What are the Humanities For?

Yale University  |  July 28—August 3, 2018

Zena Hitz, St. John's College  |  Peter Wicks, Elm Institute


A one-week seminar for graduate students on the purpose of the humanities. We will consider the variety of arguments that are made for the importance of humanistic learning.

Applications due by April 1


A week-long seminar for approximately sixteen students, jointly led by two expert faculty. The seminar meets for three 90-minute sessions each day. Participants also share meals and the opportunity to take part in a range of extra-curricular activities.


The seminar is designed with current graduate students in mind, but undergraduates who intend to pursue graduate studies are eligible to apply. Applications are welcome from students outside of the United States.

How to Apply


  1. Complete application form.
  2. Submit a sample of your academic work to info@elminstitute.org.
  3. Arrange for a letter of recommendation from a faculty member familiar with your academic work to be submitted to info@elminstitute.org.

To guarantee consideration, all application materials must be received by April 1.

Registration Fee

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we are able to offer our summer seminars to students at a small fraction of their true cost. A non-refundable registration fee of $200 covers tuition, lodging, food, and all reading materials for the seminar.

A limited number of registration fee waivers and travel stipends are available for students who would not otherwise be able to participate.


Participants will be provided with accommodation in one of Yale's undergraduate colleges. Accommodation is available from the night of Saturday July 28 through to the night of Friday August 3.

Zena Hitz is a Tutor at St. John's College and so teaches across the liberal arts.  She writes in defense of intellectual activity for its own sake, as against its use for economic or political goals.  She is currently writing a book on intellectual life and why it matters for Princeton University Press, based on essays that have appeared in First Things, Modern Age, and the Washington Post.

(Full profile)

Peter Wicks is Director of the Program in Ethics, Finance, and Economics and Research Fellow at the Elm Institute. His main research interests are the contemporary applications of Aristotelian ethical and political thought and the intellectual foundations of utilitarianism. He is currently completing a book, The Ethics of Peter Singer: A Study of Utilitarianism in Theory and Practice.

(Full profile)