Yale for Life
The Dark Arts of Civilization
June 3-9, 2018
Imagine following a single play longitudinally, across more than two and a half millenia. Our playwright? The Bard himself, William Shakespeare. The play is one of Shakespeare’s richest, and with perhaps the most diverse legacy: The Tempest. Our task: to listen, and conduct, a conversation across the ages, as this one play carries seemingly all of humanity’s weight through time.
We trace first of all many of the classical sources that are “written into” The Tempest — from Homer and Herodotus to Virgil, Ovid, Lucretius, and other ancient philosophers. Then, materials contemporary with Shakespeare appear — political allegories by Erasmus and Alberti, new world voyages, material on magic and science, current political developments and the fen-demons of Lincolnshire — that also get written into the play or touch upon it.
Next, the great pivot, as we follow the influence of The Tempest down to the present, from Restoration drama, baroque opera, and the early history of colonialism, into the nineteenth century and the impact of Darwinism and the development of mass society as registered in responses by Ernest Renan and others. We dive into a variety of adaptations touching on debates about the cultural heritage of Latin America and about colonialism and postcolonialism in Africa, the Caribbean, and South Asia. We look at several plays (by Dryden, Renan, Cesaire, and Virahsawmy, though we could also have read David Malouf and Philip Osment); contemporary opera appears, including the Met’s Thomas Ades Tempest. Poets, too, including Shelley, Browning, Eliot, Auden — all of The Sea and the Mirror — Robert Hayden, H.D., and several contemporary poets from the Caribbean, including Kamau Brathwaite, David Dabydeen, Marlene NourbeSe Philip, and John Agard. We study great Tempest films by Derek Jarman and Peter Greenaway, and novels by George Lamming, Michelle Cliff, and Aoibheann Sweeney. The materials come from Europe, North and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and South Asia.
Spectacular guest sessions will be led by great Yale faculty. Gundula Kreuzer from music; the wonderful Dudley Andrew to talk about the films; Ayesha Ramachandran – author of an acclaimed recent book on Renaissance Mapping, will guide us in class, and then at Sterling Library’s magnificent Map Room (after we read her new book!). A fantastic Beinecke visit is planned, as is a live performance by students from the Yale Drama School to stage something for us. The Yale Center for British Art is another amazing resource we will utilize. Yale’s treasures will open wide for our inquiry.
This is a different, humanist way of looking at “World Order.” It is global in scope, crosses continents and millenia, to say nothing of media (drama, poetry, philosophy, opera, film, and visual arts). It puts Shakespeare and Shakespeare’s influence at the center of a dialogue between the classics and the contemporary, including postmodernism, postcolonialism, and considerations of race, gender, and sexuality. In a course like this, that the worlds of art and intellect transcend contemporary “culture wars.” Through our journey, we will also see what is really going on globally in the arts, at Yale, and in contemporary scholarship in the humanities.
Our guides on this journey could hardly be any more spectacular. The entire enterprise was conceived by Professors Lawrence Manley – well known and loved by Yale for Life scholars after his star turn for us in our course, “The Renaissance;” and Emily Greenwood, current Chair of Yale’s Classics Department, and so renowned a teacher that she was chosen to deliver the “Keynote” to Yale’s incoming freshmen this year – an honor bestowed on Yale’s greatest teachers, and therefore, an appropriate one in this case. Our professors conceived of this unique course, and taught it in Yale College, to wide and uproarious acclaim, two years ago. What a privilege it is for us to present it to you.
Our Lead Faculty:
Our morning seminars with lead faculty will be followed in the afternoons by a seminar with an amazing guest professor. These scholars bring a variety of different perspectives to our subject, from eighteenth century British Literature, to Theater of the Enlightenment, and more. Yale for Life continues its emphasis on interdisciplinary study, not only through the variety in the core syllabus, but through these world-class leaders of Yale’s intellectual portfolio.
All Yale for Life courses actually start months before our June meeting. After registration, you will receive all books and scholarly articles for the course, and will immerse yourself in great works curated by our faculty. “The Dark Arts of Civilization” is no exception, with works ranging from contemporaneous writings to great books written by your own Yale for Life professors. Primary sources will mix with authoritative texts to produce night after night of joy as you prepare for your return to the life of the mind.
One of Yale for Life’s unique and most beloved features are our Special Events; sessions at a number of Yale’s well-known (such as the Yale Art Gallery) or less-known (such as a 2012 session at the not-yet-processed Kissinger Papers) centers of collection and learning. “The Dark Arts of Civilization” is no exception. We are keeping some surprises up our sleeve, but here is a taste:
Yale’s legendary Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the largest Rare Book library in the world, will open its vaults to Yale for Life, with a dazzling array of treasures reflecting themes of our course. Just a taste: how about a 1603 copy of Montaigne, or a Shakespeare First Folio? Kathryn James, Curator of Early Modern and Osborn Collections, will be our guide as your breath is taken away.
Yale’s Map Collection is without peer, and we just happen to have the leading expert on Renaissance-era maps, Professor Ayesha Ramachandran. She will bring her unique insights, as detailed in her award-winning book on the subject, and you will see these maps “in the flesh,” now armed with a new “perspective.”
Beyond the Classroom
Everything that happens during the Yale for Life program is colored by the fact that it takes place at Yale. Learn more about the experience!