New Haven Courses


Dante's Divine Comedy - Part 2                  

Traugott Lawler, Professor Emeritus of English

Tuesdays, March 6 - April 24, 3:00 - 4:30 pm                    $475

Location: Rose Alumni House, 232 York Street, New Haven, CT 06511


Course Description: 

This course will run for two semesters.  In the fall we read Inferno and half of Purgatorio; in the spring we will finish Purgatorio and read Paradiso.  Please read cantos 18-25 of Purgatorio before the first class in the spring.  It's a poem, not a treatise of theology, and we will aim to treat it that way.  Our text has both the Italian and a pretty literal translation, and your pleasure in the poetry will be far greater if you spend some time on that left-hand page, which you can do, using the translation as a guide, even if you have no Italian at all.



We will use John Sinclair's translation (the set availabe new from Oxford University Press for $60; many used copies available from; it's also in many libraries and there is a Kindle edition).


Syllabus: TBD

Week 1- Mar 6: 

Week 2- Mar 13: 

Week 3- Mar 20: 

Week 4- Mar 27: 

Week 5- Apr 3: 

Week 6- Apr 10: 

Week 7- April 17:

Week 8- April 24:



Professor Traugott Lawler

Traugott Lawler is a specialist in medieval English and Latin literature and a former Master of Ezra Stiles College.  He and Peggy, his wife of 59 years, live in Hamden.  After earning his doctorate from Harvard, he began teaching at Yale in 1966, left in 1972 to teach at Northwestern, and returned in 1981 as Professor of English.  He retired in 2005, but has continued to teach and do research, coming to his office at Yale daily.  He fell in love with English literature in high school, thanks to two charismatic teachers, and has never lost that love.  During his active career, he strayed from his specialty often to teach all the major poets, and he has taken the Alumni College as an opportunity to teach Yeats, Dickenson, Joyce, Dickens, Austen, George Eliot, Trollope, Hardy, and Thackeray, the nineteenth-century novel being a special favorite of his.  He has taught in the Alumni College in every semester but one since it started, and is looking forward to continuing his course on Dante this spring 2018.  Traugott Lawler was presented the Yale Alumni College Distinguished Teaching Award in 2017 for his engaging courses and dedication to the success of the program.


A Life Worth Living                              Registration

Matthew Croasmun, Lecturer of Humanities

Thursdays, March 8 - April 12, 5:30 - 7:30 pm                $425

Location: Rose Alumni House, 232 York Street, New Haven, CT 06511


Course Description: 

What does it mean for a life to go well? What would it look like for a live to be lived well? What does a good life feel like? In short, what shape would a life worth living take? We will explore these questions through engagement with diverse traditions of imagining a good life: Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Individual Expressivism, Utilitarianism, Scientific Naturalism, and Nietzsche.


Course Syllabus:

Week 1- Mar 8:   Framing the Question: What's Worth Wanting & 3 Dimension of a Life Worth Living

Week 2- Mar 15:  Utilitarianism & Expressive Individualism

Week 3- Mar 22:  Individualism & Collectivism: Rousseau and Confucius

Week 4- Mar 29:  A Called Life: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

Week 5- Apr 5:    Secularisms: Scientific Naturalism & Nietzsche

Week 6- Apr 12:   Disagreeing Well: Contending Particular Universalisms


Professor Matthew Croasmun

Matt Croasmun is Associate Research Scholar and Director of the Life Worth Living Program at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture and Lecturer of Divinity and Humanities at Yale University. He received his B.A. in Music from Yale College (MC ‘01) and an M.A.R. in Bible from Yale Divinity School (‘06). After his Divinity degree, he spent a summer at the Akrofi-Christaller Institute in Akropong-Akuapem, Ghana, studying with the great African theologian, Kwame Bediako. He completed his Ph.D. in Religious Studies (New Testament) at Yale in 2014. His main research interests lie in the Pauline Epistles, illuminated by various streams of contemporary philosophy of science, theological reflection, and critical theory. On the basis of his dissertation, he was a recipient of the 2015 Manfred Lautenschläger Award for Theological Promise. His first book, The Emergence of Sin, was published by Oxford University Press in July 2017. Matt’s deepest passion is for teaching. He regularly teaches the Life Worth Living seminar in Yale College, which draws upon a range of philosophical and religious traditions to help students develop habits of reflection that will equip them for the life-long process of discerning the good life. He also teaches a first-year seminar, "Education and the Life Worth Living," which invites students to consider what sort of person they want to become and how their college education is going to help them become that person. In the past, he has taught New Testament Introduction in Yale College and designed and co-taught with Miroslav Volf the ”Christ and Being Human” course at Yale Divinity School. An ordained Christian pastor, Matt regularly preaches in Vineyard, Covenant, Presbyterian, Methodist, and non-denominational churches in the United States, Dominican Republic, Switzerland, and Ghana.


Modern American Playwrights                             Registration

Murray Biggs, Adjunct Associate Professor of Theater Studies - Retired

Tuesdays, April 3 - May 8, 5:00 - 6:30 pm                        $405

*note later start date

Location: TBD - New Haven, CT 06511


Course Description: 

This course takes a close look at some of the major American plays and playwrights of the last hundred years. The seminar proceeds roughly chronologically, with the obvious exception of Father Comes Home from the Wars, which will be available for (optional) viewing at the Yale Rep during the last week of its run, April 3-7. The course will convene on six successive Tuesdays from 5:00 to 6:30 pm. Its format will be: the instructor’s 20-minute introduction to the plays and playwright(s) of the week followed by roundtable discussion including a live reading and a film clip or two where available.

Week 1- April 3: Lillian Hellman, Toys in the Attic; Suzan-Lori Parks, Father Comes Home from the Wars.

 Week 2- April 10: Eugene O’Neill, A Touch of the Poet.

 Week 3- April 17: Tennessee Williams, Sweet Bird of Youth.

 Week 4- April 24: Arthur Miller, All My Sons.

 Week 5- May 1: August Wilson: The Piano Lesson.

 Week 6- May 8: Horton Foote: The Trip to Bountiful; David Mamet: The Disappearance of the Jews.



*The scripts for this class will be supplied by Yale Alumni College. Students are asked to read the plays of the week in advance of each session.



Professor Murray Biggs

Murray Biggs, semi-retired Adjunct Associate Professor of English and Theater Studies at Yale, is known throughout the campus and with alumni everywhere for his dynamic teaching style that inspires great enthusiasm and active participation. Murray Biggs was born in Britain, raised in South Africa, and returned to England as a Rhodes Scholar.  After ten years at MIT, he joined the Yale faculty in 1986 as a professor of English, Theater Studies, and later Film.  Although retired from undergraduate teaching since 2014, Biggs remains active on campus and especially among alumni, for whom he leads regular theater seminars in London, Ontario, New York, and other American cities.  Every winter he lectures in Naples, Florida, and in 2016 was Artist-in-Residence at the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach.  He has published some 30 articles, mostly relating dramatic texts to theater performance.