WHAT: Community Seminars give community members the opportunity to read and discuss seminal works the same way our students study the classics. Seminars are discussion-based and limited in size in order to ensure a spirited dialogue.
WHEN: Fall seminars begin September 11, and take place on eight to ten consecutive Tuesday evenings or Saturday afternoons.
DETAILS: All seminars are $30 per person. Teachers pay $15. High school juniors and seniors may register for free.
REGISTER: Call 505-984-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note: We invite media who are interested in writing about the Community Seminars in particular or St. John’s College in general to participate for free. If you are interested in signing up, please contact Maggie at 505-984-6119.
In his daunting A History of Christianity, Paul Johnson calls his namesake Apostle “the first and greatest Christian personality; he has always been the most argued about, and the most often misunderstood” (Johnson, 1976, p. 35). Some have claimed that Paul was the first to bring a universal, monotheistic faith to the West. Others have charged him with “inventing” Christianity.
Over the course of our eight meetings, we will examine the presentation and words of this enigmatic personality. First, we will examine how Paul is portrayed in the Acts of the Apostles. How does this persecutor of Christians come to be converted, and then, come to have authority over the Apostles who knew Christ? What role does he have in shaping the early church? Second, we will discuss three of the most important letters he contributed to the New Testament: Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 2 Corinthians. How does Paul understand God and the relationship of human beings to God? How does he portray human nature and the relationship to institutions such as the family? What is virtue or human excellence to Paul?
Paul’s message remains a challenge for believers and non-believers alike. He continues to be one of the most quoted and disputed figures in human history. Through a close reading of these crucial texts, we will attempt to see more deeply the challenge that he represents.
First Reading Assignment: Acts of the Apostles, Chapters 1 – 14
Recommended Edition: Any
It was in The Gay Science that Nietzsche first issued his boldest (and to some, most infamous) declaration that “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.” However, this startling pronouncement only begins to preface the challenging and perhaps revolutionary task that the author issues to his readers: that we be serious about our lives and uniquely human excellence, and thus confront our fear that we may be alone in the cosmos. By demanding not only that we confront our mortality, but also embrace the joy of a mortal life, Nietzsche set forth a new vision of the philosopher and the healthy human being. In this seminar, we will discuss his difficult mission.
First Reading Assignment: “Preface for the Second Edition” and “Joke, Cunning and Revenge: Prelude in German Rhymes”
Required Edition: The Gay Science with a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs. By Friedrich Nietzsche, trans. Walter Kaufmann (Vintage, 1974)
In writing War and Peace, Tolstoy did more than render the compelling tale of the Rostov family’s struggle in Napoleonic Russia. He created a universe of monumental proportions, spanning over a decade of Russian history, a colossal cast of fictional as well as historical characters and some of literature’s most poignant insights into human themes that are as broad and complex as the title would suggest.
Over the course of 11 weeks, we will read and discuss the proverbial Grand Russian Novel with the time and patience it demands. Through sustained inquiry, we will begin to confront the essential questions that this vast novel presents: the role of destiny in human affairs, the meaning of religious experience, and the power (or impotence) of human choice.
First Reading Assignment: Book I entire and Book II, Chapters 1-4
Recommended Edition: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
In Shakespeare, the picture of romantic love is rich and complex: from the ecstatic to the mordant, from rhapsody to anguish. And always, Shakespeare’s love has its place in the larger universe of human concern. Through a careful reading of some of his most notable works, we’ll hope to gain insight into this most vexing and exhilarating aspect of human experience. Along the way, we’ll examine the unanticipated ways in which Shakespeare himself can transform our understanding. Readings will include Romeo & Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, and selections from Shakespeare’s Sonnets.
First Reading Assignment: As You Like It
Recommended Edition: Any
In this seminar, we shall read a selection of the finest essays from one of the finest American essayists and thinkers. In “The American Scholar,” we will consider the true student’s obligation to nature, his community and posterity alongside Emerson; in “The Fugitive Slave Law,” we will follow him as he voices his dissent towards the Compromise of 1850, and take on the broader questions of liberty, convention, and the responsibility to act. Through our discussions of these and other works, we shall together attempt to appreciate the resonance of Emerson’s thought and the sensitive aesthetic that gives each of the essays their own unique character.
First Reading Assignment: “The American Scholar”
Recommended Edition: Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Modern Library, 2000)