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8/21: St. John’s College Fall 2013 Community Seminars

Originally Posted on admin, August 21, 2013

Santa Fe News

St. John’s College Fall 2013 Community Seminars



Gabe Gomez
(505) 660-1616


(SANTA FE, NM) St. John’s College Community Seminars are special opportunities for community members to read and discuss seminal works in the same unique manner as our students. Seminars are discussion-based and small in size in order to ensure spirited dialogue. There are topics to pique every interest, and for many participants the discussion-based learning model is an entirely new experience. 
Please call 505-984-6117 to register for any of the seminars. Space is limited. Full-time teachers with proof of current employment can enroll in a Community Seminar at a 50-percent discount. Community Seminars are free to 11th and 12th grade high school students. 

Seminar Schedule

Stages on Life’s Way, by Sören Kierkegaard Tutor: Richard McCombs
Six sessions, Tuesdays, September 10-October 15, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., $210. 

Stages on Life’s Way, by Sören Kierkegaard, investigates the logic of personal, spiritual growth.  Kierkegaard conducts his investigation by creating various characters who tell and interpret stories from their own lives so as either to praise romantic love for its joys and ennobling struggles or to blame it for its sorrows and illusions. Mr. McCombs recently published a book on Sören Kierkegaard titled The Paradoxical Rationality of Sören Kierkegaard.

Michael Ondaatje, Part I:  In the Skin of a Lion Tutor: Lise van Boxel
Three sessions, Tuesdays, September 17-October 1, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., $105.

How do you distinguish poetry from prose? If you think you have resolved this question, Michael Ondaatje’s work should change your mind.  He is not wedded to conventional sentence structure; he is not interested in providing the reader with a continuous narrative. Rather, he arouses the reader’s imagination and passions with vivid descriptions and musical phrases so as to pull the reader into the experience and perspective of his characters. Ondaatje uses the main character of In the Skin of a Lion, Patrick Lewis, as a kind of fulcrum that unifies various vignettes about the immigrant workers who laid the foundations for a metropolis.  Lewis is intent upon saving these workers, who contributed so much to the city, from anonymity.  By means of his quest, we are given the chance to dwell imaginatively in the lives of these workers.  What might seem to be a tale of social and political justice is perhaps, in the end, a story about love.  More precisely, it is the story of a lover.  The mood of In the Skin of a Lion is akin to that of a beautiful daydream. This novel is the precursor to Ondaatje’s Booker Prize winning novel, The English Patient, which pulled Ondaatje into the mainstream of public consciousness when it was made into a film that won 9 Academy Awards, including “Best Picture.” 

Michael Ondaatje, Part II:  Coming Through Slaughter Tutor: Lise van Boxel
Three sessions, Tuesdays, October 8-October 22, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., $105.

If you missed the boat for “Michael Ondaatje, Part I,” but would like to join us now, we welcome you aboard for “Michael Ondaatje, Part II:  Coming Through Slaughter.”  Ondaatje’s fruitful disregard for prose structure, his intermingling of prose and poetic forms, and his vivid depiction of sensory experiences are fully manifest in this book. Coming Through Slaughter is a biography about Buddy Bolden, one of the greatest trumpet players (coronet, to be precise) and arguably the first jazz musician. There are no recordings of Bolden’s horn playing.  He appears in only one photograph.  Bolden was opposed to permanence, and Ondaatje’s style is perfectly suited to communicating this opposition.  Bolden’s world is fluid, visceral, punctuated by lust, violence, and profound moments of emotional intimacy.  The world you enter in this book is not one of polite conversation and teatime sandwiches without crusts.  It is a world of sweat and grit—raw, quick-paced, often brutal.  It is the world of the early jazz age; it reads like jazz; it is a heck of a ride! 

The Novels of Jane Austen, Part I Tutor: Mike Bybee
Five sessions, Wednesdays, September 18-October 16, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., $175.

Superficially Jane Austen severely limited the scope of her novels to narrow social interactions—yet, she managed somehow to subject her society to a critical appraisal, the power of which we can hardly overstate.  She managed this effect by subverting her audience’s narrative expectations and by deploying a delicious albeit subtle irony verging on sarcasm—among other strategies.  Two centuries later, however, we live with enormously different narrative expectations, in a time of palpably-increasing democratic and social tolerance.  Thus, we might well wonder what value these novels’ critical, reflective, and reflexive lessons might have for us about oppression, misogyny, financial inequity, and intellectual elitism.  What is the locus of morality?  What constitutes the authentic moral fabric of a society?  We will explore these questions and more in our discussions of Northanger Abbey, Pride & Prejudice, and Sense & Sensibility.   Next semester, we’ll complete the canon with Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion.
Three Early Films by Terrence Malick: Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line
Tutor: David Carl
Three sessions, Friday,  November 22 , 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., Saturday, November 23, and Sunday, November 24, 10:00 a.m. – noon, $105.

Malick’s Tree of Life exploded on the movie world in 2011 when it won the Palme d’Or in Cannes and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography for the 2012 Academy Awards. In Sight and Sound 16 critics voted for it as one of the 10 greatest films ever made in and it was ranked as one of the 100 greatest films ever made in Sight and Sound’s overall poll. But before Tree of Life Malick made a series of movies that first established his reputation as one of America’s most important filmmakers. The 1973 Badlands, 1978 Days of Heaven and, after a 20 year hiatus from directing, 1998 The Thin Red Line marked Malick as one of the most original and searching independent directors in the United States. We will spend the weekend charting the formal and thematic development of the first 25 years of Malick’s career, to better understand the artist who produced Tree of Life 13 years later. Please view all three of these films on your own before attending class.  We will only watch various scenes from the movies to facilitate discussion.