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Spring 2008 Community Seminar

Originally Posted on admin, February 15, 2008

News & Publications: Santa Fe

Spring 2008 Community Seminar Series

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:   Spring seminars begin mid-January, and take place on eight to ten consecutive Tuesday or Wednesday evenings, or Saturday afternoons.

DETAILS:   Prices are listed with each seminar. Teachers are half-price. High school juniors and seniors may register for free (limited space available).

TO REGISTER: Call 505-984-6099 or

We invite media who are interested in writing about the Community Seminars in particular or St. John’s in general to participate for free. If you are interested, contact Sarah at 505-984-6099.

Dante’s Divine Comedy
Tuesdays, January 15 – March 11 (nine weeks); 5 – 7 p.m.
Tutor: Laurence Nee

“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.” (Inferno, Canto I) These words not only mark the beginning of Dante’s journey through the Divine Comedy, but also represent an invitation to all of us to search with him for “the straight way.” More than a mere theological reflection, the Divine Comedy is a profound meditation on what it means to be human. As we visit the souls in hell, purgatory, and paradise, we will be confronted with various ways of life and the pains and pleasures that accompany them, presented through some of the most moving, vivid poetry ever written. These images leave a formative impression upon our own imagination—so formative that we wonder how our desires, imagination and choices are related. Uniting the most elevated poetry with the most provocative thought, the Divine Comedy uniquely moves the spirit and mind. 

First Reading Assignment: Inferno, Cantos I-XI
Recommended Edition: The Divine Comedy (trans. John D. Sinclair, New York: Oxford University Press, 1961)
Cost: $270

Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Tuesdays, January 15 – March 11 (nine weeks); 4 – 6 p.m.
Tutor: Lise van Boxel

Nietzsche claims that the whole of Thus Spoke Zarathustra occurred to him when he was overtaken on two walks by the idea of Zarathustra as a particular type of being, one with super-abundant health.  Such health expressed itself in the destruction of old ideas and the discovery of new ones.  Zarathustra is the being who faces the rising sense of meaninglessness in the world and emerges from the other side of this abyss.  In Nietzsche’s words, whoever wants to know “how a discoverer and conqueror of the ideal feels” will be interested in reading this dense, difficult and terribly beautiful book.

First Reading Assignment: “Zarathustra’s Prologue”
Recommended Edition: Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Kaufmann translation)
Cost: $270

F. M. Dostoevsky: The Idiot
Tuesdays, January 29 – March 11 (seven weeks); 7 – 9 p.m.
Tutor: David Starr 

Can one imagine a genuinely innocent human adult? Would he have to be an idiot? Or might he be a fairly intelligent, even educated, man with an unusual personal history? Even then he might appear to others to lack some essential element of human nature. Dostoevsky imagines a remarkable tragic scenario. We shall read and discuss his literary experiment, the story it tells and the ideas it explores.

First Reading Assignment: Part I, Chapters 1-10
Recommended Edition: The Idiot (Vintage, transl. R. Pevear and L. Volokonsky)
Cost: $210 

Reading Henry James
Tuesdays, February 5 – March 25 (eight weeks); 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Tutor: Travis Cook

In this seminar we will explore several famous works of Henry James, including his magnificent novel The Portrait of a Lady

First Reading Assignment: “The Art of Fiction” (photocopies available in the St. John’s College bookstore)
Recommended Edition: Any.  Photocopies will also be provided.
Cost: $240

Shakespeare’s Sonnets
Wednesdays, February 6 – March 12 (six weeks); 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Tutor: Krishnan Venkatesh 

Run for cover. These are not actually poems but compact explosive devices. Over six sessions, we’ll work closely on a dozen sonnets and allow them to work on us. These are some of the most profound words ever written on the darkness of love, sex, betrayal, and tormented loyalties.

First Reading Assignment: Sonnets 71 and 73
Recommended Edition: Any. Photocopies will also be provided.
Cost: $180 

Herman Melville: Moby Dick
Wednesdays, March 5 – April 23 (eight weeks); 4 – 6 p.m.
Tutor: David Carl

“Towards thee I roll thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from Hell’s heart I stab at thee …” What has earned Moby Dick its claim to be the great American novel?  What is Ahab’s obsession with the white whale, and what compels his crew to follow him on his fatal hunt aboard the Pequod?  Who is Ishmael, the novel’s peculiar narrator, and what is his unique relationship to the savage Queequeq?  Exploring these questions allows us to appreciate how Melville’s blend of comedy and tragedy is Shakespearean in scope, and offers a penetrating examination of the human soul.

First Reading Assignment:  Chapters 1-15
Recommended Edition: Any
Cost: $240

Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
Wednesdays, April 9 – May 14 (six weeks); 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Tutor: Krishnan Venkatesh

This is a lean but muscular play about power, politics and idealism. Over six sessions, we’ll first study Shakespeare’s sources in the form of three of Plutarch’s Lives, in order to gain a deeper understanding of Shakespeare’s dramaturgical craft and insight into character. In the absence of first drafts, there is no better way to get closer to the workings of a great poet’s mind than by studying how he handles his sources. When we dig into the play itself, we’ll also consider a few filmed interpretations.

First Reading Assignment: Life of Caesar, Life of Pompey
Recommended Edition: Any modern edition of Julius Caesar.   Plutarch: Lives (Arthur Hugh Clough translation, Modern Library Classics, Volume 2)
Cost: $180