Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Parts I and II, and Henry V | Mike Peters and Victoria Mora
Among Shakespeare's history plays, Henry IV, Parts I and II, and Henry V offer remarkable insight into the overlapping intricacies of the political and the personal. The plays explore the challenges of consolidating and maintaining power in the wake of a questionable succession, with the action ranging from the courts to the battlefields to the flea-bitten inns of London. High politics, shrewd statecraft, and low comedy all find keen expression in the political drama, and in the unlikely friendship of two of Shakespeare's most memorable characters, Henry V and Sir John Falstaff.
Herodotus’ The Persian Wars | Janet Dougherty and Eva Brann
Herodotus is as bright a historian as Thucydides is dark; for Herodotus tells of the rise and glory of Greece, Thucydides of its decline and fall. Long before his time the Greeks invaded Asia Minor and taken Troy. Now the Persians invade Greece and fail to take it. Question: Imagine who we would be had they succeeded? However, Herodotus is not only the first historian but a great anthropologist. His “inquiry” is full of human and divine occurrences. Question: Are they reports of facts or tales naively recorded?
The Spy Novel in the Hands of the Master: Three John le Carré Novels | Sherry Martin and David Carl
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963) tops most lists of the best spy novels, not just because of the suspense of the plot and the Cold War setting, but through the art of le Carré’s prose. George Smiley figures among the supporting characters in this classic novel and moves to center stage in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974). Once again le Carré draws us into the world of spy craft in the hunt for the mole in the Circus (the British secret service). In The Secret Pilgrim (1990) Smiley is retired and speaking to a graduating class of students about how “spying is eternal,” even in a world of glasnost and perestroika. He triggers memories in his host, Ned, who himself is retired from field operations, that begin during the Cold War but move beyond and resonate in the present. This novel is in some sense a collection of short stories, with unforgettable characters who could easily become protagonists in their own novels. In another sense it is a summation of the Cold War and spying themes that le Carré examined in his writings about the period before the dissolution of the Iron Curtain.
Though the genre of spy fiction may in itself have fans, how is it that le Carré elevates the convention eyond the gadgetry of James Bond? What role does the political background play in engaging readers? What are the moral philosophical ambiguities that haunt the espionage community in these novels?
The Gnostic Gospels: Selections from the Nag Hammadi Scriptures | John Cornell and Topi Heikkerö
In December 1945, two Egyptian fellahin, digging for fertilizer in the Nile River Valley, stumbled upon an ancient storage jar that proved to be the most spectacular archeological find of the 20th century: a collection of some 52 manuscripts representing a mystic stream of early Christianity known as Gnosticism (from the Greek word for knowledge, gnosis). The Jesus in these texts sometimes resembles an enlightened Zen Master more than the Savior of the canonical Gospels. What are we to make of this “second coming” in 1945? What is the import of this “other” Christ for our reading of Church history and the received New Testament? Might his teachings affect, even today, our understanding of the human condition?
We shall read and discuss seven key texts from these Nag Hammadi scriptures: the Gospels of Thomas, of Mary, and of Philip, the Secret Books of John and of James, the Book of Thomas and the Valentinian Gospel of Truth. Two sessions will focus on the Gospel of Thomas, which some scholars regard as the “Fifth Gospel.”
Roman Political Life: Works by Gaius Julius Caesar and Marcus Tullius Cicero | Greg Schneider and Arcelia Rodriguez
Caesar’s choice to “cross the Rubicon” and fully embark upon his quest for power in ancient Rome sets the stage for a devastating civil war and, ultimately, his own death. One of his opponents in that endeavor, Marcus Tullius Cicero stood as a powerful champion of a return to traditional republican government. This seminar will be an opportunity to explore Julius Caesar’s and Cicero’s own words on political life, in good and bad times, in ancient Rome. In The Civil War, Julius Caesar provides a first-hand account of the civil war events of 49-48 BCE, while On Duties, written as a letter addressed to his son Marcus, represents Cicero’s final thoughts on the ideal political life.
Michel de Montaigne: Selected Essays | Guillermo Bleichmar and Judith Adam
The Essays of Montaigne, a seminal expression of the spirit of Renaissance humanism, are a sustained exercise in unbridled thought. They are at once profound and humorous; deeply personal, yet of universal scope; dealing with everything under the sun, yet always at heart with the mystery of the self. To read them is to form a friendship with a mind of inexhaustible counsel, experience and imagination.