes!) Yale’s social history, its stunning art and architecture, its maps, photos, literature and its many treasures, collections… and secrets.  This field-trip-centric, “movable feast” of Yale will dazzle you with Yale’s depth and scope, its immense impact, its romance and tumult, and the amazing richness that an institution can achieve over more than three centuries.  We will learn about relations between Yale and Yale people — from Ezra Stiles and Noah Webster to Cole Porter, Henry Roe Cloud, and Maya Lin.  And we will examine Yale’s (ongoing) centrality within American society and culture — Elihu Yale and the global eighteenth century; Benjamin Silliman and the emergence of American science; Walter Camp, Dink Stover, and the all-American boy; Henry Luce and the information age; faith and ideology in postwar Yale and America.  Until you spend this week with us, you really don’t know Yale!  We are delighted to have as our week-long lead faculty:  Edward (Ned) Cooke, Charles F. Montgomery Professor of the History of Art, Director of the Center of Study in American Decorative Arts and Material Culture, and Professor of American Studies; and Jay Gitlin, Senior Lecturer History & Associate Director Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers & Borders, who teaches the extremely popular, and always over-enrolled, undergraduate history seminar, “Yale and America.” They will be joined by impressive slate of guest faculty and leaders of extraordinary field trips and special events.

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A New Birth of Freedom: How the Civil War Era Made a New America

June 16-22, 2019

Professors: Steven Smith and Akhil Reed Amar

When Abraham Lincoln stood at Gettysburg and declared his wish for “A new birth of freedom…” he said perhaps, as Ken Burns wrote, “more than he knew.”  To investigate the claim of America’s “second founding,” Yale for Life presents a rare and precious opportunity.  “A New Birth of Freedom: How the Civil War Made a New America” will conduct an inquiry into America’s “rules” of slavery and freedom, by examining the institution that encodes a society’s values:  the Law; by studying deeply America’s greatest legal and political thinker/actor: Abraham Lincoln; and by examining not only the cataclysm of the War itself, but its momentous and too-often overlooked sequel: Reconstruction.  Our leaders will be no less than Yale’s great experts on Lincoln, on the legal embodiment of the Second Founding: the Reconstruction Amendments, and on the Constitution itself.   Both Professors Amar and Smith have received Yale’s great teaching awards, and have taught to enormous acclaim in Yale for Life in the past.  In fact, “A New Birth of Freedom” was offered by Yale for Life in 2016, with such overwhelming demand that we revisit it this year.  We will also be joined by a unique group of daily Guest Professors for seminars on Laws of War, on Reconstruction, Slavery, and more.  Join our Faculty, treasures of Yale, for a seven day set of seminars. 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.

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China, Present to Past: 2019-1000 C.E.

July 7-13, 2019

Professors: Valerie Hansen and Peter Perdue

No one who follows the news these days can avoid hearing about China. China’s spectacular economic growth and its claims for recognition as a major world power have attracted incessant attention from Western media, who debate the effects of China’s rise on the future world order. Chinese themselves often echo these predictions, but they know better than Western observers that the long history of imperial and modern China strongly conditions what China can do in the world today.  We will illuminate current issues facing China by tracing them back to their origins in the premodern period. The course has two major goals: to help you learn to evaluate current events in China critically and to analyze the historic roots of modern China. We concentrate on five themes: geopolitics, environmental crises, family and gender, economic development, and political protest. We will be exploring the news about China as we also learn about the past through a close reading of primary sources, scrutiny of secondary sources, and careful examination of art objects and other visual materials. In doing so, we will be led by the China experts on the Yale faculty, arguably the top experts in the world.  Professors Valerie Hansen and Peter Perdue continue Yale’s long tradition of the very best China scholars, and a host of Guest Faculty from all over the University – from Religion to the Cultural Revolution and more – will join us as well.  Yale’s great China collections will be brought to bear for the full Yale for Life experience!

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